I always love celebrating the seasonal changes at the solstices. It is a way for me to stay connected to the natural cycles and the seasons especially now that I am living in Florida and we don’t have as many stark seasonal changes as we did when we lived in New England. We have made some good friends here in Saint Augustine over the past year and I really wanted to give thanks for new friendships and old by hosting a gathering on the Winter Solstice which is historically a time to celebrate new beginnings, since it is a day to mark the lengthening of the days and shorter nights.
Winter is also citrus season here in Florida, and so I recently got a load of delicious Meyer lemons to make limoncello at the farmers market. I started the limoncello about 2 weeks ago and it is still steeping, but once I removed the rinds from the lemons, there were all these lemons that I needed to do something with. So I started thinking ahead and towards this party.
Lemons are yellow and their taste is bright which I felt corresponded nicely with the holiday we were celebrating – the coming of the sun.
So I focused my menu on lemons and made Limoncello Cupcakes filled with fresh lemon curd and topped with creamy limoncello icing. We also served some signature drinks called “Sunshine in a Cup” made with lemon basil and lemon lavender syrups.
There was Gløgg, a Nordic spiced wine that is traditionally served during this time of year, Eggnog with rum and Panettone which is a common cake served in Italy during the holiday season. We also had roasted chestnuts, and a cheese plate. People also brought treats like spinach dip with olive bread, white bean dip with pita chips, spiced gingerbread brownies, tapenade and of course lots of wine. We had a great time with our friends and I think it would be great to make this a yearly tradition.
Cupcake recipe from Eddybles
1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel, no pith
2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons limoncello
1 tablespoon milk
1 batch of lemon curd – I used Alton Brown’s recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/lemon-curd-recipe/index.html
1 batch of limoncello whipped cream – just make regular whipped cream and add 1 TBS of limoncello.
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients except for 2 tablespoons limoncello and milk. Pulse until the batter is smooth. As the food processor runs, slowly add in remaining limoncello and milk through the funnel and mix until completely incorporated into the batter.
2. Divide the mixture up into the 16 bun muffin pan and bake for 15-20 minutes until the cupcakes have risen and are golden brown on top.
3. Remove from the oven and cool the cupcakes for a few minutes in the tin before removing from the tin and cooling completely. Once cool, fill with lemon curd and frost. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Yield: 16 cupcakes
Sunshine in a Cup
1 oz. shot lemon-basil syrup or lemon-lavender
1 1/2 shot vodka
lemon peel garnish
To Make the Syrups:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves or 1TBS dried lavender
1/2 meyer lemon quartered
Throw all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes until fragrant. Let cool. Strain liquid into a glass jar.
This is not a traditional Gløgg recipe as I decided to use plum mulling spices I found.
1 bottle of red wine
4 TBS Organic Plum Mulling spices by Archer Farms (can be gotten at Target)
1/2 cup sugar
splash of vodka or brandy
raisins and sliced almonds garnish
Pour wine and mulling spices into a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. let steep for 2 hours. Before serving, let simmer for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with raisins and blanched almonds.