Lemon Deliciousness….

A great basic cake recipe is a lot like a good sugar cookie recipe. These are the recipes that always find themselves at the front of your recipe box and you can barely read them because you’ve used them one too many times – if there is such a thing – and everyone seems to love them. You take these simple, basic recipes, the ones that some people over look because they might not appear to be good or complicated, and you know that all you have to do is add a few extra ingredients, cocoa powder, coconut, or in this case, a little lemon zest, juice of a lemon and lemon extract if that isn’t already enough lemon for you.

I found this recipe in The Lady & Sons: Just Desserts by Paula Deen. I know I’ve mentioned I’m a HUGE fan of hers. Her laugh is infectious and I love her (it doesn’t hurt that I have a huge crush on her son Bobby too). The very first recipe in this book is her 1-2-3-4 Cake. It’s called this because it has 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs. Basic right? It does have a few other ingredients but these are the main ones. Here’s my Lemon Cake following her instructions but making it my own. You don’t even need frosting, although whipped topping and fresh berries make is a very refreshing dessert on those hot summer days.

Lemon Cake with Whipped Topping and Berries

1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter

2 cups sugar

Zest of one medium lemon

4 eggs

3 cups sifted Gluten-Free Flour Mix

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp guar gum

3/4 cup milk (I use soy)

1/4 cup lemon juice (use more milk if you are a little short to equal 1 cup liquid)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon extract

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray your pan(s) with non-stick cooking spray.

 Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. A 13x9x2 pan usually takes about 35 – 40 minutes. Cool in pan(s) 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. From this point you can frost the cake(s) if you want with the icing of your choice or serve with whipped topping and fresh berries. 

Apple Tart with Almond Cream

Since Christmas this year we’ve been having weekly barbeques at my grandparents’ house for just about every weekend. What’s the reason for this you may ask? One, we all love to cook. Two, my grandfather’s health isn’t the best. He is 78-years-old and has Speech Aphasia, a language disorder that can be linked with Alzheimer’s. We are trying to spend as much time with his as possible. It’s been well over a year since he’s been able to call any of us by name. It’s one of the hardest things in life to watch someone you love and have looked up to your whole life, fade from you as quickly as he is. This is our second go-around with Alzheimer’s. My great-grandmother had it and she passed away five years ago.

A slice of my Apple Tart with Almond Cream

Anyway, a few weeks ago I decided to attempt something other than a cake. I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, Irish Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles, and Fools by Margaret M. Johnson, and found myself staring at a full-page photo of a Pear Tart with Almond Cream. I’m not a huge fan of pears, I do like them I just wasn’t in the mood. But there was a variation listed for an Apple Tart. I had everything but the apples. Here is my gluten-free version (that still needs a little work but was still very good) of Margaret Johnson’s Apple Tart with Almond Cream made in a small pie tin because I don’t have a tart pan with a removable bottom.

Crust:

1 3/4 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix

1/2 tsp guar gum

1/2 cup margarine or butter, cut into small pieces (you want this to be cold so I keep a few sticks in the freezer)

1 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

3 to 5 tbsp ice water

 Filling:

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup finely ground almonds (I used sliced and it gave it a nice crunch)

2 tsp Gluten Free Flour Mix

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1/3 cup apricot preserves

1 tsp water 

Crust: Combine the flour, guar gum, butter, sugar, and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 8 to 10 times, or until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 3 tbsp of the water and pulse just until the dough comes together. Add remaining water if necessary. Dust a work surface with flour. turn out the dough, form it into a ball, then wrap it in plastic wrap (I use a Zip Lock bag and squeeze as much air out as possible) and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the dough from the fridge 10 minutes before rolling. This allows the butter in the dough to soften and not crack too much while rolling.

Filling: Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer, Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the almonds, flour, vanilla, and almond extract.

My whole tart fresh out of the oven.

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Spray a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom with non-stick spray. Roll out the dough to a circle about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer to the prepared pan, fold excess dough in and press with your fingers to form thick sides. My dough still fell apart a little but I just pieced it together until all the side we about even.

Pour the filling into the crust. Starting in the center, arrange the apple slices in concentric circles over the filling. I filled in the empty spaces as much as possible. Bake the tart for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the filling is lightly browned and the apples are tender. Remove from the oven (I burnt my thumb pulling them out of the oven and now have a lovely scar to remind me of this recipe) and transfer to a wire rack.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the apricot preserves and water. Heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bubbling. Brush, or spoon, over the top of the apples while the tart is still hot. Cool the tart in the pan before releasing the side.