Wednesday 2 May 2012

Travel, Family, and Meyer Lemons – Does It Get Any Better?

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Look at that.  Just...look at that.

Now do you understand why I checked out for so long while I was gone?  I know, I know, there are bloggers far better than I, who schedule posts to go up while they're away – there are even some bloggers, like the Energizer Bunny Pioneer Woman, who write and post while on vacation!  Alas, I am not one of these bloggers.  I am weak, and as much as I may know I should write a post while I'm home in SF, I cannot resist the temptation of an offer to walk along Crissy Field instead.

However, I am not entirely useless – I also cannot resist an opportunity to bake, and the overflowing bowls and bags of Meyer lemons in my mother's house were just that.  Her trees in Napa were heavy with fruit, and she was running out of ideas for what to do with it.  So I bring home for you: Meyer Lemon Quickbread (and some bad phone pics, sorry).

 The best thing about having an overabundance of something is that I feel like I can experiment without worrying about wasting too much; Meyer lemons are kind of a specialty ingredient, so to have too many of them is a wonderful problem.  It meant I could whip something together and if it failed, I still had plenty more lemons to play with. 

Of course, with the pressure completely off like that, you know the bread came out perfect on the first try.

Not that anyone was complaining, especially me.  I threw this bread together on Easter morning, so people would have something other than chocolate to snack on before our big lunch, and when I first started making it I was pretty wary.  For one thing, I didn't really register that zest alone is acidic enough to curdle milk and eggs – which is exactly what happened when I poured milk and eggs over the creamed butter, sugar, and zest.  Ick.  It looked really nasty.  But I had all these naked lemons that needed juicing, and there was no pressure on this baked good – if it was bad, I'd just chuck it, and nobody had to know I'd even tried – so I kept going.

I added the juice, along with some dry ingredients, scraped it all into a buttered pan, sprinkled on some slivered almonds as an afterthought, and put it in the oven.  Half an hour later, the house smelled amazing, but I still wasn't convinced we had a winner.  When I pulled it out of the oven a good ten minutes before schedule, the cake tester came out completely dry.  Crap!  I figured I'd incinerated it.  I nearly threw it out then and there, but instead I called the BF over to taste-test.

 And lo and behold, it was good!  Moist, and fluffy, and extremely lemony, just the way my family likes it.  Add some pretty spring napkins and it was a pretty perfect Easter treat!

In fact, I liked it so much I made it again the next week, for a Seder my friend was hosting.  I knew I shouldn't be bringing something leavened, but it was technically a 'Goy Seder' (for non-Jews and semi-Jews alike), so I figured it was okay.

And we still had too many Meyer lemons!  I mean, a huge kitchen with tons of baking equipment; a Viking double-oven range; bowls and bowls of fresh Meyer lemons; plenty of willing tasters for my experiments – with temptations like these, can you really blame me for wanting to turn around and go back right now?  Especially when it's been raining pretty much nonstop here, and SF looks like this:

But you know what they say: home is where the heart is.  And although I'll always leave a large part of my heart in San Francisco, more and more of it goes back to England with the BF every time he leaves me there.  And at some point, it just hurts too much and I have to follow.

Someday, hopefully soon, we'll move back to SF together, and my heart can regroup.  Until then, I'll just keep soothing myself by baking.  With normal lemons, and a little more sugar.  And better photographs next time, I hope...

Meyer Lemon Quickbread
     Note: if you can't find Meyer lemons where you live, regular lemons will still be delicious.  But since Meyers are a bit less sour, and as my family likes our lemon desserts pretty tart anyway, you may want to add a bit more sugar if you use regular lemons.

Preheat oven to 400F/200C and grease an 8x8 baking dish.

In a large bowl, cream together:
     1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, softened
     3/4 c sugar
     zest of 2 Meyer lemons

Beat in (don't worry if the egg/milk curdles a bit – it'll be fine):
     1 egg, lightly beaten
     dash vanilla
     1/2 c milk

Gently stir in (now the mixture will curdle – again, it's fine, just think of it as buttermilk!):
     juice of 2 Meyer lemons

Mix and add:
     1 1/4 c flour
     2 1/2 tsp baking powder
     hefty pinch salt

Stir just until combined, then pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with slivered almonds (optional).  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, checking frequently (mine baked super fast, but my parents' oven may run a bit hot).  When a tester comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it, the bread is done.

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