Fresh Lemon Sorbet

IMG_7845-EditFor many years, I always referred to sorbet as “sore-bet” rather than the correct pronunciation “sore-bay.” My dad called it “sore-bet,” my mom called it “sore-bet,” so naturally I thought it was “sore-bet.” Who was I, an innocent and easily corrupted little child, to know the difference? Sadly, “sorbet” is not the only word I’ve pronounced incorrectly for years, only to find out that I’ve been sounding like an idiot for way too long. Like when I used to talk about “ether-real” desserts (ethereal), “super-flouse” amounts of something (superfluous), and what to order for “horse-da-vores” (hors d’oeuvres). Classy.

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Luckily I’m not the only one who slaughters the English language once in a while. I recently informed my father, a middle school English teacher, that the word disheveled is pronounced “dish-heveled” rather than “diss-heevled.” Whoops-a-daisy. And I can’t tell you how many times in school I’ve heard classmates talk about the “coop” in Afghanistan when its government was taken over, or ask our Lit teacher what exactly a “hyper-bowl” is. *Face-palm*

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Now that we’ve gotten the pronunciation issue squared away nicely, I can present to you this fabulous recipe for Lemon SorbAY! Its tart, sweet, zesty, icy lemon freshness is the perfect refresher to end any summer meal. Or winter meal. Or fall meal or spring meal for that matter. With only FOUR ingredients (two of them coming from the same fruit and one of them being water) this is one of the simplest recipes out there. Just heat up a simple syrup of water and sugar, let it cool while squeezing and zesting some fresh, juicy lemons, stir it all together, pour it into an ice cream maker, freeze for a couple hours if desired, and voila! Fresh, homemade sorbet ready to be gobbled up at your earliest convenience.

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I realize that not everyone owns an ice cream maker, and I can’t vouch for the results of making this recipe without one, but I have to say that prior to freezing this recipe is nothing more than wonderful homemade lemonade. I would imagine that if you blended/food-processed the mixture with a handful of ice cubes you’d have a pretty stellar lemon slushy to feast on, too. But if you DO happen to own an ice cream maker, go the sorbet route. You won’t regret it. This cool, creamy, perfectly tart, and fruity sorbet beats anything I’ve ever bought in the frozen food aisle. It’s seriously ethereal, guys. Ether-real indeed. 😉

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Fresh Lemon Sorbet

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 3-4 large lemons)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (more or less to taste)

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes, uncovered. Pour the mixture (called a simple syrup) into a bowl and cool completely.

When the syrup is cool, stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into an ice-cream maker and freeze according to maker’s instructions. (Mine takes about 25-30 minutes.) Sorbet will be soft and slushy. Serve the sorbet immediately or transfer it to a container and freeze for 4 hours or until firm. Makes about 2 cups.

(Recipe adapted from Taste of Home)

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Blueberry-Almond Crisp

IMG_6478One of my favorite things about summer is the fruit. As fresh strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, plums, mangoes, cherries, and more start appearing in the produce section I feel much like a kid in a candy store. Since on our tiny island it’s ridiculously expensive (and often impossible) to attain summery fruits throughout most of the year, I always look forward to loading up on all my favorite fruits throughout the spring and summer months.

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Summertime’s surplus of fresh fruit also means some extra-tasty desserts. As convenient as frozen fruit is, there’s nothing like a blackberry pie made with berries picked from the wild tangle of bushes down the lane or a rustic galette filled with sweet, fresh cherries rather than the usual sticky red canned ones. Pies, cobblers, crumbles, etc. are some of my favorite go-to desserts throughout the summer because they allow for sweet, juicy fruits to take center stage.

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This Blueberry-Almond Crisp is the perfect treat for a warm summer evening: plump, sweet blueberries are tucked underneath an oatmeal-almond crumble topping and baked until the top is crisp and golden and the berries are thick and bubbly. I love the combination of blueberries and almond, and this crumb topping packs in just the right amount of almond crunch and flavor to contrast the sweet, juicy blueberries. A warm bowl of Blueberry-Almond Crisp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream tastes like the epitome of summer, at least in my book.

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This recipe has become a summertime favorite in my family. Go pick up a container of fresh blueberries and try out this wonderful crisp for yourself! You don’t want to miss out on this one.

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Blueberry-Almond Crisp

For the fruit filling:

4 cups fresh blueberries (or unthawed frozen blueberries)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

For the crumb topping:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/4 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) cold butter, cubed

2 tablespoons almond paste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8″x8″ baking pan; set aside.

Place the blueberries in a large bowl. Add in the lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, sugar, and flour. Gently fold the mixture until the blueberries are well-coated. Let the berries sit and macerate while you make the topping.

For the topping, whisk together the flour, oats, almonds, sugars, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized bowl. Using two forks or your fingers, cut in the cold butter and almond paste until the mixture holds together into large crumbs.

