Meyer Lemon Curd and Lemon Meringue Bites – Dear Citrus…

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(Lemon Meringue Cookies filled with Meyer Lemon Curd – recipes in post)

Dear Citrus,

I’m writing to say, I’ve missed you. Your puckering kiss, your hidden sweetness, your bold assertion… My winter was amiss without you. Will you run away with me?

Have you ever had citrus curd? It’s heavenly. As gross as the name may sound, it’s basically a custard. A custard daringly cooked, rather than tempered. It is one of the simplest of things, and yet recipes range on nearly every part… whether whole eggs are used, only yolks, or a combination of the two. How much butter will help determine how smooth and lush your curd will be, but also how fatty. And the sugar? Well, that’s variable, too. But however you choose to do it, the ingredients are basic, the technique is simple, and the results are glorious.

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Considering how quick and easy they are to prepare, I would say sweet curds offer some of the biggest bang for your buck. There are very few times when a dollop of lemon curd doesn’t make things better. On toast, in pastries, with fruit or jam, whipped with cream, mixed into yogurt, or right off the spoon… if Skittles are what rainbows taste like, then this is pure sunshine.

Plus, it can be done with most any kind of citrus – from lemons or limes, to grapefruits and oranges. Even berries can be turned into curd, though they are cooked with a bit of water and strained first. The amount of sugar may need to be tweaked depending on the sweetness of the fruit you use.

I made a simple (and mind-blowingly good) cranberry curd here. But today is no day for fiddling with berries… Meyer lemons are still in season!

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(Meyer lemons on the front and left, regular lemons to the right)

Meyer lemons are a completely different variety from the regular lemons you’re used to. Similar to the way key limes are not the same as regular limes, only here the difference is even greater. They are smaller, sweeter, and while some suggest they may be a hybrid of oranges and lemons, the truth is nobody really knows what they are.

Meyer, or Meyeri, trees started out as being local only to China – that is, until word spread on how amazing they are. After planting them in the US, however, it was discovered that many of the trees carried a citrus eating virus… and in an attempt to save other trees, they were all torn down.
Thankfully, an effort was made to find virus-free Meyer Lemon Trees, and in the mid 70’s they were planted once again. Hooray!

They’re biggest production season is in the winter, which I foolishly let pass me by. Luckily, there are still bushels of them in my local market, and I intend to take full advantage of them!

If you can’t find these little jewels, regular lemons will work as well. The results will still be delicious, I promise.

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(Do you remember my Meyer Lemon Chia Seed Muffins? Imagine a smear of this on top!)

With the leftover egg whites from my custard, I went ahead and made these simple lemon meringue cookies. I took the finished meringues and sandwiched them with a small dollop of lemon curd, for a bite-sized take on Lemon Meringue Pie. Inside some of my cookies I hid a secret little raspberry – a pop of flavor just waiting to be discovered!

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(Note that when making a hidden center inside meringues, you should first pipe a small bed of meringue beneath whatever it is you’re forming your cookie around. I got a little hasty and forgot)

So bright and ethereal, eating one of these makes me feel like a kid again – like the whole world is this wondrous place filled with magic and sweet things yet to be discovered, like any pebble found could be a precious gem, like every step is a new adventure!

Whoa. Got a little carried away, there. Can you blame me?

Meyer Lemon Curd
(Loosely adapted from David Lebovitz’s Improved Lemon Curd, and Martha Stuart’s Lemon Curd)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1-2 TBSP Meyer Lemon zest, depending on how bold you like it (or regular lemon zest)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (increase by 1/4 cup if using regular lemons)
Very small pinch of sea salt
4 TBSP unsalted butter, cubed and chilled

Optional: It isn’t traditional to add any spices or flavorings to lemon curd – it really does speak for itself – but a few drops of almond or vanilla extract could certainly be added if you’d like to mix things up a bit.

Method:

The safest way to cook a custard like this is to use a bain-marie (water bath), or a double boiler – a heat proof bowl, set atop a shallow pot of simmering water. This will heat the custard slowly and evenly, and reduce the chances of hot spots that could cause it to curdle or burn. Always be sure to stir constantly with a wooden spoon, or even a whisk, to keep the eggs from cooking too quickly.

Place a small pot of water on the stove, and bring it to a steady simmer over medium heat.

