Sunday, 22 February 2009

Meyer lemon time!

I don't think it was a Meyer lemon that Nicole sent, but sunshine. Nicole has commented in emails that when her Meyer lemons arrive from her Lemon Ladies it is like a box of sunshine has arrived on her doorstep. I think this is exactly what the Meyer lemon brings, and in the case of this little doorstep it seemed to happen quite literally, upon the arrival of Nicole's package the sun has begun to shine and there has been a definite hint of spring in the air. Hurrah!

Armed with sunshine, a lemon burning a hole in my mixing bowl, and N working from home, I decided on Thursday that it was time to tackle the difficult question of what to make with my yellow bounty.

Having eagerly read all the lemon posts on Nicole's blog I de
cided that if I could get as much zest and juice as possible from the lemon I could probably make two things. Lemon bars and lemon butter cookies. So I set about very, very carefully zesting my lemon.

I don't think a lemon has ever been so carefully and methodically zested in history. I was determine to get every single last bit of usable zest, and I think I managed it. I was so impressed at how much I managed to get, that I will be more precise in all my lemon zesting in future!

Once I'd done that I rolled the slightly warm lemon (from being in my hands) along a chopping board a few times and then cut it open to juice it. The warming and rolling trick is one from my Mum, she uses it when making lemon curd (yet another thing on my "to make" list this year) and she says that if they are slightly warmed in a microwave or in your hands and/or rolled on a counter top they give more juice. Once again I very carefully got every possible drop out of the lemon, and it turned out to be just enough for the lemon bars. Perfect.

I stupidly didn't save the seeds to plant my very own tree, but given my history of killing off perfectly good fruit trees (my lemon from last year didn't make it through the winter) that's probably for the best.

Having gotten as much as possible from the lemon it was time to get on with the baking action. I did indeed have enough to make both the bars and the cookies! I was so pleased. I adapted the recipes ever so slightly, taking the sugar in both cases, mixing it with the lemon zest and whooshing with my hand blender. This little trick is supposed to get as much oil from the zest as possible (and the oil is where the flavour is) and impart it into the sugar for a stronger flavour. It's not something I've tried before, but wanted to get the most from my Meyer lemon I figured now was the time to try. I have to say both recipes were very Meyer lemony so it probably worked.

I think my bars were a little shallow, probably because I didn't have an 8" square tin and so had to improvise. I also think I might have either over-mixed the topping, or cooked it too long, because it had a slightly white, crusty, almost merengue top. I have to say that I rather liked this about them, as it was very slightly like eating a Meyer lemon version of my Mum's lemon merengue pie (which is delicious in case you were wondering).

The cookies I made in two half batches, one vegan and one non-vegan. I have tucked the dough for the non-vegan away in the freezer so we can
draw out our experience of the Meyer lemon for as long as possible (ie until my Mum gets here in a few weeks) and I baked up the vegan version for immediate indulgence. Due to the vegan margarine they were a lot softer than expected, even with a bit more flour added. Even after chilling the dough didn't really firm up enough to slice cleanly, and would probably have benefitted from being rolled and cut with cookie cutters. They also didn't have the short-bready quality that the ones Nicole sent me at Christmas did, again I think because of the marg. They were slightly soft in the middle even after baking and cooling. I still really enjoyed them though, and the flavour was lovely. I'd definitely make them again with ordinary lemons (or Meyer of course if I can source them here) and can't wait to try the all butter ones.

I'm not going to post the recipes because they're there on Nicole's blog and you should head over there an see all the other lovely things she's made with Meyer lemons too.

I will however have another lemon recipe of my own appearing soon which I think would be equally good with Meyer lemons, and that I plan to serve with Nicole's Meyer lemon jelly to celebrate my Mum's visit (can you tell I'm a bit excited about some mother-daughter time?!)


  1. Two meals out of one lemon! You are amazing. I've never zested (what a fun word!) a lemon before... and I'm sure I don't have whatever tool it is you need to zest a lemon in my kitchen-- but your lemon bars look SO good that I'm going to investigate :) I keep telling my boyfriend we need to just pretend we got married so we can get new kitchen gadgets as wedding gifts!!!!

    I do have a question-- when you freeze cookie dough, how to you get it ready to bake again? do you have to let it thaw completely, or do you just soften it in the fridge...?

  2. Hi Sarah, I don't know why you think it's amazing, the lady of three dinners in one day!

    You can zest on a regular grater (using the smallest size side) if you're careful not to go down to the bitter pith. I did that all the time until I found a cheap zester. It's a bit messier I find, but worth it to be able to make things with zest in.

    I have a confession - I've never frozen cookie dough before! I always just eat the whole lot. Oops. I'm going to thaw in the fridge until it's almost done and then slice it cold. Most doughs benefit from being cold so that's my thinking. It's what I do with pastry so I figure the same thing applies to dough. We'll soon see, and I'll keep you posted.

    Ah, new kitchen gadgets, anything to get them works for me. I use the "when I finish writing [insert chapter here]" or "when I've completed the first draft of.." or "when I get [insert job here]" as my excuses! It makes my writing faster too!

  3. I've never been able to have any effect on a lemon skin with a zester....but have to tell you that the new peeler works wonders, gets the peel and no pith really well - just have to figure a way of getting from peel to zest!