When life gives you lemons...bake.
When traveling, I try not to seem too much like a tourist. At times that involves suppressing the feelings of excitement at things that locals find part of their everyday existence. The first “red telephone box” I saw in London comes to mind. Scores of Brits were walking swiftly past it, giving it no notice at all while I was practically jumping up and down.
The one time when I was not able to hold in my excitement came when visiting a farmer’s market while my family and I were on an extended stay in southern California. The first booth I visited featured familiar offerings like potatoes, carrots, green beans, and the like; but the second featured a colorful bounty of sun-kissed citrus fruit – oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons.
At first, my land-locked Midwestern skepticism kicked in thinking, “who do they think they are trying to fool, bringing citrus fruit to a farmer’s market.” A split second later I realized that I was not on Kansas…er…Indiana anymore and that oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons were completely at home at a SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA farmers market.
“Look,” I said much too enthusiastically to my wife and children, “they have lemons…at a farmer’s market. Isn’t that cool!” The looks from the locals at the crazy man shouting about lemons gave me away as tourist. Too make it worse, the looks on the faces of my wife and children let me know they were giving serious consideration to pretending not to know me. Had selfies been a thing back then I would have definitely snapped one of myself in front of the fruit.
My wide-eyed enthusiasm continued long enough for me to get out my wallet a buy $50 worth of citrus and, by the way, that buys a whole lot of citrus at a farmers market. On the upside, my family and I were cold free for months as a result of the extra vitamin C.
As we make the transition from the winter months to spring a trip to the citrus section of the produce isle gives me a little bit of that same jolt I experienced back in California. Of course lemons are there in December and January as well as March and April; but seeing them in springtime or in the last days of winter makes me practically giddy.
I’ve never been tempted to stock up with $50 worth of citrus from my local grocery store but I do find myself buying a little more than usual, incorporating their light refreshing flavors into a lot of dishes, including this Lemon Pudding Cake. When I serve it I run the risk of my teenage son saying, “remember the time Dad freaked out at the farmer’s market in California?”
Lemon Pudding Cake
- 4 large eggs, separated
- 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 cups whole milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Also put a teapot full of water on to boil. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish.
In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and melted butter. In another bowl, combine the sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in half the flour mixture into the egg yolks, then half the milk. Whisk in remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold them into the batter then pour batter into the buttered dish.
When the oven has some to temperature, open the oven and place the dish in the roasting pan. Pour the boiling water from the teapot into the roasting pan so that enough water comes up half to two-thirds pan the height of the baking dish. Close oven door and bake until cake is set, about 45 minutes. Allow to set for about an hour before serving. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired. Can also be refrigerated and served cold. Makes about 8 servings.