In a heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg, yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Set the bowl over your double boiler. (I suggest having a towel nearby to help remove the hot bowl from the steam later).
Cook, whisk constantly, for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. If your bowl is particularly thick-bottomed, this may take a little longer.
Once the mixture has thickened, remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in one cube of butter at a time – stirring until each cube has melted before adding the next. If you’re using any extracts or flavorings, you can add them now.
Optionally, you can strain your curd through a fine mesh sieve to remove the zest, or if it isn’t as smooth as you like.
Pour into a jar or other air-tight container, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd (with no air in between, this will prevent a film from forming on top). Let chill for at least one hour.

Freshly made curd should stay fresh in the fridge for up to a few weeks, but extra can be stored in the freezer indefinitely. Thaw in a bath of warm water, and use within a couple weeks of defrosting.

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(I like the little flecks of zest, and found the curd to be smooth enough without straining)

Lemon Meringue Cookies
(Makes about 45-55 bite-sized cookies)

3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. corn starch
2 tsp.  lemon zest
2 tsp. lemon juice

Optional: a few drops of food coloring

Method:

Move your oven racks to the upper and middle positions, preheat oven to 200f., and line two baking sheets with foil or parchment.
Prepare a piping bag, or large zip-top bag with the corner snipped off, and set aside.

Sift together the sugar and corn starch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt. Beat on high speed just until soft peaks form, then reduce the speed to low and begin adding the sugar/cornstarch mixture one TBSP at a time. Continue to beat until all of the sugar is incorporated and the mixture thickens like marshmallow fluff.

Mix in the lemon juice and zest, and add any food coloring if using.

Scoop the meringue into your piping bag, and pipe your cookies. There’s no need to leave a lot of space between them, because they shouldn’t spread at all.

For some of my cookies, I piped my meringue around a single fresh raspberry. Note that this will require a longer baking/drying time both because of the size of the cookies, and the added moister from the raspberry in the center. Also, if hiding a raspberry or other surprise inside these cookies, I suggest piping a small bed of meringue first. Set the raspberry in the meringue and then finish piping your cookie around it. This is a crucial step for structural integrity that I forgot about – don’t skip it!

Place your cookies into the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Rotate the pans top to bottom and front to back, and bake for an additional 30-50 minutes. The time will range depending on the size of your cookies, and moister levels in the air. The cookies should be dry and hard when finished – if they’re gummy or sticky, they need to bake longer. If they begin to brown on top, reduce the oven temperature.

Remove from the oven and let them cool before removing from the trays. Pipe or spread a small dollop of lemon curd on the bottom of one cookie, and sandwich with another to make the lemon-meringue bites.

Meringue cookies are best eaten right away, and may become gummy and sticky if left to themselves. If storing them, I recommend placing the finished cookies, completely cooled, in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

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35 Responses to Meyer Lemon Curd and Lemon Meringue Bites – Dear Citrus…

  1. Jen @ Juanita's Cocina March 27, 2012 at 1:56 am #

    *swoooooon*

    I am in love. LOVE!

    Plus, these are totally cute in a way that makes me want to save them and not eat them. But, I’d sacrifice. For the curd and all…

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 2:16 am #

      Haha – they may be cute, but they’re soo tasty. :D

  2. Kerico March 27, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Willow! I definitely want to try making these. My dad used to have a Meyer lemon farm, they are sweet and delicious, not sour like other lemons. However, I’m sure the recipe with other lemons would be great too.

    I wanted to share with you my friend’s blog:
    http://www.delvious.com/

    She does some fantastic work as well. Good work with the photo set-up, the images look crisp.

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 2:17 am #

      Thank you! I’ll be sure to check out delvious, thanks for passing it on. :)

  3. Kat March 27, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I thought your use of the left over egg whites was really clever (I usually just scramble them and have them as a lunch). The little merengue cookies are so cute!

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

      Haha – yeah, I’ve done that, too. I try whenever possible to use leftover yolks to make ice cream or custard, and leftover whites to make some kind of meringue. Also, yolks don’t save very well, but you can pour whites into a clean ice-cube tray and freeze them. This helpful tip brought to you by: Alton Brown. :P

  4. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes March 27, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    You are on a posting spree Miss Lady – Beautiful recipe, I LOVE the raspberry surprise inside.

