LEMON + ROSEMARY MADELEINES

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After last weekend’s getaway to Big Bear, Alex and I fortunately have another trip coming up that we are beyond excited about. On Wednesday, we’re heading to the actual opposite side of the country, Portland, Maine, which will be our second time visiting. We traveled to Portland last October to visit our dear friend, Spencer, who had recently moved there (he’s a born and raised Southern Californian) and since Alex and I had never been to Maine before, we jumped at the opportunity to visit him. To say that we fell in love with the city would be a severe understatement. Although Portland is on a small peninsula, it is beaming with beautiful landscape, a plethora of amazing restaurants and bars, and is downright charming. In fact, Bon Appétit magazine appointed Portland the high honor of “Restaurant City of the Year” for 2018.

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We love the city so much that Alex and I have been contemplating moving there. After this second trip, we’re going to really discuss our options and see if it’s even possible, but regardless, it’s something to dream about. If you want me to dedicate a post to Portland and my recommendations, aka a travel guide, I would love to! I have a huge list compiled from my own research and experience, and I’m sure I’ll have the city down after seeing it for a second time. Let me know in the comments!

Since I’m leaving in the middle of next week, I won’t be posting another recipe until after I get back from the trip. But until then, I’m leaving you with one of the easiest, yet rewarding little treats I could offer you. Today we’re talking about madeleines, French teacakes that could also pass as cookies, that are perfectly buttery, light and airy, with crisp edges and distinctive shell-like shapes. If you’ve been in any chain of coffee shops, you’ve probably seen them for sale near the register. This is actually how I was introduced to the tiny cakes, when my mom first started getting coffee from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf when I was a kid. She would get her ice-blended mocha, and if I was lucky enough, she would treat me to a package of madeleines.

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Years later, it was Alex who surprised me with buying me a madeleine pan, probably because he caught on to my love for them or probably because he wanted fresh ones for himself. My first batch of madeleines, although I overfilled the cavities and made them jumbo-sized, were amazing and much better than any coffee shop could offer. I used a traditional recipe from world-renowned French chef Daniel Boulud, and continued to use his recipe for years due to its simplicity and perfection.

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But when I ordered the cookbook, The Fearless Baker, by Erin Jeanne McDowell last year, I came across her madeleine recipe that incorporated fresh rosemary. I was immediately intrigued and found myself baking her version the same day the book was delivered to my doorstep. The addition of rosemary gives the simple teacakes a more complex flavor, and although you wouldn’t think that rosemary belongs in desserts, it works beautifully, especially when paired with fresh lemon zest. The herb isn’t overpowering in any sense, but just the right amount. With Daniel Boulud’s classic madeleines, I was able to finish them in a number of ways: sprinkled with powdered sugar, dipped in chocolate, or dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with chopped pistachios. But with Erin’s madeleines, the best and only way to finish them is with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I feel like any other toppings would clash with the rosemary/lemon combo.

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Like stated above, baking madeleines is extremely simple, but requires owning a madeleine pan - you can find them sold online or in stores like Williams Sonoma. The only other thing asked of you is to let the batter sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour, or even overnight. So, if you are planning on making this for breakfast or a brunch party, it actually would be perfect for you to make the batter the night before and then just pop ‘em in the oven first thing in the morning. In my opinion, madeleines are best when they are fresh out of the oven, but according to Alex who literally just ate one that is three days old, they’re still just as good as the first day.

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Lemon and Rosemary Madeleines

Makes 24-36 madeleines, depending on cavity size of madeleine pan

Adapted just slightly from Erin McDowell via her book, The Fearless Baker

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 3 large eggs

  • 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt

  • 10 tbsp. (1 stick plus 2 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

  • 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

  • Confectioners’ sugar (powdered sugar), to finish

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer, whisk the sugar and eggs for 1-2 minutes on low speed, or until combined. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest, and whisk again for about 30 seconds.

  2. To this bowl, add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together until just incorporated. While mixing on low, slowly add the melted butter in a steady stream, taking about a minute to add all of it. Scrape the bowl. Fold in the rosemary with a spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes, or up to 12 hours/overnight.

