Zesting is a must-have skill in the kitchen for citrus-loving home cooks and bakers. Not only is it easy to master, but citrus zest can take any dish from ordinary to extraordinary. You can amplify your baked goods with a touch of orange, lemon or lime for a real kick.
Why Zest Is the Best
Citrus zest adds delicate yet evident flavor to an array of popular baked goods, like these sweet-tart lemon cream cupcakes, shortbread lemon bars, orange cranberry bread and an all-time favorite—Key lime pie!
So, what makes zest so special? Why not just add juice or fruit? The reason is that zest doesn’t change the actual chemistry of the treat while baking in the oven. For example, if you decide to use lemon juice in place of a few tablespoons of lemon zest, you’ll end up with a much different texture since the ingredients react differently.
Zest and juice also provide slightly different flavor notes. Citrus zest is the colored part of the peel that holds the fruit’s essential oils, which provide a bright, sweet flavor. Citrus juice has a tart, acidic taste.
How to Zest a Lemon
There are a few different ways to zest citrus rinds:
- Use a zester: Be sure to get yourself an ergonomic, high-quality zester (like this one from OXO) to make the job easy.
- Grab the grater: Use the sharp grater teeth to gently shave the zest.
- Invest in a Microplane: Rub the clean fruit over the microplane, using a light pressure and rotating the fruit as you work.
Easy Lemon Zest Substitutes
If you don’t have fresh citrus on hand to zest, not to worry. You can still perk up your baked goods with the help of a few quick substitutes.
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