A chilled Limoncello is hands down my favorite summer aperitif, equally refreshing straight up or on the rocks with a splash sparkling water. Limoncello captures the essence of summertime in southern Italy where Lemon trees dot the sun drenched landscapes of of Naples, Capri, Sorento, the Amalfi coast, Calabria and Sicily.
Happily, the region’s spectacularly lemony flavored limoncello is exported and most likely available at your local spirits shop. Otherwise you could make your own. All that’s need is a bottle of 100 proof vodka and the zest from 12 organic or California meyer lemons. Combine both in a jar, seal, and set aside for about a month to infuse the vodka with an intense lemon flavor. A simple sugar syrup is then added to sweeten the limoncello to your liking.
O course, as a cook, limoncello also inspires all sorts of other applications.
The Limoncello Pound Cake recipe that follows is a versatile summer delight personified. Serve it with coffee in the morning, sliced and toasted and topped with fresh seasonal fruits for a picnic, or a leisurely alfresco lunch, or as a zesty sweet finale for a supper under the stars.
Limoncello Pound Cake
Makes one 10” loaf or a 9” & a 6” loaf
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- 1/3 cup limoncello
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
For Limoncello Yogurt Sauce
- 1 ½ cups full fat Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup limoncello
Preheat the oven to 350 f /180 c
Prepare a 10 inch” loaf pan or an 8 “ & and a 6”loaf pan, lined with parchment and buttered.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt n a bowl. Whisk until evenly combined, and set aside.
In another bowl combine the Greek yogurt and limoncello. Stir until smooth and set aside.
Place the butter in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed until fluffy. Then add the sugar in three additions while continuing to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Add the eggs in three additions while you beat on medium sped until the mixture is nearly smooth.
Reduce the speed to low and begin adding the dry ingredients and the Greek yogurt mixture alternately. Continue until the batter is relatively smooth and evenly mixed. Then mix in the lemon zest until combined.
Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pans. Gently shake the pan to even out the surface. Scatter the sliced almonds evenly over the surface.
Place the cakes in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, rotating the cakes after 25 minutes.
The cakes are done when they are nicely browned. Test by inserting a toothpick or skewer into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean with a few crumbs the cake is done. If the cake requires more time return it to the oven for five minute intervals until the cake test done.
Transfer the cakes to a rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the yogurt limoncello sauce. Combine the yogurt and the limoncello and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the pound cake.
Once the cake are cool enough to handle, inspect the rim of the cake and remove any excess cake that may have spread over the edges of the cake pans. Gently run a knife around the edges of the cake pan and tip the pan onto a cutting board to release the cake. Turn cake upright and set aside until you are ready to serve.
Serve generous slices of the pound cake with the Limoncello yogurt sauce to the side.
Berry season has arrived with bounteous displays of fresh blueberries wherever you turn that are ripe for baking up all those favorite blueberry cobblers, muffins, or tarts.
The muffin recipe that follows is a favorite of mine, adapted from a recipe in Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the Labrea Bakery cookbook, 2000. Light and fluffy muffins busting with blueberries are guaranteed! This is also a reliable master recipe for other fresh berries as well as peaches, pears, or nectarines throughout the summer.
Blueberry Muffins with Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts
Makes 12 muffins
- ½ cup (3 ounces) whole almonds pecans or walnuts
- 1 cup sugar 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped orange zest
- 1 tablespoon pus 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups buttermilk
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2½ cups blueberries, divided
For the topping:
- 1 tablespoon egg white
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced blanched almonds, or pecan or walnut pieces
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 325 f / 165 c
Prepare a ½ cup capacity muffin tin, lightly coated with melted butter.
Spread the whole almonds or pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through to ensure that the nuts are evenly toasted. Remove from the oven and sat aside to cool.
Turn the oven temperature up to 350 f / 175 c
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the almonds, pecans, or walnuts with half of the sugar and process until it’s the consistency of fine meal.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, orange zest, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low for 2 to 3 minutes, until softened. Add the remaining sugar and ground nut mixture, and mix on medium for 3 or 4 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing well between each addition. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix on medium, just to combine.
Add the flour in 3 batches, turning the mixer off before each addition and mixing on low until just combined.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in 2 cups of the blueberries.
To prepare the topping: in a small bowl whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and the almonds, pecan, or walnut pieces.
