Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't read this if you are scared of butter.

Remember how last week I told you I was super duper busy and stressed out? 

Well, I forgot to tell you that I sometimes watch the Cooking Network to help me relax.

 You know what really calms me down? Like, it puts me into an almost-comatose trance?

Watching butter and sugar cream in a Kitchenaid mixer.

(I know, is weird and a little bit embarrassing, but there it is.)

So, one day I was watching the Barefoot Contessa make a lemon curd tart, and I was like, 
yeah, I'm going to need one of those.

You see, I'd been wondering what to do with that entire tree full of ripe, juicy lemons I have in my yard, and now it all became clear: whip them with butter! 

Duh, right?

So I went to Fresh and Easy in my yoga pants (not just for yoga anymore) and bought three pounds of unsalted butter (only needed one plus a little more, but figured better safe than sorry), then left them out on the kitchen island, per Ina's strict instructions. She said it needed to be ROOM TEMPERATURE, and not just DEFROSTED. I mean, who am I, to question a Countess?

But my kids kept finding the warm butter, and sticking it back in the fridge. 

I'll bet La Contessa sin(o?) zapatos doesn't have this problem. I'll bet her grinny, giggly husband with the curly gray hair, and all her friends at the flower shop and the organic butcher, and her herb gardener who gets paid only in Mac and Cheese, and even the friends of friends for which she is always cooking pasta salad or paninis for lunches on the beach or on the sailboat, understand the value of soft butter.

It was very frustrating; but in the meantime, I was able to procure a nice tart dish at Ikea.

Finally I was ready. So I googled the recipe. But what did I find? That in the world of Lemon Curd, Ina might be the comtesse, but le roi is a man named Pierre Herme.  And if you want lemon curd that will make your eyes roll around in your head like loose marbles just before you lose control of your bladder and pass out on the floor in bliss, you want to make his. Since his recipe calls for adding the butter AFTER you cook the lemon/sugar/egg stuff, and blend it to create a sort of butter emulsion, the texture is remarkable.

The blogs were very positive about Ina's shortbread crust, though. Twice as much butter as regular pastry crust. Can't go wrong there.

So I set out on my own: I decided to tuck the Herme curd into the Countess' crust. Is a royal marriage like Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon's, or Charles and Di's. (Okay, this tart works way better than most royal unions.)

The results? Remarkable. I served the tart for breakfast at our book club overnight, with fresh berries and whipped cream. Is a very good way to start the day, but is unfortunately low in fiber.

(Is generic lemon curd tart image, not actual product. Who stops to take photos of delicious food when she could be eating it?)

You know what is even more remarkable? You wouldn't even know all that butter was in there, except that I already told you. You just think, 'MMMM', not 'BUTTERY'.

So you want one for yourself, don't you? 
Yes, I suspected you might.

So here is the Herme/Countess/Beeswax Lemon Curd Tart Recipe hybrid, for your eating pleasure:

Lemon Curd Directions:

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (Beeswax note: I used 5 lemons. I like my tart very lemony, plus I have tiny slaves who zest things for me.)

4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons) 

2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces (
Beeswax note: I just scooped in a little at a time).
1 fully-baked 9-inch tart shell (
see recipe below.)


Getting ready: Have a thermometer, preferably an instant-read, a strainer and a blender (first choice) or food processor at the ready. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan.

1. Put the sugar and zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Off heat, work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Whisk in the eggs followed by the lemon juice.

2. Fit the bowl into the pan (make certain the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. You want to cook the cream until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over heat—and you must whisk constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling—you’ll see that the cream will start out light and foamy, then the bubbles will get bigger, and then, as the cream is getting closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Heads up at this point—the tracks mean the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking and don’t stop checking the temperature. And have patience—depending on how much heat you’re giving the cream, getting to temp can take as long as 10 minutes. (Beeswax note: mine took only 4-5 minutes).

3. As soon as you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140°F, about 10 minutes.

4. Turn the blender to high and, with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed while you’re incorporating the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. If your machine protests and gets a bit too hot, work in 1-minute intervals, giving the machine a little rest between beats. (Beeswax note: My Bosch blender attachment didn't have any trouble.)

5. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you are ready to construct the tart, just whisk the cream to loosen it and spoon it into the tart shell.

