The Teacup Chronicles

Month: January, 2012

Cornmeal Thumbprints with Meyer Lemon Curd

I’ve always had a soft spot for thumbprint cookies. There is just something so quaint about them – so sweetly rustic and so homey  – that you just can’t help but be charmed. I guess we all have certain foods that for one reason or another get mixed up with the sensations of our childhood. For me, thumbprints are it. Just looking at one makes me feel like life is a little less complicated than I thought before. What other sort of cookie, after all, do you get to squash down with your thumb and then fill up that said thumbprint with jam? As if your thumbprint were magical, as if wherever you pressed down your thumb, wonderful sweet things materialized out of thin air.

I hadn’t made thumbprints in quite a while, I’d forgotten all about them actually. It was Sunday afternoon, as I was stirring a pot of lemon curd on the stove top, that they came into my mind. Inhaling sticky sweet lemon fumes will do that I think – make you think of  things you loved as a child. I’d been more focused on that lemon curd really – on all the citrus I lugged home from the store earlier that day – blood oranges, clementines, ruby-red grapefruits and Meyer lemons –  and the way all that citrusy brightness and sharpness seemed to clear out the winter gloom just as sure as a warm spring breeze. I had been thinking about what I might do with that lemon curd, having never made it before. Perhaps spooned onto some warm bread, perhaps baked into little tarts. Then I thought of the thumbprints, and it was clear what I had to do.

It just so happened that on Sunday, there was also a tiny bit of cornbread left over from Saturday’s dinner. And so, lacking any bread and wanting to sample a little lemon curd on something warm spread with a slab of butter, I grabbed a hunk of this cornbread for that purpose and discovered something else. Cornmeal and lemons are made for each other. So then, my wheels turning now, I set out to break new ground, to explore a new frontier. Not just lemon curd thumbprints, but cornmeal lemon curd thumbprints. Somehow, it possibly even makes thumbprints more quaint and filled with down-home sweetness than they even were before.

Cornmeal thumbprints with Meyer Lemon Curd

To make the curd:

  • 6 tablespoons organic, unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup organic unrefined cane sugar
  • 3 Meyer lemons (or regular lemons)
  • 2 whole free range organic eggs, plus one yolk

Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a saucepan with the sugar.

Zest the lemons into the saucepan along with the sugar and butter, and then squeeze the juice into the saucepan through a strainer (or your hand) to catch any seeds.

Whisk the eggs and the extra egg yolk with a fork and then add to the saucepan as well.

Place the pan on low heat and stir occasionally until the butter has melted. Then, with the heat still on the lowest setting, stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon so that you can leave a clear line when you swipe your finger down it. This takes about 10-12 minutes. Once the sauce reaches the right consistency, immediately remove from heat, and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a pint mason jar, and place in the fridge to cool while you prepare your cookies.

Makes about 1 pint.

For the thumbprints:

Dry ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup fine ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup ground almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Wet ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup melted butter (unsalted and organic)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside, making a little well in the center. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add to the dry ingredients, pouring into the well. Mix well and then form tablespoons of the dough into little balls, flattening them to make circles. Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Using your thumb, place an indent into the center of each cookie and then put about 1/2 teaspoon of the curd into the thumbprint. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Let cool for a minute on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 12 cookies.

P.S. Save your lemon peels from the curd and use them for making a delicious tea (lemon peel is full of anti-inflammatory flavanoids, has anti-depressant properties, stimulates the liver and is great for digestion – so don’t waste those extremely valuable peels!!). Combine 2 or 3 thinly sliced strips with a few tablespoons of black tea and a good pinch of cardamom and enjoy with your cookies.

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Lavender Breakfast Muesli

Winter, post holidays, takes a little easing into for me. Some people charge ahead into January with purpose and gusto, relieved to put December behind them and start a new year. But not I. January is like a cold morning to me – the type that you hide under the covers from, holding on to the warm sensations of a receding dream and praying that your alarm clock won’t go off anytime soon. January is the mess I’d been stuffing into the closet while December poured me another glass of wine.  January is a reality check – a back to business as usual month with a sober and stern disposition. I think it would carry a clipboard and look down at you over rimmed spectacles if it were a person.

But eventually, something clicks and the days start to take on a comforting rhythm. I get out of bed, I let things topple out of the closet and I start dealing with what needs being dealt with. It’s a good feeling when it happens, sort of wholesome and purifying in its execution. And while it  isn’t exactly fun, there is something satisfying in the motions, something that makes me feel decent and good and dare I say just a touch proud of myself.

After I get over the sensation that I am being jipped when I no longer am able to eat things like stolen for breakfast, or when there isn’t cake served with every meal, I start to embrace this wholesome, pristine feeling. I get back into my old routines and remember their sensibility, remember the sense of vibrancy and balance that comes from simplicity.

Muesli is one of these routines. It is a humble breakfast, nothing glamorous about it, nothing to catch one’s eye at first glance – but wholesome and satisfying,  like January. You can eat it every day, and feel good about it, feel proud even. Sometimes I even have it as a snack. Of course, I can’t totally neglect my need for December’s sparkle, so I like to jazz it up with a touch of lavender – or sometimes a bit of rose petal, cardamom, vanilla bean or cocoa nibs depending on how the mood takes me. That little touch of floral seems to bring just the merest whisper of summer days to my mornings, and leaves me feeling a little sunnier.

Lavender Breakfast Muesli

Adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.

  • 3 cups rolled oats (feel free to sub in other flaked grains as well such as barley, rye, wheat or even quinoa)
  • 1 cup walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds (or a combination of all three)
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or other dried fruits such as figs, cranberries or apricots)
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the oats on one baking tray and the walnuts on another, and place in the oven on a middle rack. Toast the walnuts for 12-15 minutes and the oats for 10, or until both are fragrant and crunchy. Place the oats into a large mixing bowl. When the walnuts are cool enough to handle, chop or break them into smaller pieces and add them to the oats.

While the oats and walnuts are toasting, place a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds to the pan and toast, stirring frequently, until they begin to pop and turn golden, fragrant and crunchy. Remove from heat and add to the bowl along with the oats and walnuts.

Add the dried fruits, the oat bran, the lavender buds and salt to the bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Once cool, store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place.

How to eat your muesli:

  • Eat topped with fresh fruit and doused liberally in a milk of your choice
  • Serve over yogurt or over a warm fruit compote – or both! I like to make a parfait or serve fruit compote, yogurt and muesli side by side
  • Soak overnight in the juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon, and serve with yogurt for Bircher style Muesli – the traditional Swiss way

Ah, is this not happiness? #9

 

Waking in the morning to find window panes transformed with the resplendent swirls and glittering sweeps of Jack Frost’s fingertips.  Ah, is this not happiness?