I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like lemon curd. You, in turn, might choose not to trust anyone who makes bold, sweeping, and questionably necessary proclamations, but if I were to pick a completely superfluous soapbox to stand on, it’s currently this. Everyone loves lemon curd. The only thing better than lemon curd is lemon curd against a pillowy meringue and a plume of softly whipped cream. These three flavors together are the basis of so many desserts, including a chaotic one I call a Lemon Meringue Pie Smash in my second cookbook. It was while working on this recipe that I got my go-to lemon curd down to a simple formula that never fails, and also came to appreciate the culinary harmony of a dessert that doesn’t leave us with leftover stray egg whites or yolks.
These meringues — which are, in fact, baby pavlovas, in that they should be crisp outside and plush inside vs. crisp all the way through — are the way I combine these flavors for guests. I started making these for Passover a few years ago and despite the fact that it was a room full of chocoholics, everyone, at least briefly, forgot chocolate existed. I haven’t stopped since. I’m not usually big on these kinds of assembled desserts; I do not have the space or patience for plating, but these actually work wonderfully for planning ahead, which is the only way to stay sane when you’re feeding a lot of people at once. You’re better off, schedule-wise, making the meringues as they need a long baking and cooling time. You might as well make the lemon curd while you’re at it, since it keeps fantastically and tastes best cooled. And if you use the Nancy Silverton trick of adding sour cream or crème fraîche to your whipped cream, it not only makes it more delicious and complex, it stabilizes the whipped cream so you can dollop it from the fridge when you’re ready, even a day or two later. I’ve served these both already assembled, as shown, and also more a-la-carte, with a big tower of meringues and spoons for serving your own curd and cream to taste. There’s never anything left.
6 months ago: Winter Squash Pasta Bake
1 year ago: Lemon Potatoes
2 years ago: Ultimate Banana Bread
3 year ago: Essential French Onion Soup
4 years ago: Asparagus and Egg Salad with Walnuts and Mint
5 years ago: Cornbread Waffles and Mushroom Tartines
6 years ago: Sesame Soba and Ribboned Omelet Salad and Apricot Hazelnut Brown Butter Hamantaschen
7 years ago: The Consolation Prize (A Mocktail) and Baked Chickpeas with Pita Chips and Yogurt
8 years ago: Whole-Grain Cinnamon Swirl Bread
9 years ago: Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Feta and Tahini
10 years ago: Soft Eggs with Buttery Herb-Gruyere Toast Soldiers
12 years ago: Spaetzle
12 years ago: Irish Soda Bread Scones and Spinach and Chickpeas
13 years ago: Cream Cheese Pound Cake with Strawberry Sauce and Bialys
14 years ago: Caramel Walnut Banana Upside Down Cake and Swiss Easter Rice Tart
15 years ago: Mixed Berry Pavlova
If you’re not into the whipped cream part of this, I promise that these are really excellent with fresh berries on top of the curd, too. I usually use blackberries and blueberries.
- 4 large egg whites
- Two pinches of salt
- 1 cup (200 gram) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot powder
- 2 medium/large lemons
- 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 cup (225 grams) heavy or whipping cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons (30 grams) sour cream or crème fraîche
- 2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar, or more to taste
- Fresh berries and/or powdered sugar, if you wish
Make the meringues: Heat oven to 250°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium/low speed until they begin to thicken — they’ll look satiny and you’ll see some trails form from the beaters. Increase the speed to medium, and sprinkle the sugar-cornstarch mixture a small amount at a time with the machine running, letting it fully disappear into the egg whites for 10 to 20 seconds before adding more. Beat for another minute or two once added, then add vinegar and vanilla. Continue to whip the mixture until the egg whites are glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. I do this on a lower speed than others because I find it makes a more thick, stable meringue.
Scoop meringue batter in generous 1/4-cup dollops evenly space over the two prepared trays. You should have 12. Use the back of a soup spoon to create a swooshed indentation in the center of each, perfect for puddling lemon curd. Transfer pans to the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway for even cooking. If they seem to be browning, reduce the heat to 225 for the remaining baking time. I find that home ovens can be very inconsistent at lower temperatures so here’s what we’re looking for when they’re done: The meringues should feel firm and dry, but if pressed in the center (gently!), there should be a suggestion of softness inside. They should be easy to lift off the parchment. Turn the oven off and let them cool the rest of the way (or at least 1 hour) inside.
Make the curd: Combine the sugar and zest in a heatproof bowl that will fit over a saucepan (double-boiler style), but don’t put it on the stove yet. Use your fingertips to rub them together to release the most amount of flavor from the peel. Add the remaining ingredients, and set the bowl over an inch of boiling water; the bowl should not touch the water. Cook, stirring, until the mixture begins to gel or thicken until it coats the spoon or whisk (between 170 and 180°); it shouldn’t simmer. Remove from the heat, and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Cover, and let it cool; it will thicken as it does.
Make the whipped cream: Beat cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken, gradually sprinkle in sugar, whipping until loose peaks form. Add vanilla and sour cream and beat until soft-to-medium peaks form.
Assemble: Place one meringue on a plate and spoon a tablespoon of lemon curd on top. Dollop with whipped cream. Finish with powdered sugar, if you wish, or berries.
Do ahead/planning: I usually make the meringues the day before or the morning of the evening I’ll need them. I usually make the lemon curd while I’m at it; it keeps for up to 1 week in the fridge. I find that I can make the whipped cream (the sour cream or creme fraiche act as a stabilizer) and store it in a covered container or jar and the next day it’s still 95% to 99% which is good enough for me and more than good enough for dolloping.