Saturday, July 13, 2013

Real Food: Alice Waters' Lemon Curd with Vanilla Cream Biscuits

I picked up the Alice Waters standard, "The Art of Simple Food" at the library yesterday, and sat thumbing through it last night while Jim talked on the phone.  Before I knew it, there I was making lemon curd at 10 pm.  And as I set it to cool, and Jim was now sitting in the kitchen talking to me, I thought I might as well make up some vanilla cream biscuits for the morning, too. 
The lemon curd was incredibly simple.  It came together easily and quickly and as I poured it into the jar Jim spoke aloud what I had been thinking, "Shouldn't you run that through a fine mesh strainer first?
"Alice didn't tell me to," I said, "so this time I won't." 
It was silky smooth.  But next time I might use a strainer, just in case.  Old habits die hard.
I prepped the biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered them well, and set them in the fridge overnight.  At 5:30 this morning, I preheated the oven while I put together the french press, tossed them in to bake, and we had something wonderful.
Lemon Curd
from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food
Wash and dry:
4 lemons
Grate the zest of one of the lemons on the small holes of a grater.*  Juice the lemons; there should be about 1/2 C juice.
Beat until just mixed:
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2 T milk
1/3 C sugar
1/4 t salt (omit if using salted butter)
Stir in the lemon juice and zest and add:
6 T butter, cut into small pieces.
Cook the mixture in a small nonreactive heavy pan, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat a spoon.  Do not boil or the eggs will curdle.  When thick, pour into a bowl or glass jars to cool.  Cover and refrigerate.
Vanilla Cream Biscuits
This recipe is adapted from a recipe for strawberry shortcakes found in the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Bread flour and good butter, along with the use of a food processor creates an ultra-fine, meltaway texture in these biscuits.  Couldn't be simpler. 
1.  In a food processor pulse to combine:
2 C Bread Flour
5 T Sugar
1 T Baking Powder
1/2 t Salt
Add to the bowl:
8 T Unsalted Butter, cut into pieces
Pulse to combine, until mixture is fine and butter is fully incorporated.  Don't over mix.
2.  In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together 2/3 C Half and Half, 1 large egg, and 1 t good vanilla extract.  With machine running, pour the cream mixture through the top.  Mix until just combined.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and work it quickly and gently, folding it over on top of itself a few times.  A bench scraper is useful here.  Press it out into an 8x8 square, then working from the top,  roll up the dough, place it seam side down, and gently pat it into a log.  Using your bench scraper, cut it in half, then quarters.  Cut each square on the diagonal for eight triangles.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
5.  Combine 2 T Half and Half and a drop of vanilla extract.  Brush the biscuits with the cream and finish with a sprinkling of sugar. 
6.  Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.  To make ahead, finish through step 4 and cover with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until needed and continue with step 5. 
Place on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

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