Sunday, February 15, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons

A fresh-picked Meyer Lemon

Sadly, this Valentine's Day was sort of a bust for us. Our son had a birthday party about 30 minutes away so we did at least go out to lunch while he attended. On the way back we stopped at a nursery where my husband bought me a Meyer Lemon tree just bursting with blossoms and already bearing one gigantic, softball-sized lemon bright as a tiny sun. Things went downhill after that, however. An epic windstorm blew until the small hours of the morning, so my husband, who manages the power grid, was on conference calls late into the night. Then he had to get up before dawn and go into work, where he remained for about 12 hours. We are expecting quite a bit of snow over the next few days, so he has a long week ahead of him. I decided, life having literally given us one lemon, to bake a lemon pound cake to cheer him up.

Jade Lemon essential oil adds extra flavor.

I found the recipe for the pound cake on Pinterest, pulled from the Plain Chicken blog and made a few adaptations. It was originally served at the Ritz-Carlton in the 1920s. The recipe calls for 6 tablespoons of lemon juice. My lemon was huge and super-juicy, but still only yielded about 4 tablespoons. I added 1/2 teaspoon of Jade Lemon-infused olive oil to make up for the missing juice. Find the instructions for making infused oils here. This cake has a subtle lemon flavor, especially if your palate is used to fake lemon flavoring, so you could also just add 5 drops or so of Young Living lemon or jade lemon essential oil for a little extra intensity, or even replace the lemon juice and zest entirely by adding more oil. I would not recommend replacing all that liquid, however; this is a really unusually moist pound cake because of all the juice. Don't forget, although Young Living lemon essential oil is edible, most essential oils are not. You may contact me through this blog or through my Naturally Amanda Facebook page for Young Living lemon essential oil.

Coconut sugar

Another adaptation I made to the original recipe was to use a coconut sugar blend. Coconut sugar doesn't raise blood glucose levels the way cane sugar does, so we often use it in place of cane sugar. Sally Fallon's books, like Eat Fat, Lose Fat, and Nourishing Traditions, contain lots of information about the science and studies showing the benefits of coconut sugar, among other foods, and I highly recommend them. The blend shown above is about 90% coconut sugar with 10% raw, unrefined cane sugar. Coconut sugar is expensive so I  cut it with a little unrefined cane sugar to save money. Something I have noticed about citrus fruits is they tend to cause me to get mouth sores if I combine them with cane sugar, but coconut sugar doesn't have that effect. I assume there must be a difference in acidity with coconut sugar. Coconut sugar provides a caramel flavor and darker color to baked goods.

Ritz-Carlton Lemon Pound Cake

3 cups cake flour
1 TBSP baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup solid coconut oil or non-hydrogenated lard at room temperature
5 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
4-6 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon-infused olive oil or 5 drops pure Young Living lemon essential oil
zest of 1 lemon

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl and set aside. Cream butter, lard, and sugar in a mixer until well blended. Use the butter wrappers to grease your Bundt cake pan and then lightly flour the inside of the pan. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add some of the flour mixture, alternating with milk and beating after each addition. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon oil and mix in gently. Pour batter into your prepared Bundt pan and bake at 350 degrees 55-70* minutes or until a skewer poked into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes and then turn onto a rack to cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or lemon curd if desired. This batter is designed to fill a vintage Bundt pan, the kind made when the recipe was created. I use a vintage pan I found at a thrift store, but if you have a modern Bundt pan you will have leftover batter.

*This cake is supposed to take only about 55 minutes, but at 40 minutes the sides and top of mine was getting too done and the center was still raw, so I had to make a tent of aluminum foil and keep checking it at 5 minute intervals. This, of course, made it take longer, around 70 minutes total. This is most likely due to my stupid oven. I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE my oven. We went without a dishwasher for months because I wanted all new matching appliances. But at Christmas my husband decided to go get a fridge and dishwasher but no oven, so now we have mis-matched appliances. It drives me crazy every day and doesn't bother him at all. Even more annoying is that our oven doesn't work. It doesn't heat evenly and things are always getting burned on one side only, or just on the bottom, or top, or whatever. We have a gas stove top separate from the oven and inserted in the counter and I hate it too. The grates are absolutely impossible to clean. I have tried every cleaning fluid and implement I can imagine and they always look dirty. So anyway, I'm pretty sure it was just my oven but you might want to check your cake starting at about 40 minutes to make sure you don't need to tent it. You will also notice I use non-hydrogenated lard or coconut oil in place of vegetable shortening. Sally Fallon's books contain lots of reasons why these real fats are much healthier for you than lab-created shortening.

Lemon pound cake served with whipped cream

A couple weeks ago one of my Meyer Lemon trees had one blossom. These trees are not supposed to need another tree to act as a pollinator, but they are much more likely to bear fruit if you have two. If I'd had more than one bloom I could have helped it along, but I didn't, and the flower fell off without bearing. The new lemon tree is absolutely covered with flowers. It's making the dining room smell fantastic. I definitely want more of these superior lemons, so I decided to perform some artificial lemon insemination. I just take a regular artist's paint brush and go all around the plant like a bee would, inserting my brush into each flower. You have to be gentle so you don't knock the flowers off, but over the years I've found this increases all my citrus yields.

Pollinating with a paint brush

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