Saturday, July 23, 2005

Using up the Limes

The last twenty-four hours have not been entirely without unfortunate occurrence in the anapestic kitchen. (Do you ever wish that I'd just write a simple declarative sentence without the bizarre syntax? I mean, I could have just said, "I've had a bad day in the kitchen." It's never going to happen, of course, so asking you whether you wished that I'd simplify my language may have been something of a tease, I suppose. I'd say that I'm sorry, but we would both know that was a big, fat lie.) We are not talking major disaster here, but I mention, for no particular reason, that if you obtain a set of measuring spoons that has a half-tablespoon measure in it, you might want to consider throwing it away. A half-tablespoon is no more and no less than a teaspoon and a half, and while you may very occasionally save yourself cleaning one spoon by using such a measure, you may also want to consider the possibility that when the measuring spoons get separated from each other, as even the closest knit of sets are wont to do, you might some day be looking for a teaspoon and decide that the half-teaspoon measure, used twice as many times, will work just as well, and by the time it occurs to you that it seems to hold an awful lot of salt for a half-teaspoon, causing you to examine the letters as carefully as you had previously examined the numbers, you might have added between twice and three times as much salt as you would have liked, depending on how many times you have used the measure before realizing your mistake. In such cases, if you have used coarse salt, then you may be able to fish some of it out of the sauce through various methods, but you will still end up with something that is overly salted. Not that it's ever happened to me, you understand.

Anyway, having made a double recipe of mole which turned out less than ideal, for reasons that I can neither confirm nor deny have anything to do with the preceding paragraph, I was anxious for today's experiment to work out as well as possible. Sadly, I was to be again disappointed, though it was a mild disappointment floating on a sea of feeling pleased with myself. But more about that another time. It's the sort of post that would really benefit from pictures, and my wireless router is still treating my downstairs computer like a redheaded stepchild.

I got as far as yesterday evening with half of my five-pound bag of limes still untouched, and as I was determined to not have a bag of limes on the table by the time V. arrived home today, I started to transform them into things that could be stored elsewhere and eventually, of course, eaten. I took my trusty zester to all of the limes that had peels that were still pretty, and then I cut all the limes, zested or not, in half and juiced them with my trusty citrus reamer.

Time was that I had a large collection of juicers of all sorts, ranging from the old glass cone on a plate juicer with no moving parts, to a variety of early and mid 20th century contraptions made of aluminum that mainly used relatively long handles to push a metal plate against another metal plate that had slits in it so that the juice would run out a spout and into a cup that you had placed beneath it. I reckon that I must have given up most of these presses in various moves, but my favorite one, which perhaps is in a box in the basement somewhere, was really quite efficient at separating half a piece of citrus from its juice. The wood citrus reamer (the sort championed by the Frugal Gourmet) works equally well at separating juice from fruit, but it is a good deal more work, particularly where there are twenty or so limes involved.

Anyway, I was left with perhaps 2/3 cups of thin strips of zest and almost exactly a quart of lime juice. The little citrus zester that I have does a very nice job, but long thin strips of lime zest are not especially useful in that form, so I made some lime sugar by putting them in the food processor and processing them with a cup of sugar until it was clear that they would get no finer. The zest did not entirely disappear into green sugar; it left little specks that were of a size so that you'd know they were there without causing any unpleasant mouth feel.

Most of the lime juice went into containers in the refrigerator (a cup of it ended up in today's double recipe of mole), but I also used a cup of it to make one of my very favorite dessert ingredients.

Lime Curd

4 whole eggs
1 cup lime juice
1.25 cups granulated sugar
1.5 sticks butter, cut into tablespoons
1/4 cup lime sugar (see note)

In a heavy saucepan, beat the eggs until light in color, then beat in the lime juice and the sugar until well blended. Put over a medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is giving off steam and starting to thicken (if you insist on using a thermometer, cook it until it hits 160 degrees). Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it is incorporated, then cook, still whisking until the mixture is thick, thoroughly coating the back of a spoon.. Remove from the heat and whisk in the lime sugar. Whisk for another minute or so. Let cool somewhat and pour into jars and refrigerate. It should keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. I got about three cups of curd out of this recipe.

Note: if you aren't trying to use up a bunch of limes and so don't want to make lime sugar, you can just add an extra quarter cup of sugar earlier in the recipe when you're beating the lime juice and sugar into the eggs. Then, where the recipe calls for lime sugar, just fold in the grated zest from one or two limes. I like mine very zesty, so I would perhaps use the zest from as many limes as it took to get a cup of lime juice, but that much zest is too much for many people. But don't put too little in, either; otherwise, your partner may see you take the jar of lime curd out of the refrigerator and say, "What's that? It looks like chicken fat," and then you will have to punish him. Not that it's ever happened to me, you understand.

