The one o’clock hour on Friday was somewhat gloomy. Lowly-hanging clouds shadowed the sky; needless to say that the light coming through the office’s tinted windows was minimal.
Ready to stretch my legs during my break, I knew at trip to Reading Terminal Market would brighten my spirits. Some might consider heading downtown to be a little ambitious for an hour lunch break, but I consider the trek well worth my time.
I do my usual lap between stalls — passed the mountains of colored produce at Iovine Brother’s and the daintily-adorned cakes and cannoli at Termini bakery. The line at Basset’s Ice Cream was growing with tourists and grandparents with their eager grandchildren. There was not a single empty seat at the breakfast bar at the Dutch Eating Place.
I slowed my pace at the Metropolitan Bakery, and peered into their display case. After considering the applebran tartlet, I chose the lemon bar. The bright, happy color seemed appropriate for this occasion.
Taking up a chair amongst the crowded tables, I listen to the pianist as I unwrap my Friday treat. I don’t recognize today’s featured musician; she could have been a retired music teacher. There was no concrete reason to play the piano anymore, but she still needed listeners for her music. Interpreting the score through the bottom half of her bifocals, she only looked away at the end of the aria, leaning into the major chords just to perpetuate their majesty.
Now that my auditory senses were comforted, my tastebuds needed their own TLC. The lemon bar did just that — the peppy color translated to into a zest-fest on my palate. The crust bunched and crumbled pleasantly — didn’t flake like shortening lends itself towards.
Getting up to throw away the empty bag and parchment, I see a few middle-aged ladies seated at a table poking and proding at the same lemon bar I downed by myself. How their mouths could be as happy as mine was, I couldn’t tell you.
These few moments over a lemon bar inspired me to attempting my own lemon dessert. I’d been pouring over Alice Waters’ lemon curd recipe for some time, so this would be my means of recreating this culinary love treatment.
Reader, please do not be disappointed by my unseasonal choice. After all, lemons are readily stocked in markets and grocery stores year round, so why not bring a little summer to the mid-winter months?
Slowing cooking the curd over medium heat, I waited until the mixture coated my wooden spoon. I have to say — the creamy, zingy curd that filled my mouth with a bright satisfaction is indebted to a few simple ingredients. Farm fresh butter (courtesy of Trickling Springs Creamery) brought a delightfully smooth and fatty texture. I used the measurment index in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking to ensure my butter measurement was accurate. Farmer’s butter isn’t portioned to the perfect tablespoon measurements like factory-manufactured butter. Local free-range eggs guaranteed the curd to bond and stiffen to a quasi-custard state. Utilizing the lemons’ juice and zest gains the full attention of your palate.
The only question now is how to apply this delightful spread — on humbly toasted bread or poured into a tart crust?