Serving: The tart should be served cold, because it is a particular pleasure to have the cold cream melt in your mouth. (Beeswax note: Re-chill the tart for a couple of hours after you pour it into the shell, but not too long before you serve it, or it could become soggy. I served it with whipped cream and assorted berries.)

Storing: While you can make the lemon cream ahead (it will keep in the frige for 4 days and in the freezer for up to 2 months), once the tart is constructed, it’s best to eat it the day it is made.

- makes 8 servings -
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

Barefoot Contessa Tart Shell Directions:

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for greasing, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Press the dough into a 10-inch-round or 9-inch-square false-bottom tart pan, making sure that the finished edge is flat. Chill until firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter 1 side of a square of aluminum foil to fit inside the chilled tart and place it, buttered side down, on the pastry. Fill with beans or rice. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans, prick the tart all over with the tines of a fork, and bake again for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until lightly browned. Allow to cool to room temperature. (Beeswax note: Don't cook this long or crust will become very hard. Don't cook until brown, just cooked.)

Good luck to you! Remember, lemon curd is great on toast (or scones), too!

Neighbors, if you need lemons, gimme a call. I'll totally hook you up!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Confu-Sam say:

Sammy turned 6 last week. 
Not 100. 
In case you were confused.

You might be confused, because Sam is often wise beyond his years.

He likes to make us notes and post them around the house. They might be lacking a certain Leonardo-ish-ness, but they are sage and pithy.

I'll start with my favorite, which was posted on the garage door when Jake and I came home from our Valentine dinner:
"Sam. Worst Valentine's Day ever. I want to run away." (Ross stopped sharing his balloons because Sam had already popped three of them. Running seemed the only option.) 

Here's another holiday note, from a few days earlier:
"Valentine's Day Rocks. Love Stinks. To: Mom From: Sam." 
HUH? Is too deep for me to fully grasp, I think.

This was plucked from under his pillow:
"Dear tooth fairy, my tooth fell in the Lego box. I am sad. Love, Sam." 
(Our tooth fairy is super flaky. Turnaround time is often a week or more.)

Found this little treasure hanging in the pantry, just above the trash can:

And this one, in the Church bag:

"I love my home on erth."

This came home from school:

On the reverse side:
"I have a dream that every day would be a fun day."

And finally, while on the way home from Chick-fil-A on Friday night, some advice on how to make friends:

Me: Jane, did you make a new friend in the play area? You are really good at making new friends.

Sam: Oh, Mom. I am sooo good at making friends! It is really easy. You just play with them, and play with them, and play with them, and then you have a new friend. That's how I got my girlfriend, Brunae. (He spelled it for me. I think he might not know his girlfriend's name.)

Happy 6th, Sammy! (Taken at the Beeson bonfire last month)

Here's to 94 more!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Raise your hand if you're super-duper busy.

You know what? Our weather might be fabulous right now, (seriously people, it can't get any better), but this time of year is rough. I am exhausted. And sleep deprived.

I mean, I know the holidays can be stressful, but in the fall (or if you live here, when temps drop precipitously into the 90s), you can start slacking on all kinds of stuff. Trust me. You just have to look harried enough, and roll your eyes around like crazy while you mumble it's that time of year, you know! 

This holiday excuse will work beautifully from October 15-January 15. 

Summer is also a wonderful excuse for laziness. First of all, around here, it is so hot that if you move too much or fast, you might actually die. Also, people are vacationing like crazy. Even if you aren't actually going anywhere, you can 'leave town' too! No, no, I'm not speaking of one of those 'staycations,' where you have to run your kids around to desert botanical gardens and Science Centers and sleep in tents in your backyard. Is a horrid idea. I mean, just tell everybody you are leaving, then barricade yourself inside your house and read blogs for a few days. Clothing and regular hygiene are totally optional! (In addition to your fake vacations, you can actually go to California and drag your kids to the beach and Legoland. Is not relaxing, but it does get you away from your other commitments.)

The summer will entirely excuse all laziness from May until school starts again in August. (Your dates may vary.)

There is also a small window of reprieve, where the burden of our cares is lifted, when the yoke is in the mire (no, wait, am mixing metaphors again), for a week at spring break. Sometimes, though, it takes some time to recover from spring break (I've seen some of the MTV coverage), so we can comfortably count out any productivity in the last half of March.

So, what have you left? August through mid-October, and then mid-January through 'til May. 

