I strongly disagree. On both counts. A.) If used in the correct amount, lemon zest is PERFECT in blueberry muffins and B.) a couple of months ago I had a cinnamon bun completely redolent with cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon zest and it was one of the BEST THINGS I HAVE EVER EATEN. To each his own, right?
(Although I’m completely with you on the chocolate-and-lemon-zest-is-abhorrent thing.)
This made me laugh out loud! I cringed trying to imagine cinnamon and lemon in the same bite. I agree, there’s no accounting for taste. And even when lemon should be used (for example somewhere that it actually belongs), there’s no subtlety. When overused, there’s a bitterness that just ruins it. I’ve stopped ordering anything lemon anywhere because it’s often so offensive tasting.
I think I can tolerate more lemon zest than most. We had a farm and were taught to eat up every part of lemon. Mom used to make candies out of the zesty layers. She knew how to cook 60 different of vegetables. My taste buds are different than most folks I meet as a result.
I was SO happy to see you post this, cause I’ve felt the same way for years. Certain foods are “bullies” and take-over a recipe. If the recipe is supposed to celebrate some other ingredient, that ingredient gets washed-out.
My pet peeve is oranges and cranberries. I LOVE cranberries and I live in New England where we grow lots of them. I don’t love cran-orange. To me, the orange is just a bully and it takes away from the sweet clean tartness of true cranberry flavor. Yet almost every recipe involving cranberries involves oranges, orange juice or orange zest.
Another pet peeve is apples and pork. In this case, it’s not that the apples are bullies. In fact, they go quite well with pork. It’s that there’s a severe lack of originality when it comes to pork. “Making pork? I’ll just reach for the apples.” My wife is allergic to apples and I find it very difficult to find new recipes and inspiration because pork is almost always paired with apples.
YES! to this post and to you not taking it anymore! :P Power to the non-zest people!
I’ve recently made an earth shatteringly great recipe from Nigella Lawson which is her lemon polenta cake which involved tons of zest and juice which is the whole point…BUT yours is the exact reason why i avoid most blue(berry) baked goods because they brim them which lemon zest and all the sweet berry flavor gets lost. And a definite no to chocolate and lemon together, especially since i’ve never liked the chocolate orange combo either.
Once again you brought tears to my eyes. You’re right on about these bullies. But, your timing is also perfect. I’m in the process of dehydrating some lemon and lime peels to make powders. Don’t worry. They won’t be used in blueberry muffins. I sometimes use the lemon powder along with black pepper when roasting asparagus and I’m making the lime powder to sprinkle on some kale chips I’ll be dehydrating.
And, I totally agree with Justin regarding orange and cranberries. The citrus simply doesn’t belong there.
I really like Curmudgeon Lotte + Doof the most, and I was ranting in my head the other day about lemon zest, but not because of this. It’s because, IMHO, zest doesn’t add pop, it adds fragrance, or an herbaceous lemon vibe. It has zero acidity. Juice has that.
Also on my Rants I Haven’t Written Yet, I would like to tell the microplane zester that it’s time is up. I hate the papery puff it makes of ingredients. Have you ever tried to measure 1 cup of microplaned parmesan? A total nightmare and the biggest pile adds little flavor because it weighs about 3 grams. Thanks for letting me air that out.
I love this post. Your passion for food is really wonderful. I admit, I love lemon and its zest in any way-shape-or form. BUT, anything trendy and overdone. Is just that….trendy and overdone. At the moment, lemon-zest gets the award for trendy and overdone. Hopefully, the trend will pass…..I remember a time that blueberries. Yes, blueberries seemed to be in everything. I love them. But in a bagel???? No, no never. ‘had a majorly heated argument with a friend that didn’t get my concern-upset-annoyance. Hmmmm. Haven’t seen that guy in a long time.
Incidentally, IMMEDIATELY after reading this entry I read an entry on another food blog – that mentioned improving a recipe BY ADDING LEMON ZEST. This is going to be one of those things I start seeing everywhere now.
