Friday, 30 August 2013

Pablo Neruda | Lemon Curd Delights

Pablo Neruda wrote 'Ode to a Lemon' at a time when his return to Chile from exile seems to mark a significant shift in his poetry away from the political considerations of earlier periods and towards an examination of ordinary, everyday things - a flower, a bird, a stone, a plant.

From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its planetarium
lemons descended to the earth.

Tender yield!
The coasts,
the markets glowed
with light, with
unrefined gold;
we opened
two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
from the hemispheres
of a star,
the most intense liqueur
of nature,
unique, vivid,
born of the cool, fresh
of its fragrant house,
its acid, secret symmetry.

 Georges Braque, Still Life with a Fruit Dish

sliced a small
in the lemon,
the concealed apse, opened,
revealed acid stained glass,
oozed topaz,
cool architecture.

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
yellow goblet
of miracles,
a fragrant nipple
of the earth’s breast,
a ray of light that was made fruit,
the minute fire of a planet.

Pablo Neruda, 'Ode to a Lemon' | Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden

For Neruda, what "makes up life’s narrative are single, unconnected events, governed by chance, and meaningless". His Elementary Odes move beyond any notions of a grand design to capture, in great simplicity and with great tenderness, the intrinsic value of commonplace and mundane objects, their "cool architecture" or, as Heidegger calls it, their "thingliness"; they attune themselves to a non-human reality that remains ever wondrous, alluring and fantastical.

~ Lemon Curd Delights ~

This delight of a tray bake cake is the result of cross-pollination of different recipes before arriving at a moist, tender yield glowing with light, with unrefined gold so that each bite oozes its acerbic fragrance in drops of yellowness.

(Inspired by Woman's Weekly Best Of Our Favourite Cakes)

110 g butter, room temperature
100 g caster sugar
grated zest of 2 large lemons
2 egg yokes
140 g self raising flour, plus 1 tbsp (10 g) *
40 g ground almonds
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp lemon curd or lemon extract
85 ml buttermilk
60 ml lemon juice
2 egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp (20 g) sugar

Lemon Syrup:
30 g caster sugar
Juice of 2 large lemons

Lemon Icing:
150 g icing sugar
Lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)

(* You can substitute 20 g flour for equal amount of finely ground pistachio nuts.)

Heat the oven to 185oC. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper, then grease and flour.

Prepare the cake: Mix 100g sugar with the lemon zest until it gets moist. With an electric hand-held mixer, cream the butter for about a minute. Scrape butter down the sides into the centre of the bowl. Gradually add the lemon sugar and mix until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla extract and the lemon curd and mix.

Separate the eggs and reserve the whites. Add the egg yolks to the butter mixture, one at a time, and beat until creamy. If the mixture curdles, add a spoonful of flour.

Combine the flour, ground almonds, ground  pistachio nuts (if using; if not substitute with flour), baking powder and salt. Mix the buttermilk and lemon juice and stir to combine. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk to the egg yolk mixture in 5 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar followed by the 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites gently into the mixture and pour into the prepared tin.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, turning the temperature down to 180oC after 30 minutes and covering with foil if it begins to brown. Bake until the cake has risen to a pale golden colour and springs back to the touch.

Prepare the syrup: Put the lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl and warm gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and bubble for 1 minute.

While the cake is still hot, poke holes in it with a toothpick and brush the hot syrup all over the top. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make the lemon icing: Once the cake has cooled completely, put the icing sugar in a bowl and stir in enough lemon juice  to give a soft, coating-consistency icing. Work quickly to spread the icing over the top of the cake. Spoon the lemon curd into a piping bag. Then pipe parallel lines of lemon curd width-ways across the top of the cake, about 2 cm apart. With the tip of a toothpick, draw lines lengthways across the top of the cake, alternating their direction, and working quickly before the icing sets.

Leave the icing to set before trimming away the edges of the cake and cutting it into cubes.

Note 1: The lemon curd on these cakes doesn't set completely, so you shouldn't place them on top of each other.
Note 2: Beating the egg whites separately from the yolks and then folding them into the batter may seem fiddly but it does make a very light cake. 

Other Posts:

Moonshine Lemon Tart