Saturday, January 5, 2008

Cake of Puddin'

I'm no baker, but a new year of dinner parties has begun, and tonight I am providing a dessert for dinner at my editor's house. So I'll turn to an old favorite, which is a classic - it appears in my Cordon Bleu book as 'Lemon Surprise' - but may now be becoming a bit trendy, according to my unscientific poll of menus in restaurant windows. The description is lengthy, but it's terribly easy, and when you're done, you've got - surprise! - little cakes with pudding on the bottom!

You'll need:

Softened butter for the ramekins
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon table salt
1-1/4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

how to make
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter eight ramekins and arrange them in a baking dish.

In a large bowl, whisk the melted butter with 2/3 cup of the sugar and the egg yolks until smooth and light, about 1 minute. Add the flour and salt and pour in just enough milk to whisk the flour smoothly into the egg yolk mixture. Then whisk in the remaining milk and the lemon juice until smooth. The mixture will be very fluid.
Put the egg whites in a large bowl. Beat to medium-firm peaks, adding remaining 1/3 c. sugar at the soft peak stage. Scrape one-third of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture, sprinkle the lemon zest on top, and whisk until combined. Gently incorporate the remaining whites into the batter, using the whisk in a folding/stirring motion. The batter will still be thin.
Portion the mixture evenly among the ramekins; the cakes don’t rise much, so you can fill the ramekins to within 1/8 inch of the top. Pull out the oven rack and put the baking dish full of ramekins on the rack. Pour warm water into the dish to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake until the tops of the cakes are light golden and slightly puffed, and when touched with a finger, they should feel spongy and spring back a bit but hold a shallow indentation, 25 to 30 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the ramekins to a rack. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before serving, with whipped cream if you like.

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Carol said...

Hey, I messed up the header font. Can i fix that after it's already posted?

Aaron Kagan said...

Yup. And I must say, I think you are indeed a baker. These look like an adventure in texture. So lemon juice really doesn't curdle milk, huh?

Carol said...

You know, with that same worry I've always avoided mixing the lemon juice and milk together before adding them to the flour. When you do use lemon to sour milk, you usually have to let it sit 10 minutes or so.

Karen B said...

oooh, I think this recipe is in Simon Hopkinson's "Roast Chicken and Other Stories"--amazing. I am always too lazy to buy buttermilk--my family has a long practice of putting a tablespoon of lemon juice in a cup of milk to make buttermilk. Always works fine--probably would work better if we had whole milk in the fridge.

Dave said...

That looks great! How did it turn out?

Carol said...

you're too kind, friend, although the looks aren't my doing. I've yet to remember to photograph sth before posting about it. I'll master this new media yet! Anyway, they were great - they're really rather foolproof. I want to try more flavor combos like butter rum or lemon thyme or something.