Whitesburg KY

Tips for getting most flavor — and juice — from lemons

This photo shows lemon raspberry pound cake muffins. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)

This photo shows lemon raspberry pound cake muffins. (AP Photo/J.M. Hirsch)

Fresh lemon — including the juice and the peel — is one of my all-time favorite ingredients, in part because it’s just so versatile. It can be the star of the show (as in this recipe) or a brilliant supporting actor (as in so many of my everyday dishes). It’s indispensable in fish dishes and pairs beautifully with all sorts of vegetables, raw and cooked. I also reach for it regularly to brighten up soups, stews and sautes.

The great thing about lemon peel, also known as the zest, is that it adds intense lemon flavor to a recipe without all the acid that is found in the juice. I use grated lemon zest in scrambled eggs and creamy pasta dishes and combine it with chopped herbs as a finishing touch for braised meats.

Whichever parts you use, it’s important to start with the best possible lemons. The winning candidates will boast a bright yellow color and a thin skin. A thin skin signals more juice and less pith (the bitter-tasting white layer between the peel and the fruit itself). When grating the peel, you want to stop short of the pith. How do you know a given specimen has a thin skin? It will give a little when you squeeze it.

Once home with your lemons, scrub each one lightly under water to remove the edible wax with which it was covered to protect the fruit on its journey to the market. If your recipe calls for zest and juice, grate the zest before you juice the lemon. But don’t grate the zest until just before you’re ready to add it to the recipe. Zest quickly dries out and loses its oomph if it sits around for very long.

There are several ways to make sure you squeeze the maximum amount of juice from your lemon. First, soften up the fruit by rolling it on the counter and pressing down as you do. Second, heat it, either by microwaving it for 20 seconds or so or by stashing it in the oven at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes. Finally, cut the lemon in half crosswise and juice it. will give up about 1/4 cup of juice.

These muffins are quite rich, better suited to dessert than breakfast (though they would indeed be a delightful morning splurge on a special occasion). Made with juice and zest, their deep lemon flavor is complemented by the raspberries.

Start to finish: 45 minutes (15
minutes active)
Servings: 8
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) cake flour
(not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup grated lemon zest
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
1 pint raspberries
1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 325 F. Line a
cupcake tin with 8 paper cupcake
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder,

salt and lemon zest. In a large
bowl with an electric mixer, beat
together the butter and granulated
sugar until light and fluffy. Add the
eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the
vanilla. Add half the flour mixture
and mix just until combined. Beat
in the cream and 2 tablespoons of
the lemon juice. Add the remaining flour mixture, beating just until
Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them
halfway. Press 4 raspberries gently into the center of the batter
in each cup, then top with more
batter, filling the cups just up to
the tops of the liners. Bake the
cupcakes on the oven’s center
shelf until golden on top and a
toothpick inserted at the center
comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a wire
rack and let cool completely.
While the cupcakes are baking,
make the glaze. In a small bowl
whisk together the powdered
sugar and remaining lemon juice
until smooth. When the cupcakes
are cooled, drizzle the glaze over
each cake.
Nutrition information per serving: 300 calories; 150 calories from
fat (50 percent of total calories);
16 g fat (10 g saturated; 0.5 g trans
fats); 120 mg cholesterol; 120 mg
sodium; 36 g carbohydrate; 3 g
fiber; 20 g sugar; 4 g protein.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sara Moulton
is host of public television’s “Sara’s
Weeknight Meals.” She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for
nearly 25 years and spent a decade
hosting several Food Network
shows, including “Cooking Live.”
Her latest cookbook is “Home
Cooking 101.”

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