Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lemon Marmalade

We're heading to Florida in the spring with the kids.  Although we have plans to go to Sea World and otherwise bask in the sun by a pool or beach, I'm really hoping I can convince the family to take a little citrus tour.  In the spirit of those hopes, I picked up a bunch of lemons (ok, they're from CA, not FL), and I've made my first batch ever of lemon marmalade.  Only two ingredients go into this recipe I merged from and The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook:  lemons and sugar.  It's an awesome, if not slightly uppity, gift for a culinary friend, and it's fantastic on toasted anadama bread.  Directions are below.

What you'll need:

a dozen lemons
4 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
6 to 8 half pint mason jars and lids, sterilized

First thing:  Buy your lemons at the market, or pick them if you're lucky enough to have access to a tree.  If bought at the market, whether or not they're organic, they may be coated with some kind of wax used for the purpose of preservation.  You don't want that in your final product, whatever you're using the lemons for, so you'll want to remove the wax.  I boiled a pot of water, poured it over my lemons, scrubbed each one with an unused plastic kitchen scrubby, then rinsed them again with super-hot water.

Now onto the marmalade adventure, and it was an adventure.  First peel your lemons.

I used a small cheap paring knife, as my veggie peeler didn't do the job.  Make sure to cut the peelings into small thin pieces, appropriate for the size you'd want in your marmalade.

Then make sure the white bitter stuff is off of your lemons.  Yes, I used the same paring knife.  Next, cut your lemons cross-wise into 1/4 inch pieces, making sure to remove every seed along the way.  This is a time-consuming process, but don't fret!  The end result is worth it.  Now put the peelings, lemon innards, and 4 cups of water into a covered container, then into your fridge overnight.

Take your container out of the fridge in the morning, stir up the mixture, and bring to a constant simmer over medium heat for about an hour.  Then add the sugar, and bring the mixture to a boil until the sugar has dissolved.  Bring again to a constant simmer for about an hour, checking the temperature with a candy thermometer as it cooks.  Once your temp reaches 215 degrees, make sure to keep an eye on your mixture and stir constantly.  When it reaches 220 degrees, remove your pot from the heat.  Fill sterilized jars, add lids, then boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.

I am an inexperienced marmaladian; however, I was assured by trustworthy marmalade aficionados that my efforts resulted in the right amount of sweet balanced with just the right amount of bitter.  It was a fun and different task for this New Englander, and one I will try again with oranges upon our arrival home from Florida.  Can I bring fresh-picked oranges back with me on a plane?  Next task.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Fortune Cookies

Addie told me she thought it would be cool to bring something other than cupcakes to school for her little birthday celebration in her kindergarten classroom.  And that is what we did.  Rather proud of myself, I must say.

It started out by me frantically Googling "How to make fortune cookies" after promising them to my almost-six-year-old.  Most of the recipes are similar.  Here's my version of some of those recipes combined:

2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 tsp almond extract
3 Tbs veggie oil
8 Tbs flour
1 1/2 tsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt (not sure this is necessary at all)
8 Tbs sugar
3 tsp water

Make sure to create your fortunes first.  I wrote them myself, but you could print them off too.  A glass of wine may be required for the creativity necessary for completing this part, or invite a good-humored friend over to help you.  Make them fun!

Beat together the egg whites, vanilla, almond, and oil until bubbly.  Then stir together the flour, starch, salt and sugar in a separate bowl.  Then stir in the water.  Add the flour mix into the egg mix and stir until it's creamy.  Now, here's the important part.  You have to be super-quick once the cookies come out of the over so as to not allow them to harden before you add fortunes and fold them up.  Because I tended NOT to be super-quick in my first try at these, I only baked 5 at a time.  Otherwise I was too late.  So, for each cookie, you'll put about a Tbs-sized dollop of batter on your greased cookie sheet.  Once you have as many as you think you can handle, put your sheet in the oven at 300 for 12-15 minutes.  When the edges are just starting to turn golden, take the cookies out of the oven.  Quickly use a spatula to transfer a cookie to your hand, then place your (extremely creative) fortune in the middle. Fold the cookie over the fortune, then fold the middle fold back on itself again.  It was helpful for me to look at a photo of an actual fortune cookie while doing this.  Then place the hot folded cookie into a muffin pan, where it is more likely to keep its shape until it firms up.

Once the cookies are cool, go ahead and melt some chocolate, add sprinkles, and throw them in the fridge (on wax paper or tin foil) until the chocolate firms, then remove to a covered container.

For the purpose of bringing them into Addie's class, we put each cookie in a cupcake liner.  A little warning:  Some of the fortunes seemed to stick a little bit to the cookie.  It's all about making sure the cookies are baked just enough but not too much.  

Oh, and did you know that fortune cookies are an American invention?  One story goes, a Chinese-American baker in California saw that many people in his town were struggling, so he decided to make cookies with positive "fortunes" enclosed to brighten their days.  
I love this idea and intend to use it myself.  Confucius says, good fortune (cookies)  to you!