Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy 4th Birthday, A Cook and Her Books!

Meyer lemon coconut macaroon tarts. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Today is the 4th birthday of my dear little blog. Some bloggers call this a blogiversary, certainly one of the more unfortunate and unappealing words to come out of the internet revolution. It’s not an anniversary, it’s a birthday. I gave birth to it, I didn’t marry it.

I’ve never told the story of how A Cook and Her Books came to be, and it could be that it’s interesting only to me. It began because it snowed and my mother-in-law came to visit. I had been interested in writing a blog for awhile, but had been distracted by new motherhood. I remember reading a how-to article that said if you’re passionate about a subject, absolutely you should blog about it. This little thought percolated in my brain until one January afternoon in 2008, when I sat down at the computer in a quiet house and decided it was time to start a blog.

It was cold. It was January. And I was at home with a 2 year old and an octogenarian who took afternoon naps. ­­ Not being the napping kind, I took to the computer, I logged on to Blogger, chose a name and wrote a post. The name "A Cook and Her Books" came quickly – I knew it needed to start with an “A” because I figured any list of blogs would be alphabetical, kind of the triple A theory of Yellow Pages placement. As for the rest of the title, my house is filled with books and I cook, simple as that.

The first post was a little recipe that I’d made a couple times before, back in my bridal and baby shower-giving days, a lovely mini macaroon tart filled with lemon curd. I wrote a headnote and the recipe and hit “publish.” No pictures, no nothing. And so it went for the first couple of years. I occasionally added a picture, I didn’t always include a recipe, and sometimes I would get a comment from someone who wasn’t related to me.

Things have changed a little bit since then. For one, I include at least one picture with each post now. I also include recipes, rather than just rambling on and on about food. I talk about the blog on Twitter and Facebook and have a bit of a following. It’s still the Little Blog that Could, but I’m having more fun than ever with it – I have more stories than I’ll ever have time to write and more recipes than I’ll ever have time to cook.

The best part of all is that I've been able to share with writers and readers across the country who find a connection in what I write about. I've said it before, and I truly believe it: my world may be small, but my kitchen is big.

If you’re a regular reader or a first-timer, thank you for taking the time to read my words. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.

And give these little lemon macaroon tarts a whirl - they are keepers. I've updated them with Meyer lemons, which mellows out the tartness a bit, and gives a surprising hint of orange to the lemon curd filling. If you can't find Meyer lemons, plain ol' lemons will work just fine.

Meyer Lemon Macaroon Tarts

Yield: 36 miniature tarts

for the shells
4 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites

Toss the coconut with the sugar and flour until well coated. Add the vanilla and the egg whites. Beat on medium high speed setting until well mixed. Press mixtures evenly on bottoms and up the sides of 36 well-greased, miniature muffin cups (sprayed first with nonstick spray). The mixture will be sticky, but manageable. You may dampen your fingertips with water to make the job easier.

Use a tart tamper, a cup of water, and a dab of patience to make macaroon tart shells. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Bake on the lower rack of a preheated 400 oven about 15 minutes or until edges are nicely browned. Shells will not appear done in their centers. Cool shells in their tins 2 to 3 minutes, then immediately loosen with a sharp knife and remove to a rack to cool before filling.

Shells can be prepared and baked in advance and held in the fridge several days or frozen up to 1 month. Thaw or allow shells to come to room temp before filling.

Meyer lemon curd filling

2 1/4 cup sugar
5 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp lemon zest
1 cup cold water
3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (from 2-3 lemons)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp unsalted butter
whipped cream, for serving
lemon zest strips, for serving

Whisk the sugar with the cornstarch and lemon zest in a saucepan, until well mixed, then gradually whisk in the cold water and the lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl until smooth, then gradually whisk about 1/4 of the hot lemon mixture into the eggs. Whisk constantly to keep the mixture smooth. Add the warmed egg mixture slowly back to the saucepan with the remaining hot lemon mixture, still whisking constantly.

Cook mixture, whisking constantly, still over medium heat, until thick and glossy. Remove from heat and whisk in the unsalted butter. Cool, then cover and chill thoroughly. Mixture can be held in the fridge for up to a week.

To serve, fill macaroon tart shells and garnish with whipped cream and lemon zest

Recipe is adapted from Homemade Good News, published a long time ago by Dixie Crystals Sugar.  

Footnote: while my dear mother-in-law visited, it began to snow. The girls were home from school and the fluffy flakes started falling. Here in Georgia, this is a rare and wonderful experience and it was the first time that the girls' grandmother got to see them play in the snow. She stood on our sheltered front porch watching the girls play. Here's a pair of pictures from that afternoon:


Anonymous said...

I for one am sooooo glad you sat at your computer and blogged about your passion. Your posts brighten my day and always put a smile on my face and often inspire me to bake something new. Keep those cards and letters coming, so to speak.
Carolyn W.

Angela said...

Happy Blogaversary!

linda @spiceboxtravels said...

Happy Day! Those are sweet little tarts, and little sweethearts, Lucy. To many more years of your fine blog.

bunkycooks said...

Happy birthday and I hope I see more of you this year!

Barbara Bakes said...

Happy Birthday. This looks like a fabulous recipe to celebrate with.

Miss @ Miss in the Kitchen said...

Happy Birthday to A Cook and her Books! 4 years that is excellent, your tarts sound like the perfect little dessert and those girls are adorable!

Bibi @ Bibi's Culinary Journey said...

Belated Birthday to you and your blog!

Those lemon tarts look so yummy and fresh. They give me the feeling of warmer days ahead.