Introduction: Lemon Curd Pavlovas
Pavlova is traditionally a large meringue topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. The meringue is crispy on the outside and slightly marshmallowy (but not gooey) on the inside.
Lemon curd isn't traditional, and neither is a small individual meringue shell. Still, I thought it would be cute to have little egg shaped desserts for Easter. I like using the yolks in the same dish that I use the whites, and lemon curd is amazing stuff.
If you've never had lemon curd, try imagining that a lemon went to a luxurious spa, got a sugar scrub, was rubbed down with body butter, slipped on the silkiest, sexiest lingerie, and then proceeded to give you the best... um... dessert sauce... you've ever had. That's what lemon curd tastes like.
Meringue is crisp, very sweet, and dissolves in your mouth. It plays well with the soft whipped cream and intensely flavorful sweet-tart-buttery lemon curd.
I don't recommend serving your pavlovas with chives or parsley, but it was the only green edible stuff that I found growing in our herb garden so far. I don't have any lemon mint or I'd have used that as garnish instead.
Step 1: Whip the Meringue
I used four egg whites for the meringue in the picture. I recommend using six, though. I used a swiss meringue technique here because it's more stable.
6 egg whites
1 1/2 C white sugar
Separate the eggs and save the yolks for the lemon curd. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the metal bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until the egg whites are warm to the touch and all the sugar is dissolved. Gently cooking the whites slightly with the sugar as it melts keeps the whites from being over beaten later and saves the need for cream of tartar.
Once the egg whites are warm, whip the mixture with the balloon whisk until it's smooth, glossy, and holds peaks. I added a splash of (homemade) vanilla extract at the end, but you don't need to.
Step 2: Pipe and Bake
Scoop the swiss meringue into a large zip top bag. Snip a VERY tiny corner from the bag; you can always make it larger later.
I tried using nonstick aluminum foil to make egg shaped molds, but it was more hassle than it's worth.
Turn your oven to 175 degrees F and pipe oval shapes on a pan lined with parchment paper. Trace the outline of the egg shape to slowly build up some walls. If you build them too high, they'll collapse. If this happens, scoop the meringue back into the bag and try again.
Bake them for a couple hours, then turn off the oven and let them sit in it overnight. They need to dry out.
Step 3: Make Lemon Curd
This is the last of the steps that can and should be done ahead of time. Whipped cream shouldn't sit, even in the fridge, because it'll separate. It would also make the meringues soggy if it sat on them for awhile.
6 egg yolks
4 large lemons
1 C sugar
1 stick butter
Use a microplane grater to shave off just the zest of the lemon. Don't get any pith in there (the white stuff) or it'll taste bitter. Don't skip this step and simply use lemon juice from the store; the zest is where the spectacular lemon flavor and scent hides. Dump the zest into the bowl of a food processor with the sugar. Pulse it a few times to thoroughly mix them. The resulting sugar should be pale yellow and slightly clumpy, due to the moisture.
Dump the lemon sugar with the egg yolks into a metal bowl and whisk until the egg yolks become pale and smoother. The mixture will become more liquid as you whisk.
Take your naked lemons and roll them on a hard surface under your palm. This makes it easier to squeeze the juice out of them. Cut them in half and squeeze them into a container; use a small sieve if you don't want to fish lemon seeds out of your juice. Measure a half cup of this juice and whisk it into the yolk mixture.
Place the metal bowl over a pot of simmering water and whisk until your arm falls off. Use your other arm to keep whisking at least until the temperature reaches 170 degrees F. Once the lemon mixture sufficiently coats the back of a spoon, take the bowl off the heat.
Cut the butter into little pieces and whisk it in, a little at a time. Once all the butter is incorporated, the lemon curd should've thickened more. Press plastic wrap onto the surface to keep a skin from forming, or spoon it directly into a zip top bag, squeezing out the air bubbles, so you can pipe it later. Store it in the fridge.
Okay, you can taste some, but don't eat it all. You need it for the desserts.
Step 4: Whip the Cream
Stop sampling the lemon curd! You still want to have some extra after the pavlovas are done; trust me.
I don't know how much whipped cream you want. I didn't measure. Let's just guess:
2 C heavy whipping cream
2 T powdered sugar
Whip the cream with the sugar until it almost forms stiff peaks. Don't overwhip or you'll have butter and whey. Taste the whipped cream to see if you like the sweetness level. Remember that the meringues are very sweet. Some people don't sweeten the whipped cream on pavlovas at all.
Step 5: Assemble and Serve
This should be done RIGHT before you serve these. Otherwise, the meringues will get soggy from the cream.
Spoon some whipped cream into a meringue. Squeeze a dollop of lemon curd to resemble an egg yolk. If you want to smooth the egg yolk a bit, just wet your (clean) finger first and touch up by hand.
If you have leftover whipped cream and lemon curd, for heaven's sake, DON'T TELL ANYONE. Mix them together carefully - don't deflate the whipped cream. Line a container with plastic wrap, press the lemon cream mixture into the container, and freeze it. When the guests are long gone, maybe the next day or so, pull out your frozen lemon mousse from the freezer, unmold it, peel away the plastic wrap, and eat it all by yourself.
No, I don't have pictures of the small frozen lemon mousse. Once you taste your own, you'll know why.
Thanks for reading!