butter, cook, dessert, lemon curd, meringue, meyer lemon, pavlova
I don’t think the name “lemon curd” does justice to this rich, buttery custard; it is the perfect blend of velvety sweetness and citrus tang. This time of year, I like to make it with Meyer lemons, a hybrid cross of lemons and oranges that results in a juicier, more flavorful fruit. Lemon curd is a true culinary multi-tasker and can be used as a filling in tarts and cookies or as a topping on ice cream, meringue, or pancakes. A dollop instantly transforms gingerbread or vanilla pound cake. And in the midst of winter, you can’t go wrong with the gift of a bright yellow jar of lemony sunshine.
Meyer Lemon Curd
Makes about 1 3/4 cups
Zest and juice of 3-4 Meyer lemons (can substitute regular lemons if Meyer unavailable),
about 1/2 c. juice and 2 Tbsp. zest
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. fine salt
6 large egg yolks
1/2 c. cold unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into tablespoon-size pats
Whisk zest, juice, sugar, salt, and egg yolks in medium saucepan until smooth. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk and cook 10-12 minutes more until thickened to a custard-like consistency. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl, then whisk in butter a pat or two at a time, until all butter is melted and incorporated into the thick, glossy curd. Store in a wide-mouth pint mason jar or other airtight container; keeps in refrigerator up to two weeks.
Since making lemon curd leaves you with a passel of unused egg whites, it only seems logical to make a pavlova, as I did last week for a dear friend’s Thanksgiving birthday. A pavlova is layers of whipped cream, custard or fruit curd, and meringue; in this case, it’s Meyer lemon curd and a vanilla-scented meringue with a crispy exterior and marshmallow-chewy interior. Consider this post a two-fer. :)
4 egg whites
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or real vanilla extract
Preheat oven 300F. Place egg whites and sugar in bowl of electric mixer and mix on highest speed until glossy white and forming stiff peaks (about 5 minutes). It may be slightly grainy, but if you see lots of undissolved sugar, continue whisking until more incorporated. Add vanilla and whisk until thoroughly combined.
Spread the meringue on a parchment-lined baking sheet using a silicon spatula. I try for an oval, but part of pavlova’s charm is its imprecision. Bake the meringue for about 1 hour, until an even pale brown with the beginning of cracks around the edges. (It will crack a bit more while it cools — that’s okay.)
To serve, break off a wedge of completely cooled meringue and layer on a tablespoon or two of lemon curd and a generous spoonful of lightly sweetened whipped cream. (I like 1 c. heavy cream + 1 Tbsp. vanilla sugar or regular granulated sugar, whisked until it holds soft, cloudy peaks.)
Note: Meringues cook best in cooler, dry weather, so if it’s hot and humid, consider a lemon tart instead.