Fill the muffin tin with batter to the rim. Push the remaining ½ cup of blueberries onto the tops of the muffins. Then spoon about a tablespoon of the topping over each muffin, concentrating the nuts on top of each muffin.
Bake for about 20 to 35 minutes, until the to topping is nicely browned and the muffins are firm to the touch. If the batter has cracked through the topping, gently press it downward with your fingertips to deflate.
Here is a recipe for an Italian butterscotch budino that I came across years ago in Nancy Silverton’s The Mozza Cookbook. Of course we Americans remember those Jello butterscotch puddings our mothers whipped up when we were kids. They seemed good enough at the time, though once you have tasted a rich and creamy homemade butterscotch budino you will discover a butterscotch pudding like none other. As a cook this is a butterscotch pudding you can rely upon to elicit oohs and aahs whenever you serve it, and reaffirms the old adage that there is indeed proof in the pudding!
makes 6 servings
- 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream
- ¾ cups whole milk
- 2 extra large egg yolks
- 1 extra large egg
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup water
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon whiskey or brandy
- 2 tablespoons slivered almonds browned in butter
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set a smaller bowl inside. Set a fine-mesh strainer in the smaller bowl.
Stir the cream and the milk together in a medium bowl and set aside.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, egg, and cornstarch together and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar, salt, and ¾ cup of water in a large heavy bottomed saucepan set over medium high heat. Cook the sugar without stirring, instead swirling the pan occasionally for even cooking. Don’t be alarmed: the sugar will become foamy and lava like with slow-bursting bubbles as it cooks. Once the sugar is caramelized, nearly smoking, nutty smelling, and dark caramel color, about 10 to 12 minutes, promptly pull the pan off the heat!
Immediately add the cream milk mixture in a thin steady stream, stirring with a whisk as you add it. This stops the cooking process and prevents the sugar from burning. This will cause the sugar to seize up and harden. Return the pan to the heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the seized sugar has dissolved and the mixture is liquid again, 5 to 7 minutes.
Turn off the heat and ladle out about one cup of the hot cream and sugar mixture and gradually add it to the bowl with the eggs, whisking constantly to prevent the cream mixture from cooking the eggs. Continue adding the cream to the eggs until you have added half the cream. Then gradually add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan with the remaining caramel, stirring constantly with a whisk, and cook the custard over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not overheat the custard to avoid lumps in the custard.
Remove the custard from the heat and whisk in the butter and whiskey or brandy until combined and smooth.
If there are any lumps in the custard pas the custard through the strainer into the bowl set in the ice water.
ladle the budino into dessert bowls and set a side to cool until the custard has set. Then and decorate the centers of the budinos with the slivered almonds.
Let the budinos cool to room temperature. Then cover each bowl with cling film and refrigerate.
Remove the budinos from the refrigerator about an hour before serving to bring them to room temperature before serving .
Sometimes that impulse to bake something first thing in the morning can send you off on a tangent until you say to yourself” hold on” I just want a nice pastry to enjoy with my morning coffee!
With resolve this simple French apple tart can be assembled and put into in the oven in no time. That said, I tend to keep several disks of pastry dough in the freezer. This is a habit that saves time and makes the prospect of baking pies and tarts so much more appealing.
The simplicity of this tart will have you returning to this recipe again and again.
French Apple Tart
1 disk well chilled sweet pastry dough
4 or 5 tart green baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade, warmed and thinned with a splash of water
Preheat the oven to 400 f / 205 c with the rack set in the middle position of the oven
Needed: a 10 inch tart pan
Use your own favorite pastry dough for this recipe.
Roll the chilled pastry dough out to about12 inches in diameter. Fit the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides of the pan and trim the dough evenly around the top edge.
Arrange the sliced apples, slightly overlapping, beginning at the outer rim of the pan and working your way around the pan to the center.
When you are satisfied with the arrangement of the apples, pour the melted butter evenly over the apples.
Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the apples and scatter the demerara sugar over the top.
Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Check on the tart as it bakes and turn it front to back if it is browning unevenly.
The tart is done when the apples have softened and are lightly browning to your liking.
Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
After about 10 minutes generously glaze the tart with the marmalade glaze using a pastry brush.
Ideally serve the tart while still warm from the oven or reheat before serving.