Lemon Curd

 

Where I grew up in Los Angeles, we had lots of citrus trees. Most mornings my mother would take me to school. As we’d walk through the garden to the driveway, I’d see pieces of orange peel everywhere. The squirrels loved our oranges and frequently left their spongy remains scattered across the lawn. Our lemons were so large and yellow and knobbly, they looked like they belonged in an Arcimboldo painting. Every summer we’d use them to make the most refreshing lemonade.

Friends of ours had a meyer lemon tree and their neighbour, an old Scottish woman, would make delicious lemon curd out of them. I’ll never forget the first time I tasted it–cold, tart, sweet, custardy, creamy, and refreshing. I had been swimming with friends on a sweltering day when we emerged from the pool and were offered lemon curd with blackberries for a snack. It was bliss in a single bite.

Not until I moved to London did I try making my own. Rather silly, I know, as it’s really quite simple. Recently, it’s become a family favourite. My daughter has it in yoghurt for breakfast. We eat it with buttermilk biscuits or scones for elevenses or afternoon tea. It’s also divine in tarts or used as a filling for cakes. This weekend, it will top an Easter pavlova.

Below is my recipe and I hope you like it. Be sure to use the best lemons and eggs you can get. I like Burford Brown eggs because of their golden yolks which lend their colour to the curd.

I know lemon curd is British, but for me its flavour will always be California.

 

Ingredients:

the zest and juice of 4 unwaxed lemons

280 g caster sugar (more or less depending on how much sweetness you like)

100 g unsalted butter

4 eggs lightly mixed

 

Method: 

Whisk together the juice, zest, sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

Once it begins to boil, remove it from the heat.

Let the mixture cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs. If you don’t, you’ll end up with scrambled eggs in your lemon curd which is disgusting. You’ll also have to start the recipe again. I usually wait until the mixture is just hot enough to touch.

Then slowly whisk in a bit of the egg. Then a bit more. Whisk, whisk, whisk to incorporate.

Heat the mixture once again over low heat. Keep whisking. Once it bubbles and thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon, it’s ready.

Push the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps or eggy bits.

Finally, pour the lemon curd into sterilised jars and seal. This recipe makes about 2 jars.

Lemon curd will last about two weeks in the refrigerator.

 

Hot Cross Buns

Until a few years ago, I had never eaten a hot cross bun. They weren’t an Easter tradition where I come from and to be honest, I generally loathe dried fruit in baked goods. If you ask me, sultanas are the ruin of a quality scone. Which is why I was surprised the first time I tried a hot cross bun and immediately wanted another.

The exact history of the hot cross bun is not known. Some people say a monk in the 12th century baked the buns and incised them with a cross in honor of Good Friday. Others say it was a monk in the 14th century in St. Albans. During the the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a law was passed that restricted the sale of sweet buns to funerals, Christmas, and Good Friday. Thank heavens that isn’t the law now.

For my recipe, I chop the dried fruit before putting it into the dough. I feel that this helps people like me who have a fear of fruited baked goods. I also add a tart apple to balance the sweetness and stem ginger for a bit of warmth.

Per my friend Rachel’s request, here is my recipe. The quantity of dried fruit I’ve given suits my tastes but you should absolutely tailor it to suit yours. I hope you enjoy them like I do. For breakfast, for elevenses, for tea. . .

 

Ingredients:

For the buns

300 ml + 2 tbsp full fat milk

50 g unsalted butter

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp allspice

a few dustings of nutmeg

500 g strong white bread flour (plus up to 250 g extra for kneading)

1 tsp salt

75 g caster sugar

7 g fast-action yeast

1 egg, beaten

the zest of 1 orange

25 g mixed peel, chopped

30 g dried cherries, chopped

15 g dried cranberries, chopped

10 g raisins, chopped

1 large piece of stem ginger in syrup, minced

1 small tart apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped (I use a Cox or a Granny Smith)

 

For the crosses

80 g plain white flour

95 ml water

 

For the glaze

1 tbsp apricot jam

1 tsp golden syrup

1/2 tsp water

 

Method:

Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it on a low flame until bubbles form. Once this happens, turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it’s melted. Allow the mixture to cool a bit. If you can touch it and it doesn’t feel too hot, that’s perfect. Mix in the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast.

Make a well in  flour mixture. Pour the spiced milk mixture and crack the egg into it. Stir this with a wooden spoon just until the ingredients come together forming a shaggy sticky dough.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface. Add extra flour if it’s too sticky to handle, but keep in mind that too much flour will make dense dough. Knead the dough until is smooth. This takes me about 8 minutes. It might take more or less time for you.  Once the dough is properly elastic, put it in a large lightly greased bowl and cover it with cling film. Allow it to rise someplace warm and draught free until it doubles in bulk. This can take 1-2 hours.

