The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 14, 2012

Indiana cooks turn lemons into sweets

For the Commercial-News

CAYUGA, Ind. — “Baking with Lemons” was the theme of the 15th annual Bakersfest held earlier this month at the Vermillion County Fairgrounds. The Bakersfest is sponsored by the Vermillion County Extension Homemakers and the Purdue University Cooperative Extension in Vermillion County.

Homemakers County President Belva Conner opened the day’s events by leading the pledge to the flag and the Homemakers Creed.

Becky Brown, Purdue University associate professor of linguists, gave a presentation on “French Food Culture from France to America.” She discussed how people associate high-end cuisine and culinary expertise with French cooking.

Many of the beginnings of French cuisine actually originated in Italy with Catherine de Medici, an Italian aristocrat who married French King Henry II. She became queen of France and when she moved from Italy, she brought her chefs and bakers with her. Catherine also introduced the use of the fork to France.

The French also wrote cookbooks, such as the “Leviandier” in 1935 with Taillevent and “Le cuisinier francois” written in 1651. With the use of cookbooks, food preparation could be shared and could travel to many other parts of the world. The French opened the first restaurants in the 18th century and they also began training their own chefs.

China also had ancient manuscripts describing food preparation. One from the 8th century was a description on the art of drinking tea. China passed down its recipes orally, which could lead to ingredients being added or forgotten.

French food culture came to the United States through travelers, restaurants, literature, cookbooks, chefs and also visiting foreign dignitaries. Julia Child helped transcribe the French recipes into English and also hosted her own cooking show to help others learn the French preparation techniques.

Brown said a great way to garnish a crepe like the French is to sprinkle it with granulated sugar and then squeeze fresh lemon juice on it. That gives it that sweet–tart taste that makes it wonderful.

Alice Alderson, HHS educator of the Parke County Extension office, was the judge.

The winners for the 2012 Bakersfest contest were:

— Breads champion: Sheila Adams — Lemon Blueberry Drizzle Bread

— Cakes champion: Carolyn Stewart — Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake

— Cookies champion: Belva Conner — Lemon Coconut Bars

— Muffins champion: Carolyn Stewart — Tuscan Lemon Muffins

— Pies champion: Carolyn Stewart — Whole Lemon Tart

Grand champion prize was won by Carolyn Stewart of Clinton, Ind. Reserve grand champion prize was won by Belva Conner of Hillsdale, Ind.

Whole Lemon Tart

(Carolyn Stewart)


1 ¾ cups flour

1/ 3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 ½ sticks) cold butter, chunked

1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. In food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon rind. Mix to blend.

Add butter pieces and pulse until incorporated and mixture turns to moist crumbs. Pour mixture into tart pan and press evenly over bottom and up sides of pan. Freeze shell for 15 minutes. Partially bake shell at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Lemon filling

2 lemons (about 4½ ounces each)

2 cups sugar

1 stick butter, cut into chunks

5 large eggs

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven 350° F. Place the tart shell on a baking sheet.

Slice the lemons into thin wheels, remove any seeds. Pulse lemons, sugar and chunks of butter into a food processor until pureed. Add eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse until the batter is smooth.

Pour filling into prepared tart shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until light brown on top. Let cool on rack, and then chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Lemon-Coconut Bars

(Belva Conner)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped slivered almonds, toasted

1 cup powdered sugar, divided

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup butter, soft

Lemon Chess Pie filling (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour and 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly.

Stir in almonds. Firmly press mixture into a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch pan.

Bake crust at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Lemon Chess Pie Filling

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon flour

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/4 cup milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lemon zest

Whisk together all Lemon Chess Pie Filling ingredients. Makes 3 cups. Use immediately.

Stir filling and coconut together; pour over baked crust. Bake entire dish at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes or until set.

Cool in pan on a rack. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar, and cut into bars. Makes 32 bars.


A “Baking with Lemons” Bakersfest cookbook with the recipes from all the entrants is available for $2 at the Vermillion County Extension Office, P.O. Box 250, Newport IN 47966. Call (765) 492-5332.