Sunday, March 29, 2009

Souffle meets pudding-- Lemon Pudding Cake

These are recently shot photos of this recipe.  Below are (embarrassingly) older shots, taken from my former point-and-shoot camera. I'm working on a new post, with much better pictures. As soon as it's finished, I'll post a link to it!

 I apologize that this photo is fuzzy and not up to the standards of my more recent work. This was taken with my former point-and-shoot camera. One day, I'll re-shoot the recipe, but the outstanding flavor and success of this makes up for the fuzzy photo.  --Debby--

I just love it when I try a new recipe, and it turns out exactly like the picture in the magazine! Even better, when the recipe delivers unanimous raves about how good it is. That makes me very happy.

That's exactly what happened when I decided to make the Lemon Pudding Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Cook's Country Magazine. If you've never heard of it, this is a sister magazine to Cook's Illustrated. In general, I'm not a huge fan of "Country Cooking"-- for the sole reason that I don't want to expand my waistline at an alarming rate. This magazine, however, has opened my eyes that there are country recipes beyond fried chicken and gravy (which I love, but rarely eat). There are color photographs (unlike Cook's Illustrated) and some really great recipes. I also subscribe to their online magazine subscription.

Cook's Country prints a lot of classic recipes, such as Lemon Pudding Cake. According to the magazine article, pudding cake dates back to 1796 (Amelia Simmons, American Cookery).

From Cook's Country:
Like magic, pudding cakes separate into two layers during baking: airy and souffl√©like on top, dense and custardy below. We wanted to develop a foolproof recipe that produced a rich, creamy pudding; delicate, tender cake; and bright, balanced lemon flavor. Here’s what we discovered:
Test Kitchen Discoveries
  • For the brightest lemon flavor, we used a full half-cup of lemon juice. To coax even more flavor from the lemons, we creamed a bit of grated zest with the butter and sugar. If you don’t own a juicer, squeeze the lemons in a fine-mesh strainer to remove any seeds or pulp that would mar the otherwise smooth cake.
  • When zesting the lemons, make sure to use only the bright yellow outer peel. Avoid the white pith underneath the peel, as it can impart a bitter flavor.
  • A bit of cornstarch gently firmed the pudding layer without muddying the lemon flavor.
  • To prevent the top layer of the cake from deflating, we beat sugar into the egg whites. This stabilized the whites and resulted in a high, golden, and fluffy cake.
  • For the creamiest texture, it is important to bake the cake in a water bath. The hot water protects the pudding from cooking too quickly.
I took between 20-30 minutes doing my prep work (my brain is still coming out of a head cold fog):
Look at all that beautiful lemon zest! What would I do without my microplanes?

I rarely divert from baking recipes instructions, so I used my hand mixer, just like the magazine did. Next time, I think my Kitchen Aid will do nicely... it's important to use room temperature butter-- and never margarine. Please. I beg of you.

Fluffy egg whites tend to make me nervous (fear of failure, I suppose). I have finally mastered the technique of folding in egg whites, thanks to one of my favorite chefs "Hubert Keller". I record his cooking show from my local PBS station. I love his French accent, and he makes things look so easy.

It is now getting very dark outside, so I have to use my flash. Forgive the shadows and overexposure, please. The batter goes into a large roasting pan, with a kitchen towel underneath (nostalgic me...this towel dates back to the 50's) and I poured boiling water into the pan.

The timer went off 55 minutes later (I tend to bake a few minutes less then the instructions call for). Pretty!

The instructions said to cool this for at least an hour. That led to a debate on how all these ingredients would separate to create a layer of pudding and a layer of souffle-like cake. Alton Brown, where are you? 45 minutes later, I couldn't stand the wait. I dug in, for the first piece:

Holy Cow! It worked!

If only I had natural lighting, my photo would look just like the magazine. Flash photography does not do justice to this. But, I will tell you... I could not wait to taste this concoction.

How do I describe this? Light. Lemony. Sweet, but not over-the-top. Very souffle on top, and a creamy lemon meringue pie filling and flavor...yet, creamier.

The recipe says that you get 8 servings. I beg to differ. We got four servings. It's gone. But, this recipe is doing to make many comebacks in my kitchen.

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Elyse said...

Wow! This pudding cake looks fantastic! These are the kind of desserts that I live for. Gooey goodness, tart yet sweet, mmm, mmm, good! I can't wait to try this recipe!

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Oh, YUMM! What a lovely and simple flavorful cake! And I really like the connection back to the first American cookbook!

unconfidentialcook said...

This looks so good. I just made Ina's brownie pudding cake...and I can taste how good the lemon version would be. I'm about to post a lemon delight--Frozen Lemon Meringue Bombe--I made last night. You might enjoy...

Donna-FFW said...

Sounds unbelievably delicious.. You convinced me to try it.. how is your pioneer woman blog going are you still having a round up??

Jann said...

I love this kind of dessert- and I thought your pictures turned out well, too. Getting the correct lighting is always a task.