Spoon the berry mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Top with the crumb mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly. Let the crisp cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

(Recipe heavily adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

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Happy July 5th, everyone! I hope you all had a fun and safe 4th of July yesterday, whether your day was filled with sunshine, parades, picnics, friends, fireworks, or all of the above.

Before heading downtown for our annual parade yesterday, I decided to start the morning off with a sweet treat to celebrate. Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling fit the bill nicely: tender, sweet, lemony muffins bursting with fresh juicy berries and containing a surprise pocket of lemon-cream cheese filling. To make the muffins more festive I loaded them with a mixture of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries and figured that the cream cheese filling qualified as the “white” part of my red-white-and-blue color scheme. Sure, the cream cheese was hidden in the center, so the color scheme was more like red-blue-and-muffiny brown, but who’s complaining? For all intents and purposes, they were red-white-and-blue. Okay? Okay.

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Although the muffins themselves are delicious with a soft, moist crumb; a hint of cinnamon, vanilla, and almond flavors; a fresh citrus zing from the lemon; and a triad of sweet, juicy berries, they’re made even better with the secret filling. One bite in and you’ll encounter a tiny pocket of sweet lemony cream cheese that takes these muffins from good to great!

In my muffins I chose to use half whole-wheat flour and half all-purpose to give them a little more heft and fiber. The recipe below calls for only all-purpose flour, but it’s up to you. Same goes for the type of berries, extracts, spices, etc. Like many of my recipes, this one is highly adaptable!

Bake up a batch of these Lemon-Berry Muffins as a special treat one of these mornings! In no time at all you can be enjoying a warm, fresh-out-of-the-oven muffin for breakfast or brunch. Be sure to watch for people’s reactions as they discover the sweet surprise filling. Some surprises are not so good (like the surprise that would have occurred had I not realized in the nick of time that I was starting to pour peppermint extract into my measuring spoon rather than vanilla) but this surprise is definitely a nice one! Unless of course you happen to dislike sweet lemony cream cheese stuffed inside a tender lemon-berry muffin. But that would be just plain silly.

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Lemon-Berry Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Makes 9 standard-sized muffins

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Grated zest of 1 large lemon (about 2 teaspoons)

1/3 cup milk

1 large egg

1/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)

1 cup fresh berries, rinsed and chopped (I used 1/3 cup each of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries)

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling

Cream Cheese Filling:

3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line or grease 9 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, use your fingers to incorporate the lemon zest into the sugar until fragrant. Whisk the lemon-sugar into the flour mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the milk, oil, egg, vanilla, and almond extract until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix. Gently fold the berries into the batter, which will be thick.

To make the cream cheese filling, stir together the cream cheese, lemon zest, and sugar in a small bowl until smooth.

Fill each of the 9 prepared muffin cups about halfway with batter. Drop about 1 teaspoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto the batter in each cup. Then divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, carefully covering the cream cheese center. Sprinkle the muffin tops with coarse sugar if desired. (I also topped each with a raspberry.)

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until tops are set and edges are golden-brown. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack.

(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars

IMG_3877Years ago, before I was a bona fide baker (although whether I am even now depends on your definition 🙂 ), I often used baking mixes. Felt like it was a perfect morning for muffin-making? I would pull out a trusty Krusteaz box. Had a hankering for brownies? Pillsbury it was (the type with the chocolate syrup pouch, of course.) Cupcakes needed for a bake sale? Hello, Betty Crocker. The fall-back line seems to be that pre-packaged mixes are faster and easier than from-scratch recipes, but in all honesty you really don’t save that much time using mixes. Unless the project at hand is something like homemade cinnamon rolls or a particularly tricky candy, it’s almost as quick to mix up a batch of homemade brownies or cookies than to succumb to a chemical-laden, artificially-flavored box mix. In my humble opinion, baking from scratch is often cheaper, yields a better-textured and better-tasting product, and allows for much more variety in your baking. Well there’s my two cents! Now we can get down to business :).

I originally found this recipe for Oatmeal Lemon Creme bars off the Betty Crocker website. The combination of crumbly oatmeal cookie and creamy lemon filling sounded utterly amazing, and I just knew I had to try them. However, the recipe called for a pouch of Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix, an ingredient which: a) would force me to eat my words about the evils of pre-packaged mixes and b) is unavailable at my two tiny grocery stores. They’ve got chocolate chip cookie mix, peanut butter cookie mix, sugar cookie mix, and molasses cookie mix, but no oatmeal cookie mix. Go figure! Not that I actually looked, of course, because that would mean that I was actually considering buying a mix. Which would be ludicrous, right? Um, right.

