I love lemons. Others may love chocolate or more exotic choices, but my heart belongs to the bright acidic flavour and smell of lemons. Call me boring or call me unadventurous, but I will take lemon curd over chocolate mousse any day of the week. Our visit to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast was instant immersion into the land of lemons. Small lemons, big lemons, smooth lemons, bumpy lemons, and lemons as big as my head called limoncedro were sold in every town and citrus trees grew everywhere. To my understanding, limoncedro are used mainly for candied peel whereas regular limone are typical multi-purpose lemons, used for juice and zest as well as in the production of limoncello, a lemon liqueur which is the Sorrentine Peninsula's most famous product.
Oddly, I did not purchase any limoncello while in Sorrento for fear of breakage in transit and instead, was determined to make my own upon return having seen the simple process on the Food Network years ago. Certain recipes use vodka (40 to 50% alcohol) while others prefer up to 95% alcohol for maximal extraction of lemon oil. My liver and I opted for vodka instead of pure ethanol and as fate would have it, I received two free little bottles of EFFEN vodka (say it out loud, yes, it is pure marketing genius) in a gift bag from a certain awards ceremony I recently attended.
By simply combining vodka and lemon zest (no pith please) and waiting for a week, a beautiful golden hue was lent to the vodka and the aroma was intoxicating. After removing the zest, simple syrup was added and my limoncello was done. Had I steeped the zest even longer than a week, the lemon flavour could have been even more intense but I wanted to use my liqueur right away.
After four months of gathering dust, the cookbook Indulge: 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark from The French Laundry, was given the attention it deserved. This cookbook is well-organized; the ingredients are presented by weight thankfully and the methods are descriptive and detailed, appropriate for serious amateurs and pastry professionals alike. I found a use for my limoncello in the "adult lemon trifle" recipe, an opportunity to use up some leftover lemon curd and yellow cake which was hibernating in the freezer.
The lemon curd was sandwiched between thin layers of yellow cake, which was then cubed and drenched in my homemade limoncello. Lemon posset was poured over the soaked cubes and topped with homemade amaretti crumbs and whipped cream. I had never heard of possets previously but this silky mix of lemon juice, sugar, and hot cream is so easy to make that it is almost embarassing. Having about 200 millilitres of limoncello left, we will have opportunities to reminisce about the lemons of the Amalfi Coast in the weeks to come.