Chuckling. I’m a novice cook, so it is easy for me to get pulled into the “add lemon zest” movement. Feels like I am doing something fancier. Now, my self-esteem is destroyed, but I realize that’s a good thing because clearly it was falsely inflated. I do love citrus, so, my cranberries might always have a little bit of orange and my blueberries might have a tiny taste of lemon (or lime). However, I will now be reconsidering and questioning before I add any. I thank you for that! : )
We’re not going to get away from it. Bon Appetit’s May 2016 issue, p. 157, states “Finely grated lemon zest is essential for adding brightness to your desserts and vinaigrettes, but long, super-thin slivers of lemon add massive flavor and texture to dishes…”
HOWEVER…* big pause* A judicious amount of lemon does do incredible things to a lot of recipe. I’m thinking of cauliflower roasted with lemon, parmesan, chile and salt but it depends upon the skill level and palate of the person wielding said lemon.
As for muffins, *meh*. They are tiresomely boring in themselves when you think of the thousands of baked goods a place could be making and selling. They are the cake equivalent of spaffing on.
I think its absolutely appropriate and virtually required that I respond to this — as the name of my blog is Garlic + Zest. Yes, I love zest — in all forms — lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pomelo, mandarin, you name it. I don’t put it in EVERYTHING, just the recipes that benefit from it. And I do happen to like a little zest in my blueberry muffins — thankyouverymuch. To me, they are a divine combination.
That said, I can (and do) show restraint where warranted. And speaking of out-of-control food trends Chia? As in ch-ch-ch-chia (pet). And smoothie bowls? It’s a smoothie — DRINK IT!
Right on, brother. I rarely want baked goods with a lemon flavor, but when I do I’ll get something with lemon in the title. A blueberry muffin with lemon zest is a pet peeve of mine, too, and the cinnamon and lemon combo sounds dastardly.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to admit this but here goes…Post college and in my very early cooking years – I went to the grocery store and I asked where they kept the lemon zest. It went as well as you imagine. Whew. Feels good to get that out there.
Love this post. This is exactly how I feel about honey!! I adore and appreciate honey, but does it have to be in EVERYTHING? Do my entrees, sides, salads and desserts ALL need to be sweet? Can we not let a savory be savory?
I like to add lemon flavoring with lemon grass, lemon verbena, or lemon balm. They add an herbal or floral note to broths and custards that is less bright than using lemon peel. I also like to use a twist of lemon or other citrus to things. Peel the lemon and then twist the peel to add the lemon oil to a martini or expresso. I peel an orange over oreo cookies in a tin and then twist the orange peels over the cookies some more. Tuck in a few of the peels and then close the tin. The next day you have soft cakey oreos infused with the essence of orange. My favorite poppyseed cake does not have lemon zest, but brown, sugar, butter and vanilla.
This was my laugh for the day. Shared with quite a few people. Why are we so intent on making food taste like other food? I was at a shop today that offered samples of freshly made Marionberry smoothies. They looked lovely – rich purple, fresh, thick. My friend and I each took a sip and looked at the person behind the counter in confusion. “Turmeric!” she announced proudly. Yep, that lovely seasonal berry we anticipated was completely silenced. It was like sipping a pickle. Ugh.
This post made my evening. I have always been appalled by lemon zest in everything. One could do an entire post bemoaning the addition of lemon zest to cheesecake. There is nothing worse than getting bits of lemon stuck to your tongue, marring an otherwise creamy dream. Thank you again.
This post reminded me of a story my almost daughter in law (older son’s long term girlfriend) told over dinner the other night, about how, at their Thanksgiving that they call Friendsgiving, one of their friend’s then-girlfriend decided to “improve” the mashed potatoes with lemon zest. This was 5 or 6 years ago, the then-girlfriend is long gone, but they still joke about it; adding lemon zest stands for kind of messing something up.
Exactly. In my dorm days, there was 0 options for non-citrus pastries from the only nearby shop, P–ra. Because who the F puts ORANGE zest in a cinnamon role. Thus, I had no pastries. It was a very sad year. I transferred. Thank goodness.
