Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lemon Pudding Cake

This Christmas season was a pretty quiet one for my family, very different from how things have been recently.  The past few years it's been jam packed with German Christmas markets, Swiss mountains, sledding, gluwein, fireworks and cozy winter nights with friends.  I loved every minute of it and lately have found myself feeling very nostalgic for the days of Christmases past in Germany.  It truly was a special and precious time in our lives.  But of course, we had a big move between then and now and are still adjusting to the new reality of things here in Athens.  I think we're all feeling a bit constrained living in the city and uninspired by the drab winter here.  Moods have definitely been effected.  If I had to choose a color to describe us these days it would be grey.

Serious procrastination, indecision and last minute decisions this year led us to spending a few days on one of the nearby islands for Christmas because we couldn't think of something else to do.  It's the off season for Greek islands and there are more goats than people climbing the rocky hills.  It was a huge departure from the crowds and lively places we visited wile in Germany.  Not my first choice, but I decided to look at the trip as a quiet getaway and a chance to spend some really good family time and to be near my beloved seashore.  A trip that was good for the spirit and soul.  Well, that was sort of how it worked out and it sort of wasn't.  The hubs ended up sick in bed all day long Christmas day.  So the kids and I spent a windy and chilly day on the beach by ourselves.  It was actually pretty nice.  The boys got along without arguing, we combed the sand for sea glass and interesting shells, skipped stones on the water and Lorelei played in the sand without a care in the world.  It was nice.  Uncomplicated.  But again, I noticed the quiet that has been plaguing us recently.

Mostly I noticed the quiet in my oldest.  He just turned 12 and for maybe a year now I've been noticing a change in him.  Sometimes it's subtle and sometimes it glaringly obvious.  Mood swings that come out of the blue have become frequent (complete with tears!), my once dependable early riser has started sleeping until late morning, his bedroom door has been closed more often than open when he's inside.  More subtly, I've noticed him pulling away from the family some.  It became more noticeable on our Christmas trip.  After a whole day of easy togetherness Christmas day, the following one saw my sweet boy wanting to sit by himself on the beach.  No playing, no skipping stones.  Instead, he wanted space.  I my head I realize why he wants to have some time to himself, but my heart is saddened by the understanding that my little boy is becoming his own man.  He's no longer just mine.

Of course, I am still his mom.  And whether he wants to be or not (this changes daily if not hourly), he's still my son.  It's just that the relationship is shifting.  My goal is to find ways to relate to him as the new young man he wants to be.  We've always had reading in common- he's almost as voracious as I am in that regard and I love that about him.  We have the same taste, for better or for worse, in music and it has been fun over the past few years to introduce him to favorites like U2 and the Eagles.  He's begun asking to cook with me, which I should love, right?.  Sometimes I get exasperated with the requests- I'm making dinner and just want to get finished without the slow down of explaining things to him or his excruciatingly slow chopping and slicing.  But I'm trying to let that go.  It's almost the same as slowing down to let my toddler daughter struggle with putting on her own pants when I'm trying to rush out the door in the morning.  They're both trying to be independent in their own way.  I just have to slow down and let it happen.

One day while cooking with my son I had the Great British Bake Off playing on my laptop.  The challenge was for the bakers to make "self-saucing puddings", something like a molten chocolate cake.  He was totally enthralled by the idea of little cakes that makes their own sauce and for days went around in a silly British voice saying "Self-saucing puddings!".  He cracked me up.  So these little cakes are for my oldest.  My way of connecting with him and finding something for us to talk about.  I'll take whatever I can get.  And if it comes with a silly accent, all the better in my opinion.

Lemon Pudding Cake
Makes 6 individual cakes or 1 2-quart cake
For the recipe, click here

These little cakes are one of my favorite desserts for company.  They're so surprising- the light, almost souffle like cake rests atop a silky smooth sauce at the bottom like a layer of pudding or curd.  They are bright and tart, a perfect use for the winter citrus and just the right sort of pick me up on grey days.  The cakes can be made in ramekins for individual servings or in a single baking dish to serve family style.  One tip: don't skip the step where you rub the lemon zest into the sugar.  It really is the key to getting as much lemon flavor as possible into the cake.

3/4 cup sugar
1 tbs lemon zest
3 eggs, separated
2 tbs butter, room temperature
1 cup milk
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup all purpose flour

Also needed: several cups of hot water and a roasting pan.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Butter 6 6-ounce ramekins or a 2 quart baking dish.

Mix together the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl.  With the tips of your fingers gently rub the zest into the sugar to release all of the oils in the zest.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (this can also be done by hand) whisk together the egg yolks and butter until the butter is well blended.  Add the sugar mixture to the bowl and continue whisking until the mixture lightens in color and  becomes thick.  Mix in the milk and lemon juice just until incorporated and then stir in the flour.

In a clean, separate bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.  Gently fold the egg whites into the rest of the batter being careful not to deflate the air in the egg whites.  Pour the batter into the ramekins or baking dish.

Set the ramekins or baking dish into the roasting pan and pour the hot water into the roasting pan until it comes halfway up the sides of your baking dish/ramekins.  Carefully so as not to get water in the batter, place the roasting pan in the oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  The tops will be golden and puffed and feel just firm to the touch.  Remove from the oven and cool for 20 minutes on a wire rack.  Serve warm.

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