High Country Baking: Ditch the oven for eazy frozen lemon cups (column)
July 4, 2018
High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Wait … what was I talking about?
It's true, I've been known to get way off topic, but today I'm doing it intentionally. While baking is the theme of this column, I've decided to share a recipe that never sees the inside of an oven. Why am I making such an obvious transgression? Because everyone needs a few recipes that are always a hit, work every time we use them and couldn't be easier to make — this is one of them. So, please forgive my lapse in focus and meet this super-simple dessert.
It's a smooth, cool, sweet-sour concoction, served prettily in individual ramekins, that features a refreshing lemon flavor (control the flavor by the amount of lemonade concentrate you use) and a velvety texture that's heaven on the tongue (think frozen custard). The little cups of creamy goodness please just about everyone and are a suitable ending to almost any meal, from casual to swanky. I usually top them with a mixture of berries and accompany them with a crisp shortbread cookie to provide a delightful contrast to their lovely soft texture. But no worries if you do neither; they're just fine on their own.
Not crazy about lemon? Feel free to change the dominant taste to lime or orange; just substitute a juice concentrate of that flavor. No fresh berries for the topping? Omit it all together or use slightly thawed frozen ones. Serving a crowd? The recipe is easily doubled or tripled. There are really only two things that must occur for the recipe to work: All of the ingredients have to be cold when you begin … not just cool, COLD. And the cups need to spend the night in the freezer, so plan ahead.
Easy Frozen Lemon Cups
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Make in 4-ounce ramekins
Yields 6 cups
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, cold
1 ½ tablespoons superfine sugar, preferably Baker's
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk (half a can), cold
4-6 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate
1 tablespoon berry preserves
¾ cup mixed berries
Sugar to taste
1. Place a mixing bowl, preferably metal or glass, and the beaters for your electric mixer in the freezer for at least 25 minutes before beginning the recipe. If your whipping cream hasn't been refrigerated for at least 10 hours, stick it in the freezer for 25 minutes as well. Cream whips much faster when it, the bowl it's beaten in and the beaters it's beaten with are very cold. Make sure the lemonade concentrate is truly frozen and the sweetened condensed milk is well chilled.
2. Beat the cold cream, sugar and vanilla, in the cold bowl with the cold beaters, at medium speed until stiff peaks form. Set this aside. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and still-frozen lemonade concentrate in a second bowl. Use 6 ounces of the concentrate for a distinct lemon taste, less for a milder one. Wipe off the beaters for your electric mixer and, at low speed, mix until the two are completely blended. Use a large silicone spatula to fold the whipped cream into the milk/lemonade mixture until no streaks of cream are visible and it's evenly distributed.
3. Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins, smooth and level the tops, cover them with plastic wrap or place them in a plastic container (I stick them in a 9×13 inch Tupperware container with an airtight top) and freeze them for at least 24 hours and up to three days.
4. If you're using the topping, put the preserves in a microwave-safe bowl and heat them in a microwave oven until they're almost liquid (I use the high setting for 10 to 15 seconds). Remove the bowl from oven and stir in a teaspoon of sugar. If you're using larger berries like strawberries, slice them into four to six pieces, add them to the bowl with the rest of the fruit and gently stir/toss to lightly coat all of it with the preserves. Give it a taste and, if needed, add more sugar. If you're not using it immediately, refrigerate the topping for up to an hour. Just before serving, remove the lemon cups from the freezer and quickly spoon on the topping, dividing it evenly among them. While some diners prefer the cups slightly melted, most like them best right out of the freezer.
Vera Dawson, author of the high-altitude cookbooks Baking Above It All and Cookies in the Clouds, (available at The Bookworm in Edwards and Next Page Bookstore in Frisco), is a high-altitude baking teacher. Her recipes have been tested in her Summit County kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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