June 26, 2009

The citrus bite

I love lemons, too. Any dessert or baked item involving lemons is good, as long as it's not too sweet. Some people overcompensate a little too much when taming lemon's tartness with sugar. For me, it's the sweet-tart combination, a little of both, each vying for attention and drawing me in for another bite. Sugar serves a purpose in softening the sour note of the lemon, but it doesn't need to take away its tang. Take lemon curd, for example. So many store bought varieties are so sweet, they're hardly edible. I like my lemon curd a little on the tart side, but not so tart that my face puckers with one bite. This lemon budino recipe is just right in capturing that balance. If you crave the sweet-tart quality of lemon curd, you'll love this dish. It's that good. And it's the perfect size, too, not so small that you want to eat another whole serving, but not so large that you end up wishing you hadn't eaten it at all.

My fondness for lemons definitely led me to this recipe. It's been sitting in a folder for a while, one of those types of recipes you cut out of a magazine and file away for some future date. I've been thinking about it recently, though, and decided to just make it, since I had the ingredients on hand, and it looked pretty simple. Often, I make desserts for no reason at all, other than just to enjoy the eating process. For holidays, my mom and I usually make the traditional goods, like pies and cookies, and we're usually so focused on the various components of the main meal that the idea of trying something new or fancy for dessert sounds like too much work. Usually the male members of our family complain when we try something new or outlandish on holidays, any way, so we might as well stick to what we know is good, fairly simple, and appreciated. So, on the regular days, during the weeks when nothing's going on, I'm inclined to try something new or different.

This recipe was a cinch to pull together. Really. Hardly took any time at all. It baked into a nice, creamy custard with the eggy fluffiness of a souffle crusting the top. I didn't actually use Meyer lemons, so regular lemons will work just fine. I didn't increase the sugar, either, because of my penchant for all things tart, although the average person might have, since Meyer lemons aren't so sour as regular lemons. That being said, if you do use Meyer lemons, I might even suggest decreasing the amount of sugar called for, to get the right sweet-tart balance, because they were just perfect without the added sweetness a Meyer would provide.

Meyer Lemon Budino
Adapted from Bon App├ętit, of Delfina in San Francisco

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh regular lemon juice
2 Tbsp finely grated Meyer lemon peel
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp whole milk
¼ tsp salt
Whipped cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter six ¾-cup custard cups or ramekins (I used cooking spray). Combine ½ cup sugar, egg yolks, flour, lemon juice, and lemon peel in large bowl; whisk until well blended. Whisk in milk.

Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in medium bowl until frothy. Gradually add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Fold beaten egg whites into lemon mixture in 2 additions.

Divide mixture among prepared custard cups. Place custard cups in roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. Bake puddings until tops are golden and spring back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes. Remove cups from water. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

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