Cooks and bakers cherish lemons because they offer two ways to utilize their full, fresh flavors. The pulp and juice of the lemon provide both flavor and a useful acidity, while the colored portion -- or zest -- of the peel has a brighter, more concentrated lemon flavor. Lemon zest is usually used fresh, to take full advantage of the flavor compounds in its volatile oils. However, roasted zest -- actually lightly toasted -- has a mellower flavor with nutty and sweet overtones that give character to sauces and baked goods.
Remove the zest from whole lemons in strips that are 1/4- to 3/8-inch wide, using a vegetable peeler or paring knife. If your lemons have already been juiced, quarter the rinds and remove as much of the white pith as possible with a sharp, flexible paring knife or the bowl of a spoon.
Arrange the strips of lemon peel evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leave them to dry in a warm spot for a day or two, if time is not an issue. For quicker drying, place the sheet in your oven and heat it to its lowest temperature setting. Dry the zest in the oven for an hour or two, turning it frequently, until it's crisp and brittle.
Remove the pan and warm your oven to 275 or 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Return the pan of oven-dried or air-dried lemon peels to the oven once it comes up to temperature.
Roast the dried zest for five to eight minutes, shaking or turning it periodically, until the pieces are an even golden-brown color. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.
Package the dried zest in airtight bags or containers once it has cooled completely. Simmer the zest in sauces, or grind it in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and use the powdered zest as a spice. Alternatively, use it to lend a subtle lemon flavor to baked goods, such as muffins or pound cake.
Items you will need
- Vegetable peeler or paring knife
- Parchment paper
- Baking sheet
- Airtight bags or containers
- Mortar and pestle, or spice grinder
- To save electricity, toast the lemon zest in your oven as it cools from other baking projects. Watch the peel closely, as it can quickly become scorched and unusable.
- The Professional Pastry Chef; Bo Friberg
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