Comforting Myself with Citrus

a bowl of love

Sundays are supposed to be cozy, comfort-filled days with family rituals and a wonderful meal with everyone at the table.

As a kid, I remember occasionally going over to my grandparents for dinner. Grandpa was a jolly fellow with a huge sweet-tooth and Granny was a bit fearsome, but under that facade she was warm, loving and a whiz bang in the kitchen. She was an amazing fiber artist too, knitting, crochet, embroidery, crewel and who knows what else. I have fond albeit vague memories of sitting at her feet holding skeins of yarn away from her mischievous Burmese kitty and Granny wound yarn and taught me these gentle arts. I wish I had the pleasure of learning how to cook with her, that was something she and my mUm did together. They would laugh and chat and finish each others sentences, just like mUm and me in the kitchen fast-forwarded four decades later. mUm was lucky to have such a great relationship with her mother-in-law, and I feel lucky to have a few treasured family recipes from Granny that I can recreate in my own kitchen.

Granny made many amazing and delicious desserts that are my favorites, recipes she made to keep Grandpa and his sweet-tooth happy.

During this time of year the markets and neighbors trees are exploding with citrus of all types. Well, not in my neighborhood of course, but many of my friends neighborhoods. The largess sometimes lands in my lap, and I joyously accept all contributions, especially Meyer lemons. I have also been long on the hunt for yuzu, a Japanese citrus kind of a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit. They aren’t pretty fruit, or at least not the yuzu I found at my local Japanese market. The fruit are the size of clementines but yellower with pebbly, deeply pored, extremely aromatic rinds.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but I have been missing my family a great deal this week and feeling a bit indigo in mood, so I pulled out my ancient box of recipe cards and found Granny’s recipe for lemon cake pudding. I supplemented the yuzu with some Meyer lemons from a friend’s tree. What better way to comfort myself on a solitary Sunday with a wonderful dessert and one that was my childhood favorites.

It seems very fitting that the bowl I use to bake this pudding was one of Granny’s; the medium size of the nested Corningware mixing bowls. This pudding is easy to put together and is baked in a buttered bowl set into a larger pan of hot water. The finished pudding has a tender lemon cake atop a lovely, thick, warm lake of lemony pudding. I am staring at the oven right now willing it to bake faster!

First I zested the yuzu and really enjoyed the way my whole apartment was filled with the flowering scent of citrus. And my hands smell divine too. I also started the tea kettle because all the citrus really put me in the mood for a cup of green tea with citrus, a gift from a lovely lady at the NASFT Fancy Food Show.

Zesting the yuzu and lemon

After zesting the yuzu, I cut it open and was surprised to see how little pulp and the abundance of seeds. I juiced my four fruits anyway, which yielded a scant tablespoon of  juice. Fortunately I had a half of a Meyer lemon to fulfill the 1/4 cup of juice needed for the pudding.

Juicing the yuzu
(super seedy fruit)

I measured out the milk into the measuring cup with the zest, and measured out the flour, sugar and salt into a little sieve set over a small bowl.

Measuring out the dry stuff

Then, I separated the eggs and beat up the yolks to an appropriate lemon yellow color. They got mixed into the milk along with the lemon juice. The flour mixture was added next and this thin batter was mixed until smooth.

egg yolk collage
(yolks, before and after)

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Quickly, I beat up the egg whites, and then poured in the batter, and with a few folds with a spatula the batter was ready for its buttered bowl.

white collagefolding in the batter and the egg whites
(it doesn’t look very nice at this point, but a few quick folds with the spatula and
the batter becomes nice and smooth – but barely mixed)

The bowl was sitting in an ancient metal roasting pan, a Foley pan from my other grandmother actually. I poured super hot water from my tap into the metal pan and popped the whole assembly into the oven.

Finished batter in a buttered bowl, set in a bain marie

Finished Yuzu Lemon Cake PuddingDetail of Granny's Bowl
(Granny’s bowl, does anyone else have this set?)

a bowl of love

A word about these pictures, this is a homey, homely dessert. It does not photograph well, but it tastes fantastic!

