This recipe and photography was provided courtesy of local cookbook author and chef, Carla Snyder. Learn more about Carla and discover her recipes at Ravenouskitchen.com.
I always say, when life gives you lemons, make citrus desserts.
Tart and zingy, nothing beats the sharp tang of citrus in a dessert. I love lemons, but oranges, limes and grapefruit are equally exciting when it comes to baking citrus desserts and savories. When you get down to it, the basic lemon is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a world of fruit just waiting to be discovered like tangelos, blood oranges, clementines, Minneolas and Cara Cara oranges. Everywhere citrus grows, a passion for citrus desserts follows. From France’s lemon soufflé to Italy’s lemon granita, Greece’s galaktoboureko all the way to America’s good ole’ mile-high lemon meringue pie, citrus is the big man on campus when it comes to sweets.
There’s no end to the versatility of citrus, so, a number of years ago I approached my editor at Chronicle Books with the idea of writing a cook book featuring citrus. We came up with a book titled Sweet and Tart where citrus lovers can find all their favorite tart and zesty desserts like Lemony Blueberry Muffins and Lemon Sorbet plus updated classics like Cara Cara Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust and Blood Orange Angel Food Cake.
Sweet & Tart is a book for bakers of every skill level, but with the proviso that work and family schedules are busier than ever. The recipes are straightforward and simple with start-to-finish and hands-on times, basic equipment (no fancy pans or gadgets), short ingredient lists and “zesty” tips for ingredients and techniques. These professional tips are small things, but they really add up to a more enjoyable baking experience and give you the confidence and information you need to execute a recipe within your frame of time and expertise. I’ve also added “make-ahead” information for those recipes that can be made in advance because, well, knowing you can make a fabulous dessert ahead of time can be a wonderful thing.
I love the zing that lemons bring to desserts and the fact that lemon flavor is so simple to achieve. All it takes is a zest and a squeeze. I found a microplane for zesting and a citrus squeezer for juicing to be indispensable aids when cooking with citrus. The microplane removes just the colored skin from the fruit, leaving the bitter white pith behind. The zest is so fragrant and flavorful that I always zest citrus before squeezing, adding the fruity bits to the recipe for extra flavor. The citrus squeezer makes it easy to squeeze the fruit directly into a container, holding back the seeds. It’s so nice not to have fish the seeds out of the juice and worth the time it takes to wash and put the tool away.
For Heinen’s Annual Zest Fest, I’m featuring a few of my favorite recipes from Sweet and Tart. One of the best is Lemon Scones with Blackberries. If you’ve never had a freshly-baked scone, this recipe will surely set high standards. Flaky, tender and full of juicy blackberries I must have made a thousand of these when working in a local bakery years ago. I often assemble them on a sheet pan, wrap and freeze to then bake off for another time. Whip up a batch for your next morning get together. You’ll be glad you did.
Another favorite recipe utilizes ruby red blood oranges for Blood Orange Panna Cotta, a light Italian dessert made of fresh juice, gelatin, cream and buttermilk. It’s served with a sweet and tart blood orange compote that adds wonderful contrast to the creamy dessert. If you haven’t tried blood oranges, this is a great way to get to know what makes them special. The color is the first thing you notice of course, but the flavor is sweeter and reminds me of a cross between an orange and a raspberry. The amazing color and the texture (like a cool cloud) combines to make a lovely make-ahead winter dessert that can be kept in the fridge for days. That’s my idea of a great dessert.
Key Lime Bars with Tropical Crust came about as an idea for key lime pie, but in a bar shape that could be eaten out of hand. The crust is made of crushed ginger snaps, almonds and coconut which forms a sturdy base for the rich key lime filling on top. Super limey, these bars are perfect for your next casual get together.
Last but definitely not least is Cara Cara Cheesecake with Chocolate Crust. Cara Cara oranges have a pinkish-red-orange flesh and a sweeter, less tangy and acidic juice than navel oranges. They add a lovely color to this cheesecake flecked with zest and orange infused Cointreau liquor. Make this dessert when you really want to impress. As a bonus, it will feed hoards of hungry cheesecake eaters.
When it comes to desserts, tangy, gorgeous citrus fruit is hard to beat. All it takes to get your citrus groove on is a fresh fruit from your local Heinen’s and a few moments to thumb through Sweet & Tart where you’ll be sure to find the perfect lemon dessert for any season, occasion or time frame. So pucker up. Every day is a good day when it includes a delicious citrus dessert.