Saturday, March 15, 2014

Experimenting with Meyer Lemons and Pound Cake

A couple of weeks ago I had found some Meyer Lemons at the grocery. They were in a nice little bag, and I had never used Meyer Lemons before. I got them instead of regular lemons I needed for some recipes I was planning. The lemon for those recipes was not playing a huge part; just as a needed acid balance. One thing I noted when I used the first couple Meyer Lemons was how very thin the skins were. For one recipe I needed lemon zest, and it was nearly impossible to zest the Meyer Lemon. On grating, it went right to the fruit inside. The lemons smelled really good. I tasted a bit - sour! Maybe not quite as sour as a regular lemon, but much too sour to just eat the fruit. 
Candied Meyer Lemon Slices, draining
Candied Meyer Lemon Slices, draining

Once the recipes I made were done with, I had 5 of the Meyer Lemons left from the little bag. What to do with them? I hated to have them go bad. They were so pretty, too. I saw somewhere in someone's blog that they sliced Meyer Lemons thinly and boiled them, rind and all, in a simple syrup, making "candied" Meyer Lemon slices. Simple syrups are generally equal parts water and sugar. I wondered if the rind, thin though it was, would be edible with the short 15 to 20 minute boil in the syrup? I gave it a try, thinking at worst, they would be bitter. At best, they would be bright and sweet. I sliced the lemons as thinly as I could. They had numerous seeds, so clean slices toward the center of the lemons were difficult; full of holes. 

I made a simple syrup that erred on the sweeter side, just in case, using 1 cup of water and 1 1/4 cups sugar. I brought the sugar and water to boil and stirred to melt all the sugar, then added the lemon slices and simmered them gently for 20 minutes. I set a large cookie cooling rack and across the sink, took the slices of lemon out and set them on the rack to drain. Once cooled, I tasted a couple of slices. They were bright, still just a little bitter, but definitely sweet enough to enjoy. Another great side benefit is the Meyer Lemon flavored simple syrup; it makes a lovely lemonade, very quickly!

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices, draining
Meyer Lemon & Almond Pound Cake, adorned with candied lemon slices
I had been contemplating creating a pound cake using some almond meal as part of the mixture. Now that I had these tasty lemon slices, I thought maybe I should add some of these to the pound cake. I sat down and decided how I wanted to proceed with ingredients for the cake, and then got started. I piled some of the lemon slices into a measuring cup to about 3/4 cup volume. Chopping these slices till quite small, the volume went down to 2/3 cup. I set them aside and worked on my pound cake. If you like lemon, this cake was wonderful. It came out very moist and dense. I believe it may have been too moist, as it took nearly 2 hours to bake through, but it was not burnt at all and the flavors were lovely and light. considering that there was no leavening in the cake at all, it grew beautifully while baking. I like to sprinkle a little sparkling or sanding sugar into the bundt pan before pouring in the batter. This gives a pretty sparkly effect to the top of the cake once unmolded. Not a necessity - just pretty.

Sparkling sugar showing on the ridges of the cake
Sparkling sugar showing on the ridges of the cake

Meyer Lemon & Almond Pound Cake

Makes one bundt or ring mold

2/3 cup candied Meyer lemon slices, finely chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (300 if on Convection). Grease a bundt or ring mold and set aside.

In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, almond meal, cornstarch and salt; set aside. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and cream cheese, then add the sugar and beat well. Add the almond extract, then the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour mixture, and then the chopped candied lemon. Pour the batter into the prepared mold and bake for about 1 3/4 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn over onto a plate to serve. Use any remaining candied lemon slices to decorate the cake.

Dense, moist and studded with candied lemon
Dense, moist and studded with candied lemon
The denseness and fine crumb of the lemon studded cake are visible in this photo. The cake was wonderful just as it came out, though I have plans to try tweaking my recipe some time in the future. Without lemons, I am curious to know what the flavors would be like. Distinguishing the almond flavor was nearly impossible, though the almond meal would have contributed to the cake's moist crumb. Is there such a thing as too much butter? Or maybe I could just leave out the cream cheese? I believe the cake was sweeter than it needed to be, so I might lower the quantity of sugar used. For now, this was wonderful. If you like lemon flavor, this is the cake for you!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.