Pretty In Pink
Celebrate late season citrus with a whole lemon torte
In the fall of 2021, I started interning at an organic farm because I can keep houseplants alive but basil and cilantro seemed to wither in my presence. One of the perks of the farm is an almost unlimited supply of citrus (calamansi, cara cara, blood orange, valencia, etc), so when I saw Kerri and Mark’s “whole-lemon torte” variation on the chocolate torte in Bittman Bread, my wheels started turning. I swapped out the lemons for sweet limes — a cross between Mexican limes and sweet lemons. The skins are thin, the juice is sweet, and the acidity is relatively low — similar characteristics to Meyer lemons they suggested in this variation.
For the icing, I combined 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar and 2 1/2 tablespoons of hibiscus vinegar (I found this locally). I highly encourage you to try fruit vinegar in your next flat icing. The slight tang from the vinegar balances the confectioners' sugar, and the hibiscus is a nice floral note with the lemon.
Never in my White Flour Pastry life did I think I’d be making a whole wheat, sourdough cake but here I am. Very happy to be here!
Whole Lemon Torte
Makes: 1 9-inch round or square cake
Time: 8 to 12 hours for the jumpstarter, 15 minutes to mix the batter, 50 to 60 minutes to bake the cake
100 grams whole wheat starter
250 grams whole wheat flour, plus 50 grams for feeding the starter
125 grams whole milk, plus more if needed
50 grams water for feeding the starter
113 grams (1 stick) butter, plus more for greasing the pan
2 Meyer lemons, ends trimmed and flesh cut away from the core, seeds removed, chopped in 1/4-inch bits
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
150 grams turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ice cream or whipped cream for serving
1. Combine the starter with 100 grams of the whole wheat flour and the milk in a bowl to make the jumpstarter. Stir with a rubber spatula or a big spoon until the jumpstarter comes together in a loose dough or a thick batter: no traces of dry flour should be seen. Cover the bowl with plastic or a damp kitchen towel and let it sit at room temperature overnight, anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. (You can refrigerate the jumpstarter after fermenting to hibernate for up to 24 hours; let it come to room temperature before proceeding.) Meanwhile, feed the starter: Add 50 grams each whole wheat flour and water and stir or shake. Cover and return it to the refrigerator.
2. An hour before ready to bake, take the butter out of the fridge to soften. Grease a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate, square baking pan, or baking dish, or 9-inch springform pan with extra butter. Combine the remaining 150 grams flour with the baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
3. Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the stick of butter in a large bowl with the sugar and beat with an electric mixer or whisk vigorously until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. (The sugar won’t dissolve.) Add lemons to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Beat or whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Beat or whisk until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat or whisk in the vanilla. (It’s ok if the sugar isn’t completely dissolved.)
4. Fold in the jumpstarter and the flour mixture with a rubber spatula or big spoon until just combined. The batter will be a little stiff but not quite as firm as cookie dough; add a little more milk if necessary.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
Cool in the pan on a wire rack. (At this point, take Holly’s advice and make the icing.) Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream or whipped cream. Cover any leftover cake to store at room temperature and eat within a day, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
— Recipe from Bittman Bread