Suzi's Blog

Lemon Pudding Cake

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Pudding is something we rarely encounter as adults. We have fond memories of Jell-O boxes and multiple servings of chocolate pudding topped with whipped cream. But pudding now? When Suzen suggests that teams coming for an event at Cooking by the Book finish their hands-on experience with pudding, well pudding cake, there is often some reluctance.

While she cannot twist someone’s arm over the phone, Suzen can be enthusiastic. She’s a believer in this delicate dessert and in the past few months I’ve gotten to eat it once or twice a week as her clients succumb to her enthusiasm. This dessert is perpetually enjoyable. Lemon is a popular flavor, right there after vanilla and chocolate. And the pudding cake has this surprising texture of creamy softness with full mouth feel. It’s not the pudding of Jell-O boxes. And it’s not solid cake. It’s pudding cake and it satisfies everyone who tastes it.

Lemon desserts often pair well with whipped cream and berries. You see in the picture above that we’ve done just that. The berries add a flavor punctuation mark that adds dimension.


Lemon Pudding Cakes

Yield: Eight 6-ounce ramekins

Ingredients:

  • Softened butter for the ramekins
  • 2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1-⅛ ounces (1/4 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon table salt
  • 1-¼ cups whole milk, at room temperature
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream and berries for serving (optional)

Preparation:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter eight 6-ounce ceramic oven-proof ramekins or Pyrex custard cups, or even better as picture: mason jars. Arrange them in a baking dish or roasting pan (a 10×15-inch or two 8×8-inch Pyrex dishes work well).

In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with ⅔ cup of the sugar and the egg yolks until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Add the flour and salt and pour in just enough milk to whisk the flour smoothly into the egg yolk mixture. Then whisk in the remaining milk and the lemon juice until smooth. The mixture will be very fluid.

Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer (a hand-held or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment) on medium speed until the whites begin to foam, 30 to 60 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat just until the whites hold soft peaks when the beater is pulled away, another 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium. With the mixer running, very slowly sprinkle in the remaining ⅓ cup sugar; this should take about a minute. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Beat on high speed until the whites hold medium-firm peaks when the beater is pulled away, about another 30 seconds.

Scrape one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, sprinkle the lemon zest on top, and whisk until combined. Gently incorporate the remaining whites into the batter, using the whisk in a folding/stirring motion. The batter will still be thin.

Portion the mixture evenly among the ramekins; the cakes don’t rise much, so you can fill the ramekins to within ⅛ inch of the top. Pull out the oven rack and put the baking dish full of ramekins on the rack. Pour warm water into the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the tops of the cakes are light golden and slightly puffed, and when touched with a finger, they should feel spongy and spring back a bit but hold a shallow indentation, 25 to 30 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the ramekins to a rack. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before serving, with whipped cream if you like.

Source: Nicole Reese in Fine Cooking Issue 70

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑400

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Grilled Eggplant with Spicy Tomato Salad

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We return again and again to Olives, Lemons & Za’atar by Rawia Bishara. When she came to this country from Palestine, she discovered many new treasures in American markets, including those deep purple eggplants that seem to beckon us all. But, what to do with that eggplant?

Rawia offers a Middle Eastern solution to that question, one that marries roasted eggplant with a tomato salad zippy with chile peppers. As you can see in the picture, we’ve paired the eggplant with homemade bread coated with goat cheese. This is a meal unto itself, delightful for lunch, brunch, or dinner.

Eggplants are still widely known as aubergines, from the Arabic. The plant began in south Asia and migrated slowly, only reaching the Mediterranean area in the Middle Ages thanks to Arab explorers and traders. There were actually two paths of transmission with two related families of plants: the melongene family coming the Eastern Mediterranean and the aubergine family through the Western. The melongene terminology has faded, but aubergine persists.

And the word “eggplant?” By the 18th century, there were European cultivars that were yellow or white in color and resembled goose or chicken eggs. That’s where “eggplant” comes from. And, no, they were not looking at those purple giants when this new name crossed their tongues.

With its roots in Asia, eggplant is still grown predominantly in Asia. China produces the most: nearly 30 million tons a year. India and Iran are the second and third largest producers, with only a fraction of China’s output. The largest European growers are Spain and Italy, the 9th and 10th largest growers in the world. But they produce less than 1% of what China does. So, in your next visit to Chinatown, look for an eggplant dish.

On your way to China, consider this Middle Eastern excursion.


Grilled Eggplant with Spicy Tomato Salad

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium eggplants (2 ½ to 3 pounds total), cut into ½-inch rounds
  • Sea salt for sprinkling
  • Corn oil for frying
  • ⅓ to ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil for the tomato topping, plus more for roasting
  • 4 long hot or jalapeño chile peppers
  • 8 plum tomatoes or 3 beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Arrange the eggplant slices on a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes or until eggplants begin to sweat. Pat dry.

Add ¼ inch corn oil to a large skillet and heat over high until hot. Working in batches, use a spatula to slide the eggplant slices into the skillet and fry, turning once, until they are medium brown on both sides, about 4 minutes total. Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more corn oil to the skillet if necessary. Alternatively, brush the eggplant slices with olive oil on both sides and roast in a 500°F oven until golden, turning once, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, finely dice 2 chile peppers, removing seeds if desired. Finely slice the other 2 chile peppers. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, chopped chiles, garlic, ⅓ cup of the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Gradually add as much of the remaining olive oil to achieve your desired consistency. Spoon enough of the tomato mixture onto each eggplant slice to leave a narrow border around the rim.

Garnish with the sliced chiles and serve.

Sources: Olives, Lemons & Za’atar by Rawia Bishara with inputs from Wikipedia

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/3.5 for 1/30th second at ISO‑160