What do you do when life gives you lemons?  Apparently a lot of you are just like me! …..you make dessert!!

I just realized that my Lemon Curd Tart marked my 200th post!

Imagine my surprise when looking back at some of my most viewed posts it seems lemons are a favorite.

Here a few of my readers favorite lemon recipes!

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     This Triple Layer Buttercream cake I made for my mom’s birthday.  How I have not made it since I don’t know!  It was sooo good!

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We enjoyed this Luscious Lemon Mousse on a picnic in the park!

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This Strawberry Lemon Mousse in a meringue shell makes a nice light dessert.

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 And finally, one of my favorite flavour pairings, Lemon Lavender Squares!

What is your favorite lemon dessert?

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When I decided to post a tutorial about sweet pastry, I knew I wanted to fill it with lemon curd!  This lemon curd tart is really easy to make, is tangy and smooth, and packs a real lemony punch!

Lemon is hands down one of my favorite flavours.  It is such a sunny, happy flavour!   Lemons are available all year round in most places and are really inexpensive.   When choosing lemons for baking, make sure you choose firm lemons with nice yellow unblemished peel.

Lemon Curd Tart

I glazed it with apricot jam, which offers a bit of sweetness!  You can strain the jam after melting if you want to have a more clear glaze, but I like the hint of orange the pulp of the apricots add.

Candied lemon slices add a pretty touch.

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We finally got a chance to have our first family barbecue since my mom got her new harvest table!  Summer time is busy and it is hard to get the whole family together in one place at one time!  We managed to get almost all of us together on Sunday.  We dined on homemade chicken wings, ribs, salads and enjoyed the lemon curd tart for dessert!

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If you are ready to try your hand at making a sweet pastry what a better way to fill it!  It does require an hour or so chilling time so keep that in mind!  I usually make early in the day or even the day before.

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Have a happy, sunny day!

ENJOY!!

Lemon Curd Tart

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared sweet pastry tart shell
  • 3 lemons + 1 lemon
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) butter, diced
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam

Instructions

  1. Zest 2 of the lemons using a zester or grater. Cut all three lemons in half and juice to measure 1/2 cup.
  2. Place the diced butter in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan combine lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs.
  4. Whisk over medium heat until it starts to simmer and thicken. This does take some time, so be patient.
  5. When mixture has started to simmer and thicken, remove from heat and strain into the butter.
  6. Whip with whisk until smooth (or use a immersion blender) about two minutes.
  7. Spread filling into the cooled tart shell and chill
  8. For candied lemon slices, slice the 4th lemon into very thin slices. In a saucepan bring 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 3/4 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Add the lemon slices, lower heat and continue to cook for approximately 10 minutes, until peel is almost translucent. Remove from heat and allow to cool in the liquid.
  9. After the tart has chilled for at least an hour, remove candied lemon slices from the liquid and drain on paper towels. Arrange over tart.
  10. Heat apricot jam over low heat until melted. Brush over the surface of the tart and return to refrigerator until ready to serve.
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I have had a few questions about our Ikea butcher block countertops.  Mostly how they hold up and if we are happy with them long term.  We have had them for, oh about 6 or 7 years now I think.  Could be a bit longer.

I am happy to report that I love them more now than the day they went in!  While I will sand out major stains (like grape juice, oops!), I don’t sweat the small stuff and I don’t worry about forgetting a cutting board if I am in a hurry.  I find all the little wear and tear just adds to the character!

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We use the butcher block treatment oil from Ikea to season them.  The first time we did this, I did about 5 coats, letting each coat sit about 15 minutes before rubbing off excess.  Now, I recoat about every 4 to 6 months and usually only one coat is required, but I always go heavy handed around the sink area.

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Before treating next time I will lightly sand out the ring that was left behind by an olive oil bottle.  Otherwise I just skim sand the entire surface before recoating.  The entire process takes only about a half hour to do all my countertops, plus the 15 minutes of sitting time.

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This countertop is on the other side of the kitchen (not like the room is big it just looks so different being right by the window!) and is where I  roll all of my pastry dough.

The beauty of these butcher block is that you would never know that on the other side of this slab of counter is the biggest,  blackest burn mark you will ever see!  At Christmas time last year, Tim set up our warming station, but accidently put the heating element upside down so it was right against the counter.  It wasn’t until we started to clean up and moved it that we even realized.  I freaked out at first, but then simply turned over the countertop.  Good as new!  (Tim had never gotten around to fastening this piece in to the counter – and it turns out that was a good thing!)

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The one thing that is a thorn in my side is this raised edge sink.  Not a good idea, no matter what counters you choose.  It requires re-caulking often as water can pool up against the outer raised edge and cause the caulking to lift and water to get underneath. Obviously you cannot wipe crumbs right into the sink, which also annoys me.  I do love the look of the white porcelain, and we will be switching this out to an under mount or farmhouse apron style kitchen in the near future.

We choose the Ikea butcher block because the price is so reasonable and I can honestly say the quality is outstanding!  The wood has never raised even when water has sat on it unnoticed for a time.  It is easy to maintain and it fits in with my coastal cottagey feel!  Not to mention we were looking for a DIY option to help keep the total cost down.

So, there you have it. Although I lust after granite or marble when I see it in magazines, I really am in love with my butcher block and can’t see us changing it anytime soon!

 

Have you ever embarked on something that you spent many hours envisioning in your head.  And then when you finally get start on the journey it was nothing like you had imagined.

It was way better!

