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.

 

 

Soothing Sorbet

Cool melon and mint, slushy and a little sweet: this may be the most refreshing thing I’ve ever eaten! Sorbet is quite easy to make if you have an ice cream maker. If you don't, the same mixture makes fantastic ice pops. I suggest you try some of both!

 

Cantaloupe & Mint Sorbet

  • ½ cantaloupe (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ¾ cup mint simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • small mint sprigs for garnish 

1. Cut the cantaloupe into cubes–you should have about 4 cups–and put it in a blender. Add the lime juice and syrup. Blend until smooth.

2. Churn in an ice cream maker until it holds together. Serve immediately, garnished with mint sprigs. Whatever you can’t eat right away you can thaw and re-churn, or freeze as ice pops.

 

Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • one bunch mint, stems removed

1. Stir together the boiling water and sugar to dissolve; this is your simple syrup. Put it in the refrigerator until it’s cool to the touch.

 2. Add the mint to the cooled simple syrup. Steep for at least an hour, but ideally overnight. Strain, and discard the leaves. This syrup will keep well for a few weeks, and is wonderful for sorbets and summer cocktails like mint juleps.

 

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

You know when you travel somewhere foreign, but there's something about the place that makes you feel like you've come home? That's how pomegranate molasses tastes to me. Its sweet floral tang is mysteriously familiar. I find myself mixing it with seltzer, substituting it for balsamic vinegar and adding it to desserts–even sneaking a spoonful from the fridge now and then.

Pomegranate molasses might sound exotic to American cooks, but it’s cheap and pretty easy to find. Middle Eastern markets stock it right next to the rose water and orange blossom water (at 1/3 the price they sell for at Whole Foods, you might want to pick those up too).

Here's a sweet recipe to get you started–Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses. Serve this effortless and sophisticated dessert to impress dinner guests. While the ingredients may seem exotic, the preparation is simple. You don’t even have to turn the oven on.

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

  • 4 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup goat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla, or seeds scraped from on vanilla bean
  • fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish

1. Pour one tablespoon of pomegranate molasses into each of four small ramekins. Set aside.

2. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the yolks, egg and sugar until well mixed and a little frothy. Slowly whisk in the milk. Stir in the salt.

3. Gently warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to thicken watch closely, it will cook fast. Turn off the heat when it’s about not quite as thick as runny yogurt. Whisk in the vanilla.

4. Carefully spoon or pour the custard into the ramekins, dividing it equally between them. Place them in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, until set. They’re best consumed within a day, but will keep for a few days.

5. Sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds on top before serving.