Monday, May 28, 2007

Ligurian Lemon Cake

Finally, I convinced myself to get up from the comfort of my little corner and start making something from Pierre Herme's book. Eventhough I would really love to eat the many luscious creations from this book, creating them myself is quite another thing. And not a small feat, I must add.

For instant, the Melody, which I flipped open randomly, requires a 24 hours preparation of apples as its first step. Not to mention that this is just one of its many components. "Can you do it?" "Are you sure you want to do it?" are the questions I keep asking myself. For the lack of skills and confidence, I keep putting off my plan to bake from this book.

What pulled me up from the same chair I am currently sitting was the bag of meyer lemon I bought 2 weeks ago. Some of them ended up in the form of my favorite scones, some in the amazingly tender Sable au Citron, some in the lemon cream and some in the madeleine. The final two looked a bit past their prime and threaten to rot if I still don't know what to do with them. Since I am not one of those who are lucky to have a Meyer lemon tree in the garden, nor have a grocery store that sell them all year round, it's not everyday that I can be so fortunate to have a bag of meyer lemon in my refrigerator. So, you must understand why I am being so prudent when it comes to using these little gems. Can you tell from my serious tone that I am a lemon lover?

Anyway, I digress. There's a recipe from Pierre Herme's book that involved lemon and easy to make. I decide to start my adventure of "Pierre Herme's Desserts" here. I even bought a tiny pint of fresh raspberries that was required in the recipe. A big deal, because it's an expensive ingredient after the cocoa powder and cocoa nibs.

Because of my mood of loving everything small at the moment, I decided to make them in my muffin pan rather than in a 10-inch springform pan as stated in the recipe, which I don't have anyway. Turned out that the recipe can make more than 12 little cake because mine came out half inch taller than the mold after baked.

The Ligurian Lemon Cake wasn't the most lemony cake I have tasted, but it was pretty good after resting overnight in the oven. A nice addition to the dessert tray when it's tea time. Although the Ligurian Lemon Cakes can be served unadorned, but I prefer the meringue topped version. It added an element of elegance to the little cakes, although mine didn't turn out the way they should.

A word of caution: Frost the cake on the day you intend to serve it (if you decided to give it a try). The frosting will soften after one day, because this is a moist cake. It will still taste nice, only not so appealing to the eyes.

Ligurian Lemon Cake
adapted from Desserts by Pierre Herme

For cake:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more, room temperature, for pan
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons, very finely chopped (I used meyer lemon)
4 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons milk, room temperature (I used 2 tablespoons of cream and 1 tablespoon of water)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 1/2 lemon)
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pint fresh raspberries

For Meringue (optional):
1 large egg white
1 cup granulated sugar
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Mixed berries, such as raspberries, strawberries, or blueberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; with rack in center. Butter a 10-inch round cake or springform pan, dust with flour, and tap out any excess. (I used a 12-cups muffin pan)

In a large bowl, sift flour and baking powder; set aside.Place sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer; rub the ingredients together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy, and has absorbed as much of the zest as possible. Return bowl to mixer.

Using the whisk attachment, beat in eggs on medium high until the mixture is pale and thick, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on lowest speed, beat in milk. Add reserved flour mixture; beat until incorporated. Add lemon juice, melted butter, and olive oil; beat until blended.

Pour about one third of the batter into the prepared pan; there should be just enough batter to form a thin, even layer. Arrange the raspberries on top of the batter. Pour the remaining batter over the raspberries, and use a rubber spatula to gently spread batter so that it runs down between the berries and just covers them (you’ll have a very thin top layer of batter).

Bake cake until it’s golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 33 minutes. (about 20-25 minutes for small cakes)

Remove the cake from the oven, and immediately unmold it onto a wire rack. Invert cake so it is right side up, and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, the cake is ready to serve or to decorate with meringue.

Meringue topping (optional):
Preheat oven to 475 degrees; with rack in the center. Place the cooled cake on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and set aside.

In the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white until it holds soft peaks. Add granulated sugar in a slow, steady stream; continue beating until firm, glossy peaks form.

Using a metal icing spatula or a spoon, immediately spread the meringue over the top of the reserved cake. Dust the meringue with confectioners’ sugar.

Bake the cake until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Garnish the cake with the mixed berries, if desired, and serve.

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