Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Sweet Lemon.

Is the sweet-sour combination popular all over the world?  I suspect so. It was popular in medieval times and does not seem to have ever lost popularity.

The balance must be exactly right for it to work – even more so than with other taste combinations, I think. There must be just the right amount of sweetness to take the tart edge off the sour, and just enough sourness to cut the sweetness.

Sugar of one form or another provides the ‘sweet’ half of the pair, but there is a little more choice with the sour element. Vinegar works, of course, but lemon juice has advantages. It works better than vinegar in dessert dishes. I feel sure of this, because I tried to imagine the following recipes made with vinegar in the place of lemon juice. What do you think?

Lemon Cake Pie.
Lemon Cake Pie is unusual, with its three pleasing contrasts in texture, because when baked the pie has a crisp pastry crust, a centre of lemon custard, and a topping of light sponge cake. If lemon is not a favourite with your family, substitute the pulp of three passionfruit. PASTRY: 1 egg, 2oz. sugar, 3oz. butter  or margarine, 5oz. plain flour, l oz. cornflour, ½ teaspoon baking powder, pinch salt. Cream the shortening with the sugar add egg and beat well. Sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder and salt and add to the creamed mixture. Turn on to a well-floured pastry board and knead until smooth and easy to handle. Roll out evenly and line pie plate.
LEMON FILLING: 2oz. butter, I cup sugar, 2 table spoons SR flour, 2 eggs separated, 1 cup milk, grated rind and juice of one lemon. Cream together the butter and sugar, stir in the well-beaten egg yolks, flour, milk, and lemon juice and rind. Glaze pastry before placing in the filling with a little of the egg white. This prevents pastry becoming soggy. Whisk the remaining egg whites until stiff, and fold into mixture. Pour into pastry-lined pie dish and bake in a hot oven for the first 10 minutes, then reduce heat and bake slowly about 20 minutes more.
Worker (Brisbane, Qld) Monday 27 March 1950.

At first, I thought that there was a piece missing from the above recipe, which mentions three layers – but it appears in other publications around the same time, and one of them explained that the filling separates during cooking to form both the filling and sponge topping. Interesting.

To make Lemon Cheese-cakes.
Take two large lemons, grate off the peel of both, and squeeze out the juice of one; add to it half a pound of fine sugar, twelve yolks of eggs, eight whites well beaten, then melt half a pound of butter in 4 or 5 spoonfuls of cream; then stir it all together and set it all over the fire, stirring it till it begins to be pretty thick; then take it off, and when ‘tis cold fill your pattipans little more than half full; put a fine paste very thin at the bottom of the pattipans. Half an hour with a quick oven will bake them.
The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplished gentlewoman's companion (1739) by E.Smith

(A treatise of any degree of brevity on lemon desserts would still not be complete without the Lemon Meringue Pie – but this has already been the star of a previous post, here.)

Quotation for the Day.

We are born at home, we live at home, and we must die at home, so that the comfort and economy of home are of most deep, heart-felt, and personal interest to us, than the public affairs of all the nations in the world.
Magazine of Domestic Economy (London, 1836)


Anonymous said...

The thing that caught my eye in the lemon pie cake was the pastry: it said to knead it! Most pastry recipes I'm familiar with say to work them as little as possible so they'll be flaky, not tough.


Mama Hen said...

Yum! Now I want dessert!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Sandra and Mama Hen.
I also wondered about the 'knead'- I am sure it was not intended to have the same meaning to us as it did to the writer - recipe writing is a much finer and more consistent art today.
Dessert recipes always provoke the desire for dessert, no matter what the time of day!

Mantelli said...

What is the "SR" flour in the pie recipe?

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Mantelli: SR means 'self-raising' - that is, it is flour to which the baking powder is already added.