What does this mean? 

It means you have no excuse. 

It means a long, wide desert of piano lessons and science projects,  Abe Lincoln book reports and pinewood derby cars to design; of entire weeks of 6 a.m.s and midnights, and pediatric neuro-psychologist appointments (because your son's teacher thinks he's ADHD, but you aren't sure it isn't just a bad case of the wiggly-and-smarts), and new glasses to get to replace lost ones, and unplanted gardens. It all lies before us, a wasteland of work, bereft of fun.

It means your shoulders are to the wheel. 

It means you can't wriggle out of anything. You just have to DO IT.

It means you can't read or blog because your brain is fried. You keep re-reading the same tub-wrinkled old paperback chick lit, and find yourself saying "wow, how did this not win a Pulitzer?" (No?)

It means somebody better give you at least two pounds of See's chocolate for Valentine's Day, because you are going to need it to sustain you in the long nights ahead, even though you are still supposed to be on that diet you started in January. 

It means, people, that you are BUSY.

And as usual, when I say, YOU, I mean, ME.

But what about actual you? Are you busy, too? Let's see a show of hands.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No, really, Jake, I was at home doing laundry all day...I didn't go wander around in the desert. Huh-uh.

Heading east, on my way home from a delicious lunch at Pei Wei with Dad and Ryan, I noticed the Superstitions, dusted in snow from last night's storm. 

It was a real storm, the kind that blows cold, and rains all night long.

Anyhow, today the air is clear and bright, the clouds are high and fluffy, the desert is wet. There is nothing more hopeful than the desert after a good soak.

When it came time to get off the freeway, I didn't. I just kept driving: a couple miles east, until the freeway ended, and I was on the Old West Highway 60. I headed north, then east again. Somewhere around Broadway and 4 miles east of Goldfield Road, I stopped in front of an empty lot, and got out. We wandered around.

I pointed out some snake holes to Tommy. He was very thrilled but also 'scay-yerd'. 

Tommy's got an extra-hard 'r', sort of midwestern-y or something. Is fairly hilarious.

I took some pictures.

Can you believe my desert? If you know the Superstitions, you know they don't ever look real. And the closer you get to them, the more they look like a mirage. Which is ironic, as actual mirages don't act this way. Out here, just a few miles from town, you feel like a character in a Louis L'Amour novel. Like cowboys oughtta ride into view, little dogies should get along, and country music will play. 

But country music didn't play. I was listening to the Evita movie soundtrack. (I don't care what anyone says. I think Madonna did a fab job. And is the only time I ever liked Antonio Banderas.)

Some cute boys from Holland pulled up in an ancient maroon Buick and asked how to get up to the base of the mountains. I pointed them north and wished them luck. I didn't get their pictures. It would have been weird.

Trust me.

Anyhow, the Superstitions are steep and angry mountains. 
Full of critters with forked tongues. And cacti that jump.

But they are very nice to look at, no?
And they are nearly in my backyard.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The story I can't tell you (because criminals might attack us in our own beds, if I do)

Had terrible dreams last night filled with creepy psycho-killer, with face of Chucky-slash-infantile Dwight Schrute, coming to get us. Did not sleep well. Am feeling rather groggy.

Also, am going to take sister Jen on her first trip to Ikea. Will be tour guide, instructing her to drink Lingonberry pop and eat hazelnut ballerina cookies, but to avoid meatballs. To buy cheap kitchen utensils and gift wrap, but not chipboard furniture. Etc.

But I haven't really done anything yet to celebrate Man Appreciation Week, and am feeling guilty. Don't want to have underappreciated men on my conscience. But what to say?

Have got it! Will ask a man! So, quizzed Jake: what would you like to see on my blog that would be very interesting to you and other males?

He had some ideas, all right.  Was full of them.

But am not going to take photos of self in bikini and post them on interweb. (Do not have bikini, among other reasons.)

Decided that Jake's list is rubbish. 

Decided will tell manly story about Jake and his property management adventures. One that made me sweaty-pitted and nervous. Only long, hot bath with Ben & Jerry was able to restore my equilibrium after tiny-anxiety-attack-inducing story.

Called Jake to get details so that story would be truthful, and full of journalistic integrity. (I was an editor on Granada Hills High School newspaper, Highlander Highlights, you know.)

