Date: Tue, 21 May 2013 20:20:26 +0200
- Phat Duck in The Pastry Department
- As we trudge through grey of the Seattle days, growing ever shorter, the nip in the misty air drives us inside towards comfort. Rushing for the warmth of our homes, damp layers are peeled off and traded for thick rich fabrics, layered generously with less concern for outward appearances than inner satisfaction. A favorite sweater pilled beyond repair, a much loved pair of sweat pants that should have been replaced last year, thick wool socks asymmetrical and lumpy but made by a friend with love; we are not only reaching for comfort, but for the familiar.
Wrapped thick and nested inside, preparing for a long winters hibernation from the wet, cold, daunting grey that is Seattle's winter, mother nature sends us a surprise. The clouds break, the rain stops, and through our squinted eyes, we see the sun. For a moment, the skies gleam with azure joy and the sunlight spills on the lush foliage kept evergreen by our 8 months of drip. Eyes quickly accustomed to the extra light excite at the world brightened by a rare sunny day.
The flavors of the season, a reflection of our desire to comfort ourselves, are rich, subtle, warm, and familiar. Meals created this season satisfy our mood by nature as much as by design, the seasons offerings as much a reflection of these qualities as our own desires. From the muddy soil, we are pulling hearty greens, subtle potatoes, and rich squashes. But beside these cold weather gems, slowly filling the produce section in shops is another of mother natures surprises. A bright ray of light from places sunnier than Seattle, citrus is now coming into season.
Bright orbs of color, this tart flavor brightens the comfortable cuisine we are layering ourselves with, refreshing our palates and enlivening our moods. Grapefruits, mandarins, Meyer lemons, limes, blood oranges, and kumquats, the first 4 colors of the rainbow paint winter's cuisine with exciting flavor. Like a sunbeam breaking through the clouds, I delight in welcoming citrus's return.
To begin my celebration of citrus, I am filling a cup with a rich lemon cream mousse. Blanketed in a huckleberry coulis, this intense mousse is served with a crumbly lemon shortbread. The shortbread is baked twice, much like a biscotti, to achieve a truly crumble-and-melt in your mouth quality, and packs a nice clean citrus flavor. It stores well in an airtight container and makes a welcome gift for the holidays.
Note, the butters texture and temperature are vital the outcome of the dough. It should be room temperature, soft, and pliable, but not shiny, runny, greasy, or squishy. Your finger should feel some resistance when pressing into it.
1 cup butter, room temp
2/3 cup powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
Prepare a 8 by 8 inch square pan lined with parchment
Preheat the oven to 350
1. With the paddle attachment, cream the butter on a medium speed until it is of an even consistency. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and sift the powdered sugar over the butter. Mix the sugar and butter together until they are even and smooth, no more than minute.
2. Scrape the bowl well, and add the lemon zest, lemon, and vanilla. Mix until the wet ingredients are a smooth even mass.
3. Sift together the salt, flour, and baking soda. Add half this mixture to the dough and mix on low until mostly incorporated but still dry. Add the remaining half and mix on low until the flour has dissolved and the dough looks like large, very moist curds.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and finish the mixing process by gently kneading the dough. When the dough is even, press it into the prepared 8 by 8 inch pan and bake at 350 for 25 minutes.
5. After 25 minutes, remove the shortbread from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees. When the shortbread has cooled to a handling temperature, but not too much, invert the cookie onto a cutting board. Trim the edges from the shortbread, and cut the shortbread into even sized squares. Transfer the squares to a cookie sheet and bake in the 325 degree oven for another 20 to 30 minutes. The cookies should begin to turn golden, but remain fairly blond, and feel set and dry. If you are unsure, break a cookie open and check to see if the center is baked. To achieve a truly crumbly texture, the cookie must be baked through completely.