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Math is hard

A couple decades ago, Mattel had the misguided vision to release a talking Barbie doll, one of whose onion-skin-witty quips has apocryphally been forever captured as "Math is hard. Let's go shopping!" This Barbie and I, we're, like, BFFs . I…

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Limoncello di Hillsborough

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While the state of California was in the grip of the worst freeze in recent history, and citrus producers up and down the valley were suffering catastrophic losses, I enjoyed a bumper crop. Our friends Donna and Dennis had recently moved into a gorgeous house in Hillsborough, complete with a petite but prolific lemon tree in the back yard. One night, they brought us a paper shopping bag full of them.

Some were ready for use right away; others were still on the hard side and would benefit from a little quiet time in the corner, extending our enjoyment. Over the next couple of months, I made spaghetti al limone, chicken with fennel and lemon, a monster batch of preserved lemons and lord only knows how many vodka tonics. And we still had a mountain of the things left over.

I practically had to make limoncello.

I’ve been meaning to do so for quite some time. I’ve often been inspired to do so by my good friend Anita, a fine ‘cellist in her own right. She’s made not only limoncello but a seriously heady bergamocello, an ethereally perfumed Buddhacello (from a Buddha’s hand citron) and a difficult-to-name bloodorangecello, as well as any number of other interesting concoctions (such as a seriously complex nocino that I am still enjoying precious sips of, sparingly, two years later).

At its most basic definition, limoncello is simply the combination of a lemon-infused neutral liquor mixed with simple syrup. It’s less a recipe than a technique or, as I often think of such things, an equation. Algebra.

L=(((((v*p)+z)*t)-z)+(s+w))*t

To wit: Limoncello is the product of lemon zest and vodka of a given proof, left together for a quantity of time, after which you strain out the zest; to which you then add a simple syrup of sugar and water and let it rest again for a period of time to mellow and blend. How much of each of those variables is what drives your final product.

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Almond-ricotta cupcakes with lemon royal icing

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I was sort of strongarmed into the Cupcake Challenge co-hosted by Garrett of Vanilla Garlic and Cheryl (Chockylit) of Cupcake Bakeshop. "I expect you to participate," said Garrett. Far be it from me to back down from a challenge.

I have long enjoyed the cupcakey escapades of both bloggers. Many times have I been inspired to whip up some batter and snap to it. Yet, I must confess, I was a cupcake virgin. I had never baked a cupcake in my life.

So what does one do to pop one’s cupcake cherry? Cherry vanilla? Cute, but taken. Plain old Duncan Hines-style vanilla with chocolate frosting? Too boring. No, after weighing the options and dreaming of yummy flavors, I decided I wanted to make almond cupcakes with a lemon frosting.

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