Lucky for me, a quick google of “Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars” brought up a whole list of sites that had adapted the same Betty Crocker recipe, many of which included a from-scratch option for the cookie dough. Yay, internet! Happy that I could still try those glorious Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars, I whipped them up in no time at all.

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For such a simple recipe, these sure take the cake (or should I say bar)! Their slightly crumbly, slightly crisp, not-too-sweet oatmeal top and bottom sandwich a smooth, creamy, lemony filling for a killer flavor (and texture) combination. The lemon flavor is definitely present but isn’t overpowering thanks to the thick, cheesecake-like filling and oatmeal cookie layers. Soooo good. I have to say the bars are best after being chilled, so that the filling can firm up a little and the crust gets nice and chewy, but they are delicious at room temperature as well. You really can’t go wrong! These are a perfect low-maintenance yet stellar dessert to bring to potlucks, parties, meetings, etc. or to just enjoy at home. This won’t be the last time these wonderful little bars appear at my house!

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Oatmeal Lemon Creme Bars

For the oatmeal cookie dough:

1 & 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened but still cool

1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed

For the lemon creme filling:

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk

1 Tbs lemon zest (from about 1 large lemon)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8″x8″ glass baking pan; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and oats in a smaller bowl. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar mixture until combined. Press a little more than half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While the bottom layer is baking, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth. When the crust is finished baking, pour the lemon creme over the hot crust, smoothing the top with a spatula. Crumble the remaining cookie dough over the lemon creme and bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until crust is light golden.

Let the bars cool completely before slicing into squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

(Recipe inspired by Betty Crocker, cookie dough recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

IMG_3831The other day I drove to the store on a mission. I currently have 4 open bags of various flours in my pantry left over from gluten-free cake-baking, and I’ve been trying to use them up. Since my mom is gluten-free, I figured this was a perfect opportunity for me to bake some goodies that she could eat too. First on the list was a recipe for muffins made with oat flour, just the thing for a healthy, filling, delicious breakfast treat. A treat that also made good use of my oat flour, of course! All I needed was a box of raisins.

I should have known that I wouldn’t be able to walk out of the store with nothing but one measly box of raisins. Before I even made it through the automatic doors I spied a display of asparagus. One, it was on sale; two, our refrigerator was looking sadly barren in the vegetable department; and three, the asparagus looked so, so plump and fresh. Come on, for an impulse buy, asparagus is certainly not something to be ashamed of. But as I happily bagged up my nice green stalks, I noticed another item nestled alongside the asparagus. Limited-time-only, raved-about-by-multiple-food-bloggers, hybrid-of-a-lemon-and-mandarin-orange, Meyer lemons!

Without a second thought, I plucked up a bag of the deep yellow beauties and dropped it into my cart. I just couldn’t resist. Believe it or not, I’d never before had a chance to try a Meyer lemon, even though I’ve heard multiple people wax poetic on their sweetness, mega-flavor, and superiority to regular old lemons. The healthy oat muffins dropped down a few places on my mental to-bake list and my new beautiful Meyer lemons took front stage.

After much debate, I decided to try out a Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake that I had previously goggled over at Brown Eyed Baker. Luckily I had all the ingredients at home, because I wasn’t about to go back to the dangerously distracting grocery store. I got the cake mixed up in a jiffy, and into the oven it went. The hardest part was letting it cool for an entire hour after being drenched in a sweet lemon glaze. Waiting was pure torture!

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I now understand all the rage about Meyer lemons! They really do have a distinct flavor from normal lemons, being much sweeter, fruitier, and less acidic. The loaf cake had a soft, delicate crumb, was sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and was absolutely bursting with lemon flavor. Also, since it’s baked in a loaf pan you can absolutely call it a quick bread and eat it for breakfast!

If you happen to spot Meyer lemons being sold at your grocery store, I recommend letting yourself have a little impulse buy! You can use them in the place of lemons in any recipe you like, but of course I’m biased to this loaf cake. Enjoy!

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Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

For the cake:

1 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar

2 Tbs Meyer lemon zest (from about 4 lemons)

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 & 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp Meyer lemon juice

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

For the glaze:

1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9″x5″ loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place the sugar and lemon zest in a large bowl. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until the mixture is well-combined and moist. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, followed by the vanilla and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. While mixing, pour the melted butter into the bowl in a steady stream, occasionally scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Add the flour mixture in three increments, whisking gently with each addition. Mix just until no flour streaks remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes, then decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Bake for an additional 33-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. When the loaf cake is golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven. Let the cake cool in its pan for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the glaze. Stir together the 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the mixture has slightly thickened.

Run a knife along the edges of the loaf cake and invert it onto a wire rack. Use a toothpick to poke holes all over the top and sides of the cake. Generously brush the cake with the lemon glaze. Let the cake cool for at least 1 hour, then cut and serve. The cake can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for several days.

(Recipe from Brown Eyed Baker)