The lime curd is destined for some millefeuilles. This part of the post is the part that should have been another post when I got the picture problem fixed, but I find that I want to go ahead and at least lay out the recipe now. Perhaps I will post pictures and more detail in a later post.

I mentioned earlier that I was intending to come up with a list of culinary accomplishments that I want to get to and/or through in my lifetime. The list naturally includes a good many things that I have already accomplished, including the making of puff pastry (aka feuilletage), a task that I find immensely fun. I decided that another of my accomplishments should be to come up with an eponymous pastry. And now I have: pâte anapestique. Yes, I know how incredibly pretentious that sounds, and mostly I'm joking. Anyway, it's not really an entirely new recipe so much as it is a combination of demi-feuilletage rapide and pâte sablée with some orange flavor thrown in, but I don't know that many people who would think to combine those recipes in that way, so maybe I'll take credit for it after all.

Pâte Anapestique

3 sticks butter
1/4 cup superfine sugar*
the zest from one orange
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour

Cut the sticks of butter in half, lengthwise. Then cut each half into eight pieces. (I cut my butter with a metal dough scraper, which I also use when I'm rolling the dough.) Put the butter pieces into a metal bowl, cover the bowl, and put it in the freezer for at least twenty minutes. You should put the bowl to your mixer in the freezer, too, while you're at it.

If you removed the orange zest with a zester, cut it as fine as possible. (I have a great before and after photo of this that shows just how obsessive I can be with a chef's knife.) Mix the finely chopped zest into the sugar.

Beat the orange juice and egg together with a fork until the egg is fully incorporated. Put this mixture in the refrigerator or freezer.

Retrieve your mixer bowl from the freezer and put the flour in it. With the paddle attachment of your mixer, mix the sugar and zest. Get the butter out of the freezer and put it in the flour mixture. Turn on the mixer to slow, and let the butter and flour combine. You don't want to mix this for too long. Some of the butter will get mixed into the flour, but you should still have plenty of big pieces of butter left. A minute in the mixer is plenty. Maybe forty-five seconds. At slow.

Get the oj and egg out of the refrigerator and, with the mixer at slow, add it in a stream. The dough should ball up almost immediately. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured pastry marble and quickly form it into a rough square.

If you've never made puff pastry, then either read up on how it's done, or watch Julia Child do it, if you can find one of her old programs. You have to do several turns of the dough. To make a turn, you flour the marble, flour the top of the dough (don't go overboard with the flour, but don't skimp either) and roll the dough out into a rectangle that's about 8 inches by 16 inches. The exact measurements are not critical, but the dough should be about half an inch thick when you get it rolled out. Fold one-third of the dough back onto the center, then fold the opposite third of the dough on top of the third that you folded first. When you're done, it should be folded like a business letter. You've made one turn. Flour everything lightly again, turn the dough over, and do it again.

Depending on the weather and your level of comfort, you can do two or three turns before refrigerating the dough. If you're just starting out, after the second turn, fold it up in three again, wrap it well in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for twenty minutes. Then bring it out and do two more turns. After the fourth turn, fold it up again and put it back in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Take the dough out of the refrigerator, and roll it out until it is between a quarter and a third of an inch thick. You can do whatever you like with this dough. Although it is not really puff pastry because it has fewer turns, it will puff up and form layers very nicely. You can cut it into whatever size and shape you like. It does require a hot oven, and you will help yourself to a better product if, after you cut it out, you put the pieces on a heavy cookie sheet and put the cookie sheet into the freezer for a couple of minutes.

It will take about thirteen minutes for the pâte anapestique to cook. Even though the bottoms of the pieces will look very brown, do not pull it out of the oven until the tops are at least golden brown or the insides will not be fully cooked. It will still taste ok if the insides are a bit underdone, but if you cook it until it's nice and brown, the butter flavor will be spectacular, and the orange flavor will be considerably more noticeable and better.

If you happen to have some lime curd on hand, you can cut the pastry into rounds with a biscuit or cookie cutter. When they've come out of the oven and cooled, use your hands to divide them into three layers, as if they were Hungry Jack biscuits. Put the bottom layer down on a small plate, top with some of the lime curd, put the middle layer on top, then put on some more lime curd, and top with the top layer. Yum.

*I don't, by the way, buy superfine sugar, though you certainly can find it easily enough these days. I just put a cup of sugar into the food processor and turn it on for a minute. It is amazingly useful stuff for desserts and drinks alike.


Post a Comment

<< Home