Thursday, April 10, 2008

Food For Thought Thursdays

It's about 73 degrees today in Richmond, the sun is shining beautifully and since it's Food For Thought Thursday, I decided to feature a few great citrus-based dessert recipes to go along with sunshine. Enjoy!

First up, Lemon Tartlets

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Fully-baked mini tart shells

Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes.

3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats.

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth.

Blood Orange Margaritas
1 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed blood orange juice, plus 4 thin slices (for garnish)
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice, plus four wedges (for garnish)
1 cup tequila
1/4 cup Cointreau or triple sec
fine-grain sea salt (for garnish)

Place four margarita glasses in the freezer to chill. Mix the juices, tequila and triple sec in a pitcher; refrigerate for at least an hour (or until very cold).

Pour the salt into a shallow bowl. Remove the glasses from the freezer. Run a lime wedge around the rim of one glass. Invert the glass in the salt, twisting to coat the rim with salt. Repeat with the remaining glasses. Divide the chilled margaritas between the four glasses and enjoy.

Pineapple Sorbet

1/2 pineapple, peeled and cored (2 cups, 500ml purée)
8-10 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water (125ml)
Cut the skin off the pineapple, remove the core and slice it into chunks.If making dried pineapple rings, slice off a few thin rings before cutting the rest into chunks.Purée the chunks in a blender, with 8 tablespoons of sugar and the water, until smooth. Taste to see if you need to add any more sugar.Chill the mixture and then churn in your ice cream machine, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pour into a freezer proof bowl, or little moulds, and return to the freezer.To make the dried pineapple rings, spread the thinly sliced rings onto a silpat sheet and bake in a low oven for a couple of hours. Turn over several times during baking.

Raspberry Mousse

450g frozen raspberries
250g sugar
4 sheets of flavourless gelatin
3 eggs, separated
100 ml cream
Chantilly and fresh raspberries to garnish.

Place the gelatin sheets in a bowl of cold water, to soften. Add the sugar to the frozen raspberries in a saucepan, over medium heat. As they start to thaw, smash them with a wooden spoon and mix them well with the melting sugar, until you have a fairly thick syrup. At this point you should pass the mixture through a sieve in order to get the seeds out and have a smoother consistency.

Place it back in the saucepan and let it simmer for a few seconds. It’s now time to drain the gelatin and add it to the syrup, mixing well until it melts away. Prepare 6-8 glass cups (depending on the size), spoon a little bit of this mixture on the bottom, and set them aside.

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. In a bowl, beat the yolks with a fork, and then slowly, while still beating, add the raspberry syrup until smooth.

While letting the mixture cool, whip the cream and beat the egg whites into soft peaks. First, add the whipped cream to the raspberry mixture, slowly incorporating without mixing too much. Then, we carefully fold the egg whites. It’s important not to mix too much, or we risk losing all the fluffiness.

Divide the mixture into the cups and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. When it’s time to serve, you can garnish the mousse with some more whipped cream and fresh raspberries, to make them look even prettier.

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