I dug in after it cooled off a bit.  I could really taste the yuzu in this, despite the juice being primarily lemon.  Just so homey and wonderful.  I miss my Granny, but making her recipes help me miss her less.  And I can’t wait to call my mUm and sister and tell them what I’ve baked tonight!  Envy will ensue, I guarantee. heh heh…

Lemon Cake Pudding

My mUm’s comments:

If you are looking for some different way to use lemons – here is the fabulous recipe of Granny’s:

¼ c. sifted flour
1 c. Sugar
¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ or 2 T grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
¼ c. lemon Juice (exact)
2 Egg yolks (well beaten)
1 c. milk

2 egg whites (beat until stiff, not dry)

Sift flour before measuring. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat egg yolks, with a whisk, until lemon yellow. Whisk in milk,
lemon zest and lemon juice and when well blended. Mix the milk, etc. into flour and mix until well blended. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until blended. Pour into buttered heat-proof bowl. Place bowl in pan of hot water in 350 F oven. Bake for ~30 minutes. Cake will rise to top of bowl with a brown top and will draw away from the sides of the bowl, slightly.

Cool. Can be served in shallow bowls with the extra “sauce” over the top.  Does not have to be cold.  A word about the name – its really more of a pudding than a cake. Very, very light.


Note: I often leave the pan of hot water (or bain marie) in the oven overnight to let it cool because it can be a bit tricky to pick up a sloshing, steaming pan of water and transport it in my tiny kitchen, ever mindful of the cat who stealthily flops behind my feet at every opportunity.  Also, I love my silicon hot pads because when I use fabric ones to lift the bowl out of the hot water I inevitably dip them in the hot water and that’s messy.  Plus wet hot pads do not protect your hands.  A bonus is that the silicon pads come in such citrusy colors!

But tonight I braved maneuvering the bain marie out of there because I wanted to roast off a butternut squash while the oven was hot (an energy-economy measure to bake multiple things while the oven is on).  I split it in half, put it on a foiled tray, tossed some butter into the cavity and a sprinkle of Turkish barbecue spice, and a final drizzle of maple syrup.  So my comfort dinner tonight is dessert first, followed by squash. And wine…. Pure bliss…

Hope you have a lovely cozy Sunday night too.


7 responses to “Comforting Myself with Citrus

  1. mUm in the Mountains

    Such a homey scene. I can just smell the Lemons and wish I could find someone who has Meyer lemons. Thanks for the reminders of times past. That is the great thing about home cooking – the grand memories it prompts.

    • I forgot to mention it when we talked, just so excited about my visit! I sure wish I could serve you up a dish now. I’ll try to bring lemons this weekend! ❤

  2. I have never liked any dessert that includes lemon; your recipe however, sounds so good I will definetly try it! Thank you for sharing your sweet memories and wonderful recipe.

  3. I’ve been thinking of using fruit as the base for our desserts (which we don’t serve often) so our children learn to appreciate sweets that come from something better than sugar. (Not that there’s anything wrong with a little sugar.) Thanks for sharing.

  4. ~swoon~ Heather, this looks magnificent! Oh how I love lemons, and the very idea of a warm, lemony pudding has me craving. Must. Make. This. Soon.

    As ever, I’m charmed by your words as well. I have my grandma’s favorite blue ceramic mixing bowl and I treasure it.

    Btw, BlogHer Food ’10 in SF … I can’t wait! Are you in? 🙂

  5. Hi Heather! Here is a photo of your Pyrex dish on Ebay. The style is called Cinderella (the handles are also a pouring spout) and the design is called Pink Gooseberry.
    I have the same set from my mom, only it is the Cinderella-style in the Turquoise Butterprint design. I love, love, love those dishes. Your lemon pudding looks delish, and love the tip about the hot water. Dawn
    Take a look:

    • Thank you Dawn! How great to see what these mixing bowls are called, and the other pieces in the same pattern which are available! The turquoise ones are gorgeous!!

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