Holy Shlemonade

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Lemonade has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. My grandmother kept an orange Gatorade cooler full of triple-strength Country Time on the porch at the lake, and while we were down there during the summers it’s hard to remember a time when I didn’t have a glass within reach.

Obviously, my family likes our lemonade with pucker, but we weren’t quite prepared for Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market’s version. It packs a punch.

Let me set the scene for you.

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It’s a weekday afternoon, right around 4:00. We’ve stopped on the way home from school to pick up a few essentials – bread, milk, eggs – plus a snack for my brother and me. We’d grabbed soft pretzels or croissants or something – I can’t remember what now – plus a quart of the lemonade to share.

Once we got back to the car, we tore into the pastries, and, well, what happened next has passed into family legend.

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Jay took a sip from the bottle and made a face that Mom couldn’t see.

“You have to try this,” he said. “It’s amazing!” And so the bottle was passed to Mom. We watched, rapt, as she put the miniature milk jug to her lips and drank.

“HOLY S**T!”

It’s one of only a handful of times I have ever heard my mother swear. And so Holy Shlemonade passed into legend.

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You see, Holy Shlemonade isn’t really lemonade in the traditional sense. It’s more like lightly sweetened lemon juice with just enough lime to get into the back of your mouth and tingle.

The ingredient list on the bottle reads, in this order, “lemon juice, lime juice, water, sugar.” And that order, my friends, is important. Because ingredient labels are written in decreasing order of concentration.

Yeah, it’s intense.

So when Ruthie* came over to upgrade her RAM, I figured it was the perfect time to finally make it for myself.

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We spent the afternoon playing alchemist, trying different ratios of lemon and lime until we finally got it right. Let me tell you, what we ended up with is worth squeezing two pounds of citrus for.

It is intensely citrus-y, an insanely refreshing summertime punch of lemon and lime with just enough sweetness to balance the bright sourness of the pure fruit. This lemonade is tart enough to make the back of your mouth tingle, but sweet enough to keep you coming back for more.

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How do I know we got it right? When I gave it to Mom to try this afternoon, she almost swore.

I’ll chalk the discrepancy up to preparation.

Holy Shlemonade
Makes a bit more than a quart

If you don’t like your lemonade tart enough to pucker, just add more water or simple syrup until it tastes right to you. This is fantastic mixed half-and-half with sparkling water, and if you happen to have any left (I’ve never managed it), I bet it would make amazing popsicles.

Also, this recipe should work like a ratio, so if you don’t have exactly enough of anything, or want to scale up or down, it should be fine. Just use two parts lemon, 2/3 part lime, etc.

2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 7 lemons)
2/3 c freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 8 limes)
1 c simple syrup
1 1/3 c water

In a large pitcher or mason jar, mix together the lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup and water. Chill and serve over ice.

If you want to get fancy, toss a few of the spent lime or lemon halves into the simple syrup while it comes to a boil. It’ll infuse the syrup with lemon or lime flavor and add a little extra zing. Plus, you can use leftover lemon or lime syrup (if you have any) in anything – cocktails, sweet tea, as a dressing for fruit salad, in sorbets, heck, you could probably put it in your coffee if you wanted to.

*Who, by the way, was the mastermind behind much of the photo styling in this post. I bow to her genius.

 

Beer (can be) toast

Let me set the scene for you. It’s a little over a month into my second semester of college and I’m sitting in a hotel room in Houston, Texas, with 10 other people. The sounds of slightly overserved twenty-somethings mix with fragments of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Ni**as in Paris” pouring out of a jailbroken iPod Touch. I’m wearing a screaming green ballcap from a sorority date night  because one of the boys put it on me and I was too tired to do anything about it. A couple people are swing-dancing in the sitting room-cum-office that meant we were allowed to call the room a suite.

I am 19 years old, and have not yet learned the futility of arguing with drunk people. So when Ross came out with the now-infamous argument that “beer is toast,” I didn’t leave well enough alone.

“What?” I said, putting all the incredulity I could muster into my voice.

“Beer is toast,” Ross said. “Beer is made of wheat. Toast is made of wheat. Therefore, beer is toast”

“No, it’s not,” I said. I then went on to explain all the ways in which beer and toast are different, up to and including the maillard reaction and the fermentation processes that turn the sugars in wheat into ethanol.

“Beer is wheat. Toast is wheat. Beer is toast because reasons” was the reply.

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The argument is ongoing.

The repertoire has expanded into both bread and salad, and despite the fact that bread is probably the closest edible analogue to beer we have, beer is not, nor will it ever be, toast or anything else. Beer is beer. Toast is toast. Drunk arguments, bless them, are drunk arguments.

That doesn’t mean that beer doesn’t make great bread (and, by extension, great toast). Googling “beer bread” turns up 10,400,000 results that range from quick breads to beer-scented yeast loaves.

But if I’m going to turn beer into toast, I have some very specific requirements. One, beer should be prominently featured in the flavor profile. That means the bread should be malty, dark, and maybe just a little bit bitter – which drives me towards the whole wheat end of the spectrum. Second, the recipe better use a whole bottle, because I can’t stand having tail-ends of beer lying around going flat in my refrigerator. It shouldn’t be sweet or cakelike. I’d also like to be able to whip it up in the same amount of time it takes to grab a cold one from the ‘fridge, which pretty much knocks yeasted doughs out of the running.

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I’m pretty sure this hits the spot. It took a little tweaking, but I think I’ve got the balance right – dense and not too sweet, with the pleasant chewiness of whole wheat and a hint of bitter salt from the baking powder. Best of all, it takes about 5 minutes to throw together and goes from thought to table in less than hour. And it makes the house smells amazing.

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Whole Wheat Beer Bread
Inspired by Ali’s Honey Beer Bread at Gimme Some Oven

168g (1 1/2 c) all-purpose flour
170g (1 1/2 c) whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tbsp honey
4 tbsp butter, melted
12 oz. (one bottle) beer, preferably something malty. I used an amber my roommate and I brewed a month or two ago.
rolled oats, for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

This is a quick bread, which means that devotees of Alton Brown (like Ross and myself) will be unsurprised to discover that we’ll be employing the muffin method – the wet and dry ingredients will be assembled separately, then wet is added to dry and briefly mixed to combine.

So let’s start with the dry ingredients. Combine both flours, the baking powder and the salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. You could also sift everything together, but I find that the wheat germ and bran can get stuck in the sifter mesh, which sort of defeats the purpose of using whole wheat flour in the first place.

Melt the butter in a small bowl, then add the honey. If you want, you can microwave the honey for a few seconds so it pours more easily. Mix the two together, then add the beer (if you’re like me, you’ll open it with the back end of a paint key because you lost your bottle opener in the move). If your beer is cold, the butter might solidify again. You’ll be able to tell if the mixture looks a bit curdled. Don’t worry about it – it won’t affect how the bread comes out.

Pour the beer mixture into the dry ingredients and mix them with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until they’re just combined and no dry pockets of flour remain. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (or whatever you have around – quick breads are pretty forgiving), and sprinkle the top with rolled oats if you want to.

Bake for 40-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the fattest part of the loaf comes out clean. You’re supposed to let the bread cool to room temperature so the proteins can set before you cut into it, but so far I haven’t managed it.

And yes, this bread makes fantastic toast. I love it glazed with orange marmalade or thickly spread with salted butter and honey.