Lemon-Berry Meringue Nests
I created this dazzling dessert for my Valentine, Steve! It was last year while I was working on my new book, Gluten-Free Baking. Steve loves almost any goodie that features lemons. These cardamom-scented meringue nests are ethereal and crunchy with a not-too-sweet, not-too-rich yogurt and Meyer lemon curd filling—a perfect, naturally gluten-free finale for a festive meal.
Meyer lemons offer a seductive, floral fragrance and delicate tartness to the lemon curd, so they are worth looking for, and they aren’t difficult to find. They are in most grocery stores. However, regular lemons make a similarly delicious filling. The lemon curd is great in the meringues, but also spread on toast or muffins. It keeps well too, so save any extra for a morning treat.
While working on the book, I mastered the simple art of whipping up egg whites and sugar into meringues. There are just a few tricks to keep in mind: It’s easier to separate the whites from the yolks while the eggs are cold, then let the whites come to room temperature before beating in the sugar. Keep fat, including egg yolk, away from the whites. This is easy to accomplish by separating the egg whites into a small bowl one at time before adding them to a larger bowl, and using dry, grease-free bowls and beaters. Add the sugar to the whites slowly while beating constantly. And use the batter as soon as it reaches the proper consistency.
Once you’ve made your first meringue, you’ll see how easy they are to make and you’ll want to try other recipes. There are several more billowy temptations in Gluten-Free Baking. Recipes like Fudgy Ginger-Nut Meringues, an impressive Maple-Berry Pavlova, and Meringue Ice Cream Sandwiches.
Now I am headed to the kitchen to make our Valentine’s dessert. I bet your sweetie will be thrilled if you make it too. Leftover meringues keep well if stored airtight, so look forward to enjoying this again at another meal.
Meringue Nests with Lemon Curd and Berries
This recipe first appeared in my new book, Gluten-Free Baking.
Makes 8 servings
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
¾ cup sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or ⅓ cup chilled whipping cream
4 cups fresh berries, any mix of raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and/or cut up strawberries
For the meringues: position one rack in the lower third of the oven and one rack in the upper third, and preheat to 200°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine 2 teaspoons of the sugar and the cardamom and mix well. In the bowl of an electric mixer, place the egg whites. Using medium speed, beat until the whites are frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat on medium-high until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 1 cup of sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating constantly and taking about 3 minutes. Sprinkle on the cardamom mixture and add the vanilla and salt. Beat until very stiff and glossy and the meringue holds a peak when the beater is lifted straight up, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Dab a bit of the meringue on the backside of the parchment at the corners to secure the parchment to the baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, immediately drop the meringue in 8 mounds (about half-cupful) onto the baking sheets. Using the back of a metal spoon, gently create a deep, wide indentation in the center of each.
Bake meringues until dry and crisp and can be lifted easily from the parchment, about 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let dry completely in the closed oven, at least 2 hours longer.
For the lemon curd: place a fine sieve over a medium bowl. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the butter, ½ cup of the sugar, lemon juice and zest. Stir over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture just comes to a simmer. Whisk the eggs in another medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the hot lemon mixture. Return the mixture to the same saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the curd thickens (do not boil). Immediately pour the curd through the sieve, pressing all the curd through. Cool slightly. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the curd and refrigerate until cold.
Fold the Greek yogurt into the curd, or whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold the cream into the curd. Cover and refrigerate until assembling the desserts. Combine the strawberries and blueberries in a medium bowl. Mix in the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Let stand at room temperature until juices form, about 30 minutes.
Just before serving, spoon about 3 tablespoons lemon curd into each meringue cup. Top each with berries and serve right away.
Photo by Annabelle Breakey