That is exactly what happened when I signed up to take the first class towards my Baker’s Certificate program at our local College’s culinary institute!  Pastry 101! I had been dreaming of creating those cute little pastry swans you see at fancy bakeries, or elaborate cakes with many layers and amazing fillings!

I don’t know what made me think this is what we would be learning, it is just what I had built up in my mind!  You would have thought the 101 in the class title would have been a dead giveaway!  So imagine my surprise when we started with the basics!

Now, I am a bit of an impatient person and have been known to jump ahead on certain tasks, but baking is one of those tasks that make you slow done and take notice of what you are doing!  The perfect pastry, after all, is the basis of many outstanding desserts! While I am no expert, and still going through the process of learning, I thought I would share a some of the basics I learned so far.

Pastry 101 - Sweet Pastry

Welcome to Pastry 101 – Sweet Pastry

Or as the French call it Pâte Sucrée!

Let me begin with just a couple of common sense tips before you begin any recipe……..

One of the best things I learned in class was before you even pull out a mixing bowl, READ YOUR RECIPE!  And then read it again.  It seemed a bit redundant at first, but for an impatient person like me, it really helped me slow down and enjoy the process.  It is your guide to the best possible finished product. I would recommend you print out the recipe below and look it over a couple of times before you begin following the step by step photos below.

After you are familiar with your recipe, gather all your ingredients before you begin. There is nothing worse than getting part way through a recipe and find you are missing an ingredient.  Some recipes cannot just be put on hold while you run out to get what you need.

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Let’s get started…

STEP ONE

Into a mixing bowl add the softened butter and sift in the confectioner’s sugar.  Add the vanilla, ground almonds and salt and beat with a wooden spoon until well blended.

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It should look like this at this point.

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STEP TWO

Add the egg, and beat with wooden spoon until incorporated.  It will be a very wet dough, and almost look like it doesn’t want to come together, but it will!

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STEP THREE

Sift the flour into the mixture and beat just until the flour is absorbed and dough comes together.

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STEP FOUR

Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap on your work surface and turn the pastry dough out onto the plastic, flattening it into a disk.  Wrap well with plastic and chill dough for at least 2 hours.  Or it may be frozen at this stage for later use.

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STEP FIVE

After adequate chilling time, allow pastry dough to rest at room temperature for approximately 30 minutes before rolling out to a thickness of approximately 1/8th of an inch on a lightly floured surface.

In the beginning I did measure, but now after a couple of times I no longer need to measure, but this will give you a visual of how thick it should be.  I always over estimated!

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STEP SIX

Transfer the dough to a tart pan with removal bottom, or a tart ring placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Trim edges to flush with the tip of the tart pan.  Prick the bottom of the pastry all over with a fork, otherwise known as docking the pastry.

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STEP SEVEN

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.  In my oven 18 minutes gives it a nice golden edge

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It is now ready to fill however you would like with a variety of fillings such as chocolate, lemon, a light whipped mousse…the possibilities are endless!

Come back on Wednesday to see how I filled my sweet pastry!

ENJOY!

Pastry 101 – Sweet Pastry

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons almond flour (ground almonds)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Using a medium sized bowl add butter and sift in confectioners sugar
  2. Add the vanilla extract, ground almonds, and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon until fully incorporated and smooth
  3. Add the egg and beat until blended
  4. Sift the flour into the mixture and mix with wooden spoon until the dough comes together
  5. Turn dough onto plastic wrap and pat into a disk, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours
  6. After chilling, preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. Roll dough out to approximately 1/8 inch thickness and transfer to a tart pan with a removal bottom or a pastry ring placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
  8. Dock the dough with a fork and bake for 15 to 20 minutes
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I was challenged recently when I wanted to bake something for someone who is a vegan.  While she said she would “cheat” when it comes to baked goods, I really wanted to honour her lifestyle.  That is just one other wonderful part of baking.  You can be as creative as you like! It didn’t take long to decide on my mom’s shortbread.  But, I wanted to not only make it vegan, but to make it different, eye catching, and a delight to eat. I decided on vegan lavender shortbread!

Lavender Shortbread

It was as simple as replacing the butter with a vegan butter-like spread and adding culinary lavender.  The subtle lavender flavor was a hit with the taste testers!  My husband sure liked them, and I am not even sure he knew they were vegan! I usually bake my shortbread in a square pan and cut into squares, but since these cookies were being packaged and shipped I instead rolled the dough out and cut into classic, elegant circles.  Whenever I think of lavender, I think of  elegance. Maybe because it makes me think of France, and what is more elegant and classic than France?!

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I dipped a few of the leftovers in white chocolate for the non-vegans, and while they really didn’t need it, it gave them an extra bite of sweetness.

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I packaged them up in cellophane bags and tied them up with some fresh lavender and purple ribbon.  So pretty!

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I would love to bake a special batch just for you!  Click here to find out how you can win a dozen vegan lavender shortbread (or non-vegan if you prefer) shipped straight to your door!

Linking this post to Food Blogger’s of Canada EatInEatOut Christmas In July Cookie Contest!

Vegan Lavender Shortbread
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup vegan buttery type spread (I used Earth Balance)
  • ¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 2½ to 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp culinary grade dried lavender
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Cream the buttery spread and gradually add the confectioners sugar. Mix well.
  3. Mix in flour, starting with 2 cups and increase up to 3 cups until dough can be easily handled and comes together.
  4. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and roll out to approximately ½ inch thick.
  5. Cut with round cookie cutter and place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until edges are very lightly golden. Do not over bake.
  7. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool.

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