Easter is right around the corner, which means it’s the perfect time for a bright and vibrant dessert to take center stage on my dining room table. Since yellow is one of my favorite colors, I wanted to incorporate a sunshiny lemon curd in the recipe. I’m so glad I did!
These light and airy meringues are filled with lemon curd and topped with freshly whipped cream or light lemon mousse – the choice is up to you. The end result is a beautiful dessert fit for welcoming the spring. You can eat them as they are, or serve with any combination of fresh berries.
Although a bit time consuming, this dessert is relatively simple to make. You can break the process down into stages to make life easier. The meringues and the lemon curd can be made an advance, which means you only need to finish the cream or mousse, then fill the nests before you serve them. They are best eaten soon after assembled.
* For this recipe, I use the yolks and whites from large eggs that weigh 60 grams.
Lemon & Cream Meringue Nests (makes approximately 8 nests)
2 baking sheets, parchment paper, electric handheld or standing mixer, large heatproof bowl or double boiler, heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, and a pencil.
For the meringue nests:
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 cup of caster or superfine granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- A pinch of salt
- A few drops of vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 90 degrees Celsius, 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and draw 8 roughly 3-inch diameter circles (tip: turn over a glass or coffee cup and trace around the rim), leaving a minimum of 2 inches between each circle.
In a large bowl combine your egg whites, salt, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar. It is important that your bowl and beaters (or whisk), be free of any grease or debris, or the egg whites will not develop volume.
Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks start to form, about 4 to 5 minutes. Start adding the sugar, spoonful by spoonful, and beat at high speed until the mixture is stiff and has a glossy finish, about 6 to 7 minutes. Test the meringue between your fingers to make sure the sugar has been dissolved. If it feels grainy, beat a bit longer.
Place a small amount of the meringue mixture on each corner of your baking pan to help the parchment paper stick. This will make it easier to form the nests without the paper moving.
With a piping bag or a spoon, spread the meringue into the circle, and shape into a nest. Make sure you have an indentation in the center, enough space for your filling. The sides of the meringue should be higher than the center.
Put the nests in the oven and bake for 1 & 1/2 hours. Turn off the heat, and leave in the oven to cool for 4 hours or overnight. This will ensure that the meringues are completely dried out.
For the lemon curd and mousse filling:
- 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
- 2 whole eggs, at room temperature
- ¾ cup of freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons caster or superfine granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whipping cream, cold
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place egg yolks, eggs, lemon juice, and ¾ cup sugar in a heatproof bowl (or in a double boiler) over gently simmering water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl). Whisk to combine.
Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula. Make sure you stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken and reaches an almost “pudding-like” consistency, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove from heat, and stir in the butter.
Strain into a bowl, and immediately flatten a piece of parchment paper directly on the lemon curd to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool, and refrigerate for 3 hours or until set.
Start beating your cream, and add your vanilla and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Continue to beat until peaks form and the cream starts to hold it’s shape.
At this point you have two choices:
- Option 1: You can keep your cream as is to dollop on the lemon curd. I love the contrast between the bright yellow lemon curd against the white cream and meringue. It almost looks like a soft poached egg!
- Option 2: You can fold in ¾ of the curd into the cream to make a lemon mousse.
Option 1: Divide your lemon curd to fill each nest, pile the cream on top.
Option 2: Fold ¾ of the curd into your cream and combine. Add a bit of the remaining curd at the bottom of each nest and top with the lemon mousse.
If you want, top with fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries – or a combination of all three.
I put a bit of the mousse in my ice cream maker to see what would happen, and this was the result. If you have an ice cream maker handy, give it a try, it makes a gorgeous lemon ice cream!
Light, refreshing and delicious – this is the perfect spring dessert!
Copyright © 2016 Lidija’s Kitchen, including personal images taken by the author.