Lemon in winter, by Michelle Palmer (recipe)
When Linda Marrone asked me to write an article again, I had to really think about it, as always. Everybody loves a bright yellow lemon for a hint of spring in the middle of the cold winter.
“The origin of the lemon is unknown, though lemons are thought to have first grown in Assam (a region in northeast India), northern Burma or China. A genomic study of the lemon indicated it was a hybrid between bitter orange (sour orange) and citron. … Spanish conquest throughout the New World helped spread lemon seeds. The lemon, Citrus limon (L.) Osbeck, is a species of small evergreen tree in the flowering plant family Rutaceae, native to South Asia, primarily Northeastern India. The tree’s ellipsoidal yellow fruit is used for culinary and non-culinary purposes throughout the world, primarily for its juice, which has both culinary and cleaning uses. The pulp and rind are also used in cooking and baking. The juice of the lemon is about 5 to 6 percent citric acid, with a pH of about 2.2, giving it a sour taste. The distinctive sour taste of lemon juice makes it a key ingredient in drinks and foods such as lemonade and lemon meringue pie” (Wikipedia 2019).
My French grandmother always had lemons growing in her yard in Temple City, Calif., along with limes, walnuts, almonds, pecans, avocados, peaches, plums, apricots, clementines, various vegetables and, of course, her fresh herb garden.
This recipe I’m going to share today comes from being the most requested dessert I would make when I was the executive pastry chef for the Reno Sparks Convention Center. Everybody loved it, plus it is gluten free.
Almond Lemon Polenta Cake
1¾ stick unsalted butter, soft or 1¾ cup light olive oil
1 cup cane sugar, fine, or fine coconut sugar (I used coconut for the picture that is why the cake is so dark)
2 cups almonds, ground fine (almond flour is gluten free)
¾ cup polenta, fine
1½ teaspoons baking powder (gluten free if you want cake to be GF)
3 eggs, large room temperature
2 lemons, fresh zested (reserve juice for syrup)
1 cup sugar, confectionery sifted
Lightly butter and paper 9-inch spring for pan. Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Beat the butter and sugar until creamed. In a separate bowl, whisk together almonds, polenta and baking powder until well blended. Beat a third of dry ingredients into butter sugar mixture, then add one egg, then and other third of dry ingredients, then add another egg, beat remaining third of dry followed by final egg. Do not over beat. Stir in lemon zest. Spoon the batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly in pan. Bake 35-40 minutes. While cake in baking, stir lemon juice and confectionary sugar together in small pan over medium heat until sugar is melted. Check the with cake tester to come out clean with the cake pulling from the sides. Leave cake in pan and put on cooling rack. Prick the top of the cake all over with cake tester. (must be a small diameter cake tester). Pour warm lemon syrup over the cake, then cool the cake “completely” in the pan. Enjoy!
Michelle Palmer has been cooking in the area for more than three decades and owner of Absolutely Michelle’s Chef-for-Hire, Nevada licensed culinary educator, ACF HSCA Chef of the year 2000 and ACF HSCA Pastry Chef of the year 2019, former dessert maker of Adele’s, BSH corporate chef at Thermador & Bosch, manager and Chef de Cuisine at BJ’s Nevada Barbeque, 849-2333, firstname.lastname@example.org.