Jake said cannot post story as we might get revenge-seeking criminal-types coming after us while we sleep, even though is super fabulous story, including crime-infested neighborhood, breaking and entering (Jake's), police helicopters, assorted cop cars sport parked at angles in street, Jake getting patted down and frisked in manner of common burglar and car thief (crimes which the police believed he had committed), and more. 

MUCH MORE. (I can't even tell you the best part of the story.)

I have to stop. May already have said too much. Is a dangerous game I am playing. 

This man stuff is serious business. Also, moderately exhausting.

Jake is perfectly well, in case you were wondering. But sometimes, I do wish he would go back to Tax Accounting. Although, not at this time of year. Is busy season. 

Update: if you are really dying to hear my story, send an email to kellybeeswax@gmail.com and I will email you all the gory details! Or leave your address in the comments, if you like. But give me a couple days, because I am going to cabin with Book Club tomorrow afternoon! Am thinking about making Barefoot Contessa's lemon curd tart to bring along, since bought cute new tart pan at Ikea for $3.99. Also, I have an entire tree full of ripe, juicy lemons, right in my backyard. Go ahead and be jealous, if you want.

Monday, February 02, 2009

It's Man Appreciation Week!

(The working title was "I Know What Boys Like," but then I googled the lyrics, and that song is a bit more suggestive than I actually remembered. So I nixed that idea. Sorry, boys.)

So, what about the boys, er, men? 

Well, in general, I assume they aren't reading my blog. In my mind, I write to all you lovely ladies out there. I whine about my thighs or my new haircut. You leave me comments telling me my legs are just fine and that The Rachel is totally back.  Is wonderful, symbiotic relationship, in manner of Amazon Fruit Bats and fig trees, or Sea Anemones and Clownfish. 

I figured I drove away any male readership long ago. All except my Dad, maybe. Hi Dad! 

Even my husband quit reading, or at least went deep underground. I tested him with occasional sneaky references to things I only wrote on the blog. I only received blank, uncomprehending stares. 

Honestly, it was sort of liberating.

But then last week, a few things happened to make me think that maybe there ARE some boys out there, and that I have been neglecting them horribly.

Let me tell you what happened:

1. First, my husband tells me that his mission companion, a SLC lawyer we shall call BART (we'll call him that, cause that's what I call him, even though his real name is Ryan Braithewaite), has been reading this blog. When BART read about how Jake brought me Chili's Molten Chocolate Cake with chocolate and caramel last week, he rung Jake up, long distance, just to call him a wuss. (Or similar. Not sure of actual names called.)

I apologized to Jake, and told him I had no idea that any men would be reading said post. I told him that I figured all the female readership would only think more highly of him, and might even perhaps be a little jealous of me for having such a dreamy, cake-fetching spouse.

Jake told BART that the Chili's cake was already in the works before I even mentioned Ina's TV cake, but honestly, that only shows he is so in tune with my needs, that he can fulfill them before my own conscious mind is even aware of them. Doesn't do much to re-establish macho credibility, IMO.

2. Remember when I went to El Charro last June? How could you forget, right? Well, in that post I mentioned a boy who took me there in 1992. I named him (by his actual, real-life name) in the post, and he actually did google himself, and sent me an email to tell me that he still loves El Charro; that he is married with five kids and lives in Gilbert; and that although El Charro does, in fact, rock the taco, if I really wanted a mind-blowing burro, I should try Espo's in Chandler (not a direct quote).

3. Lastly, at the Beeson Bonfire Saturday night (click there and here for pictures. I'm in the hot pink hoodie), Jake's brother Brigham commented on my hot dog's religion, which lead me to believe he'd read this old post.

So you see, four boys (er, men. Very manly men) right there. (I'm including Dad).

So I thought that this week, I would blog about things that boys like! A sort of MAN APPRECIATION CELEBRATION! Because we (speaking for women in general now, not for self only) also have important symbiotic relationship with you men, in manner of birds and bees (birds and bees with flowers, not with each other. Latter is against laws of nature).

Tomorrow I will brainstorm some BOY BLOG ideas, but in the meantime...

There was a Big Football Game yesterday, right? Big home team was in it? But they lost? Are you very sad, boys? Please share feelings.  Is safe, nurturing-type environment here at None of Your Beeswax. 

Is okay to cry.

Girls are invited, too. Of course. You can discuss football. 
Or, you can talk about boys.