Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Lemon Toast

It never seems that it will be so bad in the early morning hours, about 5:00am before the kids are up while I am sipping my first cup of black coffee on the small couch in my office.  In my hiding place, where everyone knows where to look.  As the sun is rising and I look out across our tiny front yard, I catch the first glimpse of the pine branches against the white snow.  "Everything will be fine, I'll get a lot done, the kids can finish their science projects and do some reading", I think to myself.  The idea is a good one but always destined to fail.
Before I went to bed, I already knew just like every other parent in town that school was cancelled for today.  AGAIN.  It's not just school being cancelled.  I would like to get on with the rest of life, tired of dealing with the snow.  Now the rain that keeps turning back and forth into snow and the deep freeze that is predicted to come upon us tonight is becoming really annoying.  ICE.  I hate the ice.  The ice is by far worse than snow.  But I can't do anything about Mother Nature's wrath by complaining about it.  The only thing left to do is to make lemonade out of lemons, or in my case,  time to whip up the lemon curd recipe I have been tossing around in my head for the past week.
Before I began this endeavor, I needed a vehicle other than a spoon for the sweet sour curd to be delivered into my salivating mouth.  I know just the thing.
Of all the recipes my mother has made throughout my childhood, her white bread remains my favorite comfort food. Sliced thin for peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, toasted up and slathered with butter or eaten just plain, it's soft texture melting in my mouth. I should bake this recipe more often than I do.  It's really not difficult if I have enough time to allow for the two required risings.  This weather this morning  compelled me to have enough time.  Proofing the yeast, melting the butter into the milk, and kneading the dough on a floured board takes no longer than 30 minutes.  It's a small project that allows me to linger in the kitchen and daydream, the steps to the recipe are like second nature to me.  I baked 2 loaves of this white bread every week during my senior year in college.  No longer on the school meal plan and living in an apartment, I prided myself on spending less than $20.00 a week on groceries.  I made batches of chili with beans, red pasta sauce from canned tomatoes and ate the occasional tuna sandwich for lunch but mostly I survived on homemade toast with butter. And free beer from the frat house next door. 

True to the recipe, the loaves baked to a deep golden in 25 minutes, filling the house with the aroma of baking, of kitchen work, of I made this because I love you and you need to eat kind of smells.  The kids suddenly appeared from their bedrooms upstairs as I tilted each hot loaf out of it's pan onto a wire rack to cool.  "OOH! Can I have some?"  "Is this Gramma's bread?"  It is hard to resist cutting into a hot loaf for instant gratification but I managed to hold them off.  "Not until 12:00pm, you can have some for lunch."
 The curd would have to wait until the hide and seek game, screaming and yelling because our friends are here and now it's raining to hard to go outside and play is finally over.  I need peace for this endeavor as I have not ever attempted this type of recipe before.  I wanted quiet and uninterrupted opportunity to let my thoughts wander while I grated the zest, it's sharp, sour scent keeping me focused just enough on the task at hand. Reading through the directions, I realized that this is another "project" that requires/allows lingering and daydreaming.  Stirring the lemon juice, sugar, butter and eggs until thickened just enough, reminds me of the custard base in my favorite ice cream recipe. The one that Val used from her set of Encyclopedia Cookbooks that she collected from the local grocery store.  The creamy custard slow churned in an electric ice cream maker by the oak tree in our backyard.  The wooden barrel base filled with rock salt to keep it all cold, a thick orange extension chord running from the kitchen, out the back door to the contraption creating icy goodness. I couldn't wait to eat it later, after dinner, after running around in the yard and swinging on the tire swing. Val loved to make peach ice cream but I always wanted chocolate, the deeper and darker the better.
The bright yellow curd thickened in about 30 minutes with near constant stirring as I took a moment break to address a computer problem then again to find clean socks for children who were searching for something to do now that their friends had gone home. It's only late afternoon but all the parents wanted to get home before dark, tired of driving on the slick, snowy roads.  When Declan comes to me to complain about the slow computer, I distract him with a spoon coated with sticky, warm curd. He was skeptical at first, as usual whenever I want him to try something new.  He stuck his stubby tongue out and touched it to the end of the spoon, once his brain signaled approval, he licked the entire surface clean, his eyes growing rounder, then closed slowly with pleasure when the sour notes hit his taste buds. Success.
 I shooed him out of the kitchen so that I could finally reach my goal: homemade toast topped with smooth, creamy lemon curd.  Since we were nearing dinner time, I decided not to over indulge, one half a piece would have to do.  For now. The crispy toasted edges and soft center of the bread are just right to be smothered  in all types of toppings.  I devoured my snack in three bites, wanting more and wishing that I had savored it.  No matter.  I've got plenty more lemon curd and freshly bake bread to indulge myself  for the next few days.  But where to hide it?

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