When the dough has doubled, add the zest, peel, cherries, cranberries, raisins, apple, and ginger to the bowl. Knead them into the dough until they are well incorporated. Then once again cover it with cling film and allow the dough to rise a second time. Roughly another hour.

After it has raised a second time, tip the dough out of the bowl and divide it dough into 12 pieces. You can be precise and weigh it all like you’re in the Bake Off or you can eyeball it. I do the latter. Roll the pieces into smooth balls on a lightly floured surface.

Line a rectangular glass or earthenware dish with baking paper. Place the buns in it. They should be touching, but make sure there is also enough room for them to expand. Cover them with plastic wrap and allow them to rise one last time.

Preheat the oven to Gas 7/220°C/425°F.

While the oven heats, mix the flour and water to form a thick paste for the crosses. If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon of water. If it’s too runny, add a teaspoon of flour. Once the desired consistency has been achieved, spoon the mixture into a piping bag. Be careful that the paste doesn’t run everywhere. Gently pipe a straight line across a row of buns. I like to start going from left to right. Then do the next row and so on. To finish the crosses, rotate your dish and pipe lines in the other direction so they are perpendicular.

Bake the buns on the middle shelf of your oven for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. While they bake, make the glaze by putting the jam, syrup, and water in a small pot and bringing them to a boil. Allow it to thicken a moment before turning off the heat.

After you have removed the buns from the oven, immediately brush them with the glaze then transfer them to a cooling rack.

 

 

 

Yo Soy Paddington (A Warming Marmalade Recipe)

Just before Christmas, I took my three year-old to the cinema for the first time.  We saw Paddington and were equally charmed.  It was funny and darling and the calypso band that played throughout was fantastic.  Helena clutched her stuffed bear, chomped on popcorn, danced in her seat and shrieked with delight through most of it.  I, on the other hand, cried through at least 20% of it.  I am not sure if it’s because I was still waiting to hear about my Indefinite Leave to Remain status or what, but the telling of this tale about a little Peruano immigrant bear really tugged at my heart strings.  I love Paddington.  I am Paddington.  Yo soy Paddington.

CUT TO: JANUARY 2015

Though the UK Border Agency had until March to process my visa application, I received it the first week of the new year.  I have no idea why it’s called indefinite leave to remain when ILR status allows one to remain in the UK for ten years.  Ten years is very definite, no?  Anyway, I was thrilled.  I studied for my Life in the UK exam like my college degree (or my residency) depended on it.  Go ahead.  Ask me anything about the Divine Right of Kings, The Pale, The Hundred Years War, 1066, Robbie Burns, or sticky wickets.  I know it all.  Or at least I did last August when I took the test.

While my heart’s all American, something in me changed when I received my residence permit.  It’s not that I felt British.  Anyone who reads Chagrinnamon Toast knows that I ache for home and wish I could see my family more than I do.  That said, I am so grateful for all that England has offered me.  What’s changed is that for the first time, I don’t feel like just an American.  I feel like an immigrant full of love for my homeland yet equally full of thanks for my adopted country.  Like I said, I am Paddington.

Which is why I felt it my duty to learn to make marmalade, not that I even like the stuff.  I just thought it should be in my repertoire especially as Helena and Henry love it.  The recipe I used was from The Breakfast Bible by Seb Emina & Malcolm Eggs.  I cannot lie.  My first attempt was a failure.  It smelled nice, tasted nice, but had the consistency of epoxy. Apparently, when boiling marmalade, one cannot turn one’s back even for a minute.  Otherwise the temperature can quickly climb too high and leave you with mucilage instead of marmalade.

My second attempt was with the same recipe.  This was much better.  I gave some to Blake Pudding, one of the contributing writers of The Breakfast Bible, who said my marmalade “tasted like it was made by someone who didn’t have the weight of the empire sitting on her shoulders and who didn’t know the disappointments of being British.”  He went on to describe it as “Fresh and juicy.  In a word, Californian.”  Keeping California in mind, I began experimenting with my own recipe.

Second Attempt

Second Attempt

What is it I really want in cold dreary January?  To bask in the sunshine.  Sadly as that’s not an option here in London, I’ve tried to capture the warmth of the West Coast in a jar instead.  Below is my recipe.  I call it Winter Gold as it consists of Seville oranges, lemons, and ginger which look like flecks of gold when set in jars.  While it’s not sunny Malibu, it is warming and coming from someone who doesn’t like marmalade, it’s delicious.  All the glow of an orange, but with very little bitterness.