Please. Please. Tell this to giada. I don’t know what happened to her but about 2 years into her television career lemon goes into EVERYTHING. It’s all she knows. It actually got to the point I’d be watching her cooking show with my dad and he would bursting out laughing every time she pulled out a lemon. it became a joke. I think she’d be done with the dish and then- oh no! she’d turn around with her maniacal grin and start zesting. Her “homemade” mayonnaise recipe is just regular mayonnaise with lemon zest added. Ugh.
Lemon zest in a cinnamon roll??? I can’t believe that happened to you! Why would anyone ever think that could possibly be acceptable? Blah! Yuck! It’s like I can taste it now, and I hate that it ever existed in this world. Disgusting. I’m so sorry.
And I have to add — I thought I never liked cheesecake when I was young, but then I discovered that I just didn’t like lemon zest in cheesecake, which is all I had been exposed to. Completely agree — it has no place there.
Tim, besides lemon zest, I realized I feel the same way about chocolate and chocolate chips too. And I think it’s fair to say that I love chocolate (I know you’re not a real fan), but it simply doesn’t need to be added to everything. Yesterday I saw a blog with Double Chocolate Bagels. That’s just wrong. Sometimes Less is More.
Tim, please put a warning at the top of this post. I read it while in a very snooty Houston coffee shop, and snorted coffee out of my nose. Thank you. Like my yoga pants and baseball cap at 2:00 in the afternoon weren’t enough to make me a pariah, I then had to pretend like I had pleurisy instead of just an insane love for your post.
And this is from someone who actually LOVES lemon. In everything. No hard feelings.
I think Oregon needs to send Chicago some blueberries, as soon as they ripen (it will be mid June). I’ve stood in the garden eating them – and only them – for dinner, many times, but they are never “piney”. Complex; delicious; tart, if they do not yield easily as you pick them yes. “Piney” like a long distance lover wishing for the caress of their beloved, perhaps; but never “piney” like a gin and tonic.
I loved this post, because I am actually ALLERGIC to lemon (orange and lime) and the trend of putting lemon zest in frickin’ everything could literally kill me. I carry an epi-pen like people do for peanut allergies. Foods I would think are safe just aren’t anymore. The blueberry muffin is my prime example of one that is NEVER safe for me anymore unless I make it at home. Starbucks changed their bakery items a while back and now just about everything in their pastry case has orange or lemon in it, cinnamon rolls included. ARGH! Put down the microplane indeed.
Yikes, strong talk! You forgot one exception for lemon zest…always use lemon zest for blueberry muffins when you forgot to buy the blueberries (may also substitute other citrus in this case, or anything else in the pantry.
As a lowly 6th-generation California lemon rancher, I feel I can clarify some of this with some veracity. I agree with what you are saying, but suggest the answer to your quandry lies in the word or the manner of “zesting”. Think of “zest” as meaning “orgasm”. Orgasms are wonderful, but you generally would not want to have them all the time, and wish for them to be as powerful as possible. Both zest and orgasm intimate that a very singlular occurrence is THE most POWERFUL experience. Take the humble gin and tonic. To properly zest a G&T, you should take a single, 1/8 inch strip of lemon rind and pith measuring approx. 1.5 inches long and hold it to the bottom of the glass with ice as you pour – no stirring or other. Or, you can just wave a 2 inch strip over the top of the glass as you are “zesting” (peeling) your lemon. This is the orgasmically correct amount of zest. Anything more, is simply overkill.
I came across a recipe for a veggie burger that contains lemon zest about 5 minutes ago which was about 5 minutes after I read this article. Hilarious as is this article. I love it and I so agree with you. DEATH TO THE LEMON!! Maybe that’s a little much….
Oh Sweet mother of god, I HOWLED reading this. Though I have a fondness for zest when lemon is the theme, i totally get the “Does everyone have to use [fill in the latest must-have ingredient here] in every freaking recipe?” Lemon zest in a cinnamon roll…tragic.