For a versatile dessert component anytime, lemon curd is ideal

·4 min read

Although I love just about any kind of pie, lemon meringue will always be my favorite because that’s the one my mother made. Her pie was a special treat for my brother and me on report card days.

No matter the grades (sometimes good, sometimes not so good) there was a beautiful pie — sweet and tart lemon curd sandwiched between a flaky crust and a toasted cloud of meringue — waiting for us.

Lemon curd is a thick custard made from fresh lemons, sugar, eggs, and butter, and it is easy to make. Cornstarch is added when it is used as lemon pie filling.

Lemon curd on hand offers quick-fix desserts, whether layered as cake filling, spooned into small tart crusts, or drizzled over a pound cake. It can be folded into whipped cream for a mousse, added to a cheesecake batter, or swirled on top of that cheesecake. It’s delicious stirred into yogurt or cottage cheese, or spooned over ice cream.

You can buy lemon curd in jars, but you’ll never taste a better version than one made make using fresh ingredients. The curd will stay fresh for about one week in your refrigerator.

If you’re looking for something beyond the usual lemon, look no further than the rest of the citrus family: Meyer lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, lime. Never substitute reconstituted, bottled juice for the real fruit. Fresh juice doesn’t keep long. If you have too much, freeze it in ice cube trays.

Mini Lemon Meringues

This recipe is adapted from Bring It! Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining, by Ali Rosen, Running Press ($25.00).

Sparkling wine is delicious alone, but even better when paired with a delicious dessert. Ferrari Brut sparkling wine from Italy ($24) is fresh with overtones of ripe golden apples and wild flowers on the nose that harmonizes with the Pavlova and the lemon curd.

For the Meringue

Egg whites from 2 large room temperature eggs

Dash of salt

2/3 cup of sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)

1 teaspoon lemon zest

For the Curd

6 Tablespoons of salted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Egg yolks from 2 large eggs\u0009\u0009

Juice of 4 lemons (approximately 1/2 cup of lemon juice)

For the Garnish:

8-12 blueberries

8-12 mint leaves

To make the meringue: Preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper if possible (you can use an unflavored oil or unsalted butter if not). Beat the egg whites on medium speed in a standing mixture (you can do this by hand but just be prepared to be whisking for a long time!) until they are fully combined, approximately 1 minute. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium high and then add the sugar and cloves slowly, continuously mixing until the egg whites become thick and hold stiff peaks, meaning that they hold their own in place for a moment (this recipe is very forgiving, so use your judgment as to when they seem done and it will be all right). Carefully fold in the lemon zest. Using a spoon make small circles, about 6 inches wide, with an indent in the middle (you can use a piping bag here with a large tip if you want them to look really even, but just try not to make them too large. The best way to think of this is to twirl the spoon a full 360 degrees to get it to be even). Keep in mind that they will expand in the oven so leave room around them. You can make these larger or smaller if you wish, but just be sure to adjust the cooking time as necessary. Bake for 20 minutes until the meringue is done - it should be hard on the outside but still airy and a bit chewy on the inside. Don’t overdo it. If it is too dry and crispy then it is overdone, so err on the side of checking! Cool on a rack when done.

To make the curd: Beat the butter and sugar together. Add in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, still mixing slowly. Add the lemon juice and mix again until it all combines. Heat a saucepan on low and then add the lemon mixture. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens, approximately 10 minutes. It should never boil or quite simmer. When thick enough (like the texture of a thick jello) take off the heat to cool.

Once both the meringue and the curd have sufficiently cooled spoon the curd on top of the meringue and smooth out. Place a mint leaf and a blueberry on top of each meringue.

Serves: 8-12 mini meringues