Something remarkable happened last week. My little blog-baby had its first birthday! It’s hard to believe that I have a full year of posts under my belt. What’s even more amazing is that you actually return to my site, read what I write and look at my pictures. Some of you are incredibly sweet and generous with your comments, which I love. So from the very bottom of my heart, thank you for allowing me to share something that I enjoy with you. It has been a meaningful year for me and one that has been filled with tremendous learning and lots of work.
But I’ve been holding out on you. I haven’t given you much information about me. And while I tried to write up my bio and keep it short and sweet, the writer in me wanted to say more. So here we begin and there will be more to come.
When I decided to start this blog, I tossed around a few names in my head and presented them to a couple of friends for their input. They all were attracted to Lemons and Lavender for various reasons and it was my favorite as well. I wanted a name that combined my love of cooking and gardening – two things that I believe are inextricably linked and seem to have a symbiotic relationship with one another. I picked the name with my favorite flavor (lemon) and one of my favorite things to grow (lavender, even though my closest friends will think this is odd since I have roses in every viable spot between my front, back and side yards).
I truly believe the soul of my home lies within my kitchen and my garden. These are two places that give me such immeasurable satisfaction. Like an artist who paints on canvas, my creative needs are expressed in my garden and with the food I prepare and photograph. These activities have become my own personal canvas. And for as far back as my memory will allow, cooking and gardening have had a heavy hand in painting the picture of who I am today. That is not to say that cooking, gardening and photography truly define me – there have been plenty of other life experiences that have played a part in that. Rather, cooking, gardening and photography have been and still are the vehicles that allow me to see and understand what does define me. They are the cathartic activities that enable me to make sense of it all.
I was bitten by the photography bug in high school when, at age 16, I got my first camera (a Canon AE-1). I enrolled in a photography class offered at my school and learned so much about photography, developing my own black and white film and using the dark room to print my pictures. I pretty much worked exclusively in black and white, and I loved the creative control over every aspect of the process. But there were assignments and parameters to those assignments, some of which I didn’t enjoy much. I just wanted to take pictures of what interested me without having to be graded on it, even tough there was a fair amount of that going on in between assignments. But a major health problem (another story for another time) and the subsequent demands of college and career building pretty much took the camera out of my hands until my children were born many years later.
Fast forward to today. Garden buzzing with creation, kitchen stirring with love and happiness, and a camera in my hands but with a completely different focus now. Life changes, but when you really examine it, it hasn’t changed that much. I’m still doing many of the same things now that I was doing 30 years ago. Maybe it does define me after all. Either that or I still can’t make sense of it all.
I’m not sure if you noticed, but the last few posts have been all about lemon-flavored foods, and this one is no exception. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite lemon recipes: lemon bars but with a twist. Rather than the usual shortbread crusted variety that you may be familiar with, I’ve changed mine up a bit and made a very thin sponge cake for the bottom layer and topped it with Meyer lemon curd and powdered sugar. I like the bars much better this way. I think they’re lighter. Lemon curd is by no means light; it packs a potent lemon silkiness and flavor by way of eggs and butter. But spreading the curd over the thin sponge cake canvas, paints this bar into the lemon goddess I want her to be. Now…this is how I make sense of it all.
LEMON BARS WITH A TWIST
The sponge cake recipe is loosely adapted from an old Doubleday Cookbook recipe and the Meyer lemon curd is a favorite that was doubled and can be found here.
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of an 18x13x1-inch half baking sheet. Line with parchment, grease and lightly flour parchment.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with with lemon juice, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix in lemon zest.
In a separate bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Add confectioners’ sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl between additions and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites and sugar into batter and pour into prepared pan spreading evenly with an offset spatula.
Bake on center oven rack for 20 minutes until top springs back when touched. Check through oven window and if any large bubbles appear on the surface of the cake, open the door and insert toothpick into bubble to deflate.
Cool upright in pan on a rack for 20-30 minutes. Gently use parchment sides to lift cake onto cutting board. Place cooling rack on top of cake and invert to remove parchment. Invert again and spread 1/4-inch of lemon curd over completely cooled cake. Dust with a heavy coating of powdered sugar. Cut into squares or refrigerate until ready to serve.