Misti’s Winter Gold Marmalade

Ingredients:

1 kg seville oranges

3 juice from lemons

100 g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks

750 g caster sugar

1 liter of water + 125 ml or 1/2 cup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Method:

First, place a small plate in your refrigerator.  You will use this plate to later test for a set.

Next, remove the stems from your Seville oranges and give them a  good scrub.  It’s really important they be nice and clean.

Quarter each orange and put it in a large heavy bottom pan.  Add the liter of water.  Boil with a lid slightly off for an hour and a half or until the skins are tender.

oranges pre-boil boiling oranges

Drain the oranges but make sure to keep the water in which they were boiled.  Allow the oranges to cool.

Use a teaspoon to scoop the insides of each orange quarter.  Put the seeds, pulp, and pith into a large pan.  Cover with the 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil.  Stir frequently to avoid sticking and burning.  Allow this mixture to boil for about ten minutes.  The purpose of this boil is to extract pectin that will help your marmalade set.  Remove from the heat and place in a cheesecloth or fine sieve to strain.  I use a spoon to stir the mixture within the sieve.  This presses out some of the pulp which is thick and sticky.  Retain all liquid that comes through the sieve.

boiling for pectin

straining scooped bits

Rinse the orange peel and drain.  Cut into shreds.

shred

Peel the ginger and slice thinly.  Cut each thin slice into matchsticks.  Chop the matchsticks into even smaller pieces.

Prepare your jars and lids.  Wash them with warm soapy water.  Dry completely and place on a baking tray.  Put them in the oven at about 275°F/140°C/Gas 1 for at least ten minutes.  This will sterilize them.

Place the orange shred, the ginger, the sugar, both sets of liquid, and the lemon juice into a large pan.  Stir to mix.  You want everything to incorporate.  Over a medium flame, heat the mixture.  Do not allow the sugar to burn.  When the sugar has melted (you’ll be able to tell because the mixture will no longer feel gritty), bring everything to a boil.  Bring out your candy thermometer and watch it like a hawk.  Do not allow your mixture to go above 220°F this is roughly 100°C.   I take mine off at about 219°F.  Test for a set using the plate in the fridge.  Do this by spooning a little of the marmalade onto the cold plate and putting it back in the fridge for a few minutes.  If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it’s set.  Whatever you do, do not repeat my school girl error and allow it to surpass 220°F.  If you do this, you might as well keep boiling it even hotter and just make candy.

marmalade cooking 220F

When you have achieved your desired set, take the marmalade off the flame and allow it to sit for a few minutes.  Stir in the butter.  This will keep your marmalade from going scummy.  Spoon/funnel the mixture into warm jars leaving enough head room.  Tightly screw on the lids and allow to cool completely.  For me, this made three and a half 280 ml jars.  Enjoy on toast, cakes, cookies, or tarts.  Even use it as a glaze for roasting ham.  Most importantly, bask in its gingery glow.

Winter Gold

Winter Gold

Yo soy Paddington

Yo soy Paddington

Indefinite Leave to Remain

Indefinite Leave to Remain

The Cure (a briny breakfast to chase those roaring butterflies away)

After an evening with an old friend that began with Australian semillon, Aretha Franklin and crab claws and ended with chardonnay, caviar and The Cure (but only after a rioja and ratatouille interlude–okay, and maybe some pie), it was no surprise when I awoke to the roar of the butterflies this morning .

Funny how Robert Smith’s voice was the last thing I remember as I was now in dire need of a cure.  Once downstairs, I saw the glass of water and paracetmol I left out for myself in anticipation of whatever this morning would hold.  Always think ahead and always see the glass half full.

paracetamol

Still, I needed more than a water soluble analgesic to help me start the day.  I turned to the fridge for inspiration.  There it was in the form of streaky bacon, fish eggs, crème fraîche, and Araucana eggs.  Bacon, as you know, is essential to every breakfast of champions.

bacon

But so too is a rich briny egg dish.  Here’s what I did: crack 3 large eggs into a bowl, whisk in a tablespoon of crème fraîche, stir in some fish eggs and a bit of salt.  Once cooked, I topped the eggs with more crème fraîche and caviar.  I’m American.  I like too much.  And the next time you’re feeling hungover (or decadent ) I hope you remember this and enjoy it too.

fish eggs egg mixture cooking eggs eggs