  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease your pan with cooking spray (you can also butter and flour them). Fill each madeleine cavity with a heaping tablespoon of batter. Do not spread the batter out because it will fill the mold naturally in the oven.

  4. Bake for about 9-10 minutes, or until the madeleines have popped up and the edges are slightly golden. If you’re still not sure if they are done, lightly press down on the tops with your finger - if it springs back, they’re good! Let the madeleines sit in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing. Cool slightly on a baking rack, and then top with a heavy dusting of powdered sugar. Enjoy!

LEMON BARS

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In past blog posts I have spoken about my mom's side of the family, the Czech side, and shared with you the history of my Czech grandparents (including a recipe of theirs). Today, I am speaking about my paternal grandmother, or who my sister and I refer to as 'Grammy'. (Side note: Grammy is one of my biggest supporters of The Vivid Kitchen and always emails me her thoughts on my posts and pictures. So, hi Grammy!) 

Anyway! Grammy, who lives in Los Angeles, has been cooking and baking pretty much all her life, and is honestly amazing at both. She's actually taken cooking classes over the years, with her favorite class being "Cooking Cordon Bleu" that she took when she was living in Ottawa, Canada years ago. Despite the knowledge she gained from these classes, I know Grammy would qualify herself as a "home-cook": she loves cooking simple, yet delicious recipes that aren't fussy and always deliver on taste and flavor. 

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Growing up, I would see Grammy just about every weekend, which meant I was fed very well and looked forward to whatever she was serving us. Besides the delicious dinners she would prepare for me and my sister (don't even get me started on how perfect her Thanksgiving dinner is every year), it's really all about her baked goods. To say that Grammy has a sweet tooth is a severe understatement - the lady loves her candy, chocolates, pies, cookies, etc. etc. etc. When we're together, we love talking about baking and certain recipes we've come across - in a sense, baking has brought us closer together. 

One of Grammy's desserts that I grew up eating constantly was her lemon bars. Lemon bars are a traditional American baked good that were invented in the early 1960s, and eventually made their way into every kitchen across the country when the cookbook Betty Crocker's Cooky Book published the recipe. The recipe starts off with making a shortbread crust that is pressed into a 9x13 baking dish, which is baked in the oven until firm and golden; then it is topped with a lemon custard-like filling that is once again baked in the oven until set. Super easy and straightforward. If you're eating a lemon bar, 99.99% of the time, it'll be dusted with confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar) because that's tradition, and I'll be damned if I didn't include this.

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The recipe I am giving you today comes directly from Grammy: every ingredient and step follows exactly what she sent me earlier this week, except for the addition of lemon zest that I included (I wanted to get the most use out of my lemons!). And I gotta say that I'm so happy that I barely changed a thing because they taste perfect: buttery, crispy, VERY sweet... with a refreshing lemon taste. These bars remind me of my weekends spent with her growing up and it brings me so much joy. 

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Lemon Bars

Ingredients

For the crust:

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  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)

For the filling:

  • 4 large eggs, room temperature

  • 2 cups granulated sugar

  • Zest of 1 lemon

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

  • Confectioners' sugar, to finish

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, mix together melted butter, flour and sugar until well incorporated. The dough will be a bit crumbly. Transfer the dough to an ungreased 9x13 baking dish (alternatively, you can line the dish with a piece of parchment paper if you wish to pull the entire baked good out). Using your hands or the back of a spatula, press down the dough evenly into the dish.

  2. Bake the shortbread crust for about 15-17 minutes, or until the dough has firmed up and is golden.

  3. While the crust is baking, work on the filling. In a blender, mix the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice for about 30 seconds. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and blend for another 15 seconds.

  4. When the crust is done, pull it out of the oven and immediately pour the lemon filling over the top of the hot crust and place back into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling is set.

  5. Cool on a wire rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into the lemon squares. They can either be stored at room temperature or in the fridge.