    I am definitely kidnapping you someday to force your piping secrets from you -I guarantee if that was me doing the piping they would look more like big white blobs then the beauties you created :)

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Haha – being kidnapped by you wouldn’t be so terrible… I might just get a taste of that cake!

      I really don’t know what I’d have to teach you, though… the piping tip did all the work for me. I used a Wilton 1M, here.

  5. DeniseB March 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

    I was planning on making lemon/meyerslemon curd tomorrow!! I am using some of both regular and meyers. In our first house, we had a lovely meyers lemon try right outside our window, I was so lucky!!
    I like the idea of one whole egg along with the whites, I will try that. And the cookies are so cute! Thanks for the wonderful post!

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      Glad you liked it! I looked at a lot of recipes to decide what balance I might want for my lemon curd – there are a lot that call for 50-50 whole eggs and yolks, and then even more that call for just yolks and no whites… I decided to go somewhere in between. Let me know what you think when you make yours, if you prefer one way or the other. :)

  6. April @ Ape's Eats March 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I LOVE these bites, I have never seen a meringue with a raspberry in the middle (or anything in the middle), if I ever make meringues, this will be a MUST for me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Thanks! Just be sure to pipe a bed of meringue beneath the raspberries first – or else when you try to pick up the finished meringue they’ll fall apart around the raspberry. I did did this with chocolate chips inside chocolate meringues awhile back, and it worked great!

  7. CCU March 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Your curd looks so perfect! Smooth silky divine – bookmarked this recipe :D
    And may I ask you to be my friend and cook (these) for me ;)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru
    Latest: Nutella Saturday

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

      Haha – I’d love to make these for you, Uru. :)

  8. Kiri W. March 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

    I loove meringues, but the addition of curd is genius. What a perfect treat :)

  9. Bakeaholic Carrie March 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    I made some similar cookies a couple months ago…. you addition with the raspberry. Genius!

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      Thanks! I just can’t help but think raspberries when I think lemon. :D

  10. Anita at Hungry Couple March 27, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

    I love lemon curd but haven’t tried my hand at making it yet. Soon… :)

    • Willow March 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      This was my first time, as well – don’t worry, it isn’t hard. :)

  11. Katherine Martinelli March 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    I love love love citrus and all manners of curd! This all looks absolutely divine!!!!

    • Willow March 28, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      Haha, me too! Thank you so much, Katherine!

  12. Eliotseats March 29, 2012 at 12:46 am #

    Found my way over by way of Jen. Your pictures are amazing and I am definitely checking out that Meyer lemon chia muffin recipe!

    • Willow March 29, 2012 at 1:52 am #

      Thank you! And yet another thank you to Jen – I better hurry up and post about the award she gave me! :)

  13. Cara March 29, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    Aren’t you the meyer lemon go-to girl! And I totally am digging the idea of covering those raspberries–what a GREAT idea, Willow! xo

    • Willow March 29, 2012 at 1:52 am #

      Haha – that’s me! Thanks, Cara. :)

  14. From Valeries Kitchen March 29, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

    Lemon curd is divine! I recently used it in cream cheese based cupcake frosting and it was insanely good! My Meyer lemon tree is jam packed full of lemons but they aren’t quite ready yet. Hurry up!!!!

    • Willow March 29, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      Oooh, cream cheese frosting – what a great idea! :)

  15. Anonymous April 2, 2012 at 1:14 am #

    nice opinion.. thanks for sharing..

  16. shannon April 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    willow, i saw these meringues in my foodbuzz inbox and…whoa. what beautiful little things these are! i love the addition of the raspberry in the center; such a great idea, and lemon/raspberry is one of my favorite fruit combinations. I’ve never been successful at meringues, but i’m definitely giving these a try. gorgeous photos.

    • Willow April 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      Aw, thanks! If you do try them, let me know how it goes. Since there’s cornstarch, cream of tarter, and lemon juice in the meringue it’s fairly sturdy to work with… but I’ve had plenty of meringue failures myself. Best of luck to you!

  17. Courtney J April 6, 2012 at 4:40 am #

    How pretty! :) Love raspberry & lemon!

  18. Kendra April 10, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    Ahh your cookies are so adorable! I’m working on some lemon curd cookie cups myself today :)

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