Thursday, January 20, 2011
Lemon curd-filled meringues
eringues have always appealed to me, and when I traveled to Australia more than 20 years ago, I discovered a meringue dessert--pavlova--that is very popular there, and also revered; it seemed to be the go-to dessert for most birthdays and celebrations I attended. There are various tricks to making a pavlova--a large round meringue that is crisp on the outside and soft and gooey on the inside, filled with fruit and whipped cream. These "tricks" tend to make the pavlova seem somewhat difficult and intimidating, and over the years I have tried various recipes, with various levels of success.
For the holidays this year I conceived these miniature pavlovas (essentially meringues). By denting a little hollow in them (before baking) for some lemon curd, it created a kind of a reverse lemon meringue pie. What's not to love about that?!
And so, the experimentation began. I ended up with a sweet treat that is definitely a make-again bite-size dessert. They went like little hotcakes at the work event where I served them, so that's a promising sign...
1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites at room temperature 30 minutes
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.
Beat whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water (whites will loosen) and beat until whites again hold soft peaks.
Increase speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.
Add vinegar and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes (longer if using hand-held mixer).
Fill a pastry bag (or even just a ziploc bag) with meringue mixture (snip off a corner if you're using a ziploc bag) and pipe small filled-in circles onto the parchment paper. If you're wanting to make individual desserts, you could make 4-inch rounds. The original recipe calls for one large round, but I got probably 24-30 mini meringues from one recipe.
Take a small spoon and dip it in water, then using the back of the spoon, make a small indentation in each meringue.
Bake until the meringues have a light light golden hue and a crust has formed.
Turn oven off and prop door open slightly with a wooden spoon. Cool meringues in oven a half hour.
There is a lemon curd recipe associated with the meringue recipe above, but I had recently stumbled across the following lemon curd recipe and really wanted to give it a spin. It turned out wonderfully, and was really yummy and easy. I highly recommend this recipe, for many purposes (who doesn't need a pot of lemon curd sitting around?!).
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh)
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup water
1 lemon zest
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Mix the cornstarch in the water. (I increased the cornstarch by about an eigth of a cup; my gut said it was going to be a little too runny for my purposes. The increased cornstarch worked great and the consistency was thick, as I wanted.) Put all ingredients into the blender and blend until smooth. Pour from the blender into a saucepan and cook over low heat until it thickens.
Done! Doesn't get much easier than that.
The meringues kept very well for a couple of days in ziploc bags sealed tight, and assembly of the meringues, curd and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds over the top went really well. (I stored the curd, once cooled, in ziploc bags as well, and simply piped the curd into the meringue shells as I needed them. Worked spiffy.)
Just seeing the picture above makes me feel festive, and ready for the holidays again...