Lemon Shortcake

Photo: Lauren Colchamiro for Sweets & BItters

This is one of those desserts that will make your cooking seem fabulously effortless! Make the lemon curd ahead (pretty little jars of it also make a wonderful gift). While you’re at it, cut a lemon into thin slices and leave it to soak in rich simple syrup: 1/2 cup sugar dissolved, with the help of heat and stirring, in ¼ cup water. When your guests are on their way, a batch of fresh biscuits can be mixed and baked in 20 minutes. Whisk up a bowl of lightly sweetened whipped cream. Just before serving, split the biscuits, fill them with lemon curd and whipped cream, and put another little dollop of cream on top with a sweetened lemon-slice pressed into it (save the syrup for cocktails). Edible flowers add a lovely flourish if you can find some.

Hint: Buy potted pansies, violas, or johnny jump-up plants to use for your edible flower garnish. It can be hard to find just the flowers, and this way you will have a nice little

 

Lemon Shortcake

make about 12 shortcakes

 

for the lemon curd

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold

 

for simple biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 3/4  cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

 

for assembling shortcakes

  • whipped cream
  • syrup-soaked lemon slices (see headnote)
  • edible flowers, such as violas (optional)

 

cooking the lemon curd

1. In a double boiler or a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the eggs and yolks. Whisk in the sugar and salt, then the lemon zest and juice. Cut the butter into several small pieces, and add it. Set the saucepan or double boiler over medium heat.

2. Cook, stirring constantly, until the butter is incorporated and the mixture thickens. Never allow it to boil, or it will separate and curdle. When the curd is nearly thick enough that you can imagine spreading it on toast, but still a little too runny for that, remove it from the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

3. Transfer the curd to a bowl or jar. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd, and pierce a small hole in it. This will prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cool. This will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

 

baking the biscuits

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit, and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl; stir with a fork or whisk to combine. Cut the butter into small pieces and work it into the dry ingredients: pinch the butter and flour together until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs or coarse cornmeal. 

2. Stir in the buttermilk or yogurt. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, mix and knead with your hands, just until it holds together in a ball. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface to about 1/2 inch thick, then fold it in half, and in half again. Roll out again to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut 2-inch circles out of the dough, using a cookie cutter or a sturdy glass. Place them on the baking sheet. (Scraps can be pressed together, rolled out again, and cut out).

3. Bake the biscuits for 7-9 minutes. Serve warm, if possible. These are best within a few hours of baking.

 

assembling the shortcakes

1. Break the biscuits in half. Fill each with a spoonful of lemon curd and a spoonful of whipped cream. Put the top back on the biscuit.

2. Dollop more whipped cream on top, and garnish it with one of the syrup-soaked lemon slices and an edible flower. Serve right away.

 

 

Lovage Savage, a Spring Aperitif

lovage savage cocktailSometimes the job of a drink (and the bartender) is not to stand out, but to work like a stagehand arranging scenery while the audience imagines they can’t see you. The lights come up and a drink is in their hand before they know they ordered it. It’s delicious, but subtle enough to recede behind good conversation: a backdrop. It creates anticipation, making the mouth water and setting the scene for an exciting meal to come.

This is that kind of drink. Dolin Blanc, a sweet white Vermouth, forms a light foundation for a cocktail that refreshes without intoxicating. A splash of Bittermen’s Citron Savage gently awakens the tastebuds with a hint of bitter herbs and citrus. Slap a sprig of lovage between your hands to release a fragrance like floral celery. And finish the drink’s perfume with a twist of aromatic citrus--bergamot, sweet lime, or meyer lemon.

Lovage Savage Cocktail Recipe

(savage pronounced with a french accent...or should we call it the Savage Lovage?)

  • 2 oz Dolin Blanc
  • 1/2 oz Bittermen's Citron Savage
  • sprig Lovage
  • 1/2 section of peel from aromatic citrus (bergamot, sweet lime, or meyer lemon)

Build the drink in a rocks glass over ice, and stir to chill. Slap the sprig of lovage to release its fragrance, and twist the peel over the glass to mist it with citrus oil.

Golden Lasso

What shall I serve for the Wonder Women’s art opening? A seventies cocktail named the Wonder Woman calls for neon green Midori and layered tropical juices: not my kind of drink. This heroine deserves better.

I present the Golden Lasso. The rum, like Wonder Woman herself, is from an Island and crafted by a woman. The color and the powers of the drink--of any drink--are like her lasso, golden and truth-inducing. Finally, it too has Aphrodite’s blessing (this time in the form of cocktail bitters). It’s sexy and enticing, but could knock you out if you’re not careful.

 

Golden Lasso Recipe

1 ½ oz Appleton Rum

1oz tangerine juice

½ oz lime juice½ oz creole shrubb

drop of orange flower water

1 barspoon honey

4 dashes Aphrodite bitters

Measure the ingredients, and stir to disolve honey. Shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If you like, garnish with a twist.

Toddy Time

It’s getting chilly here in New York. There’s no comfort like a toddy to take the chill from your bones before you nod off under a heap of blankets. And these are recipes that don’t require careful measuring: an important feature when you’re cold and tired.

Whiskey Toddy
This soothes a sore throat as well as cough syrup, and tastes a lot better.

big splash whiskey
half a lemon
generous spoonful honey
(herbal tea, optional)

Squeeze the lemon into a mug, straining the juice through your fingers to catch the seeds. Add the honey and whiskey. Top this with boiling water and stir. Use a teabag if you like. I like to throw the lemon rind right in. Taste it, and add more lemon or honey or whiskey if it needs it.

Variation: Breuckelen Gin makes a limited amount of aged gin, which I’ve been enjoying in my toddies. Ransom Old Tom would also be delicious.

Spiked Cider
Bitters are an easy way to add the flavor of mulling spices to a mug of cider. I favor Angostura, Bitter Truth Aromatic, or Fee’s Old Fashioned. Whiskey or rum could stand in for the apple brandy.

apple cider
apple brandy/applejack
bitters

Heat a mug of cider, douse it with booze, stir it, and dash a few drops of bitters on top.

Now cozy up!