I once said that my desk reminds me of my purse. It is big and unorganized, hard to navigate and mostly holds things of importance. As I sit here typing –at said desk, I spy a twelve-stack of cookbooks with notes and pieces of paper jutting out from every angle. Piles of printed-out recipes cover every square inch of surface area. I have at least four-hundred & eleventy-two recipes composed, mapped-out, bookmarked and dreamed up for posting and booking, and they all reside on this desk.
I didn’t make any of those recipes today.
I can’t bear to relinquish one minute of my three-day weekend to the grocery store, so I’ve decided to work with what I have. Today that is eggs, butter, sugar, flour and lemons.
Some of the best treats are unplanned. This dessert is like lemon meringue pie with the crust served on the side. Like me, you may choose to forgo the spoon altogether and opt for the cookie-shovel instead.
Lemon Meringue Custards
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar for custard plus 1/3 cup granulated sugar for meringue
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from 6-8 lemons)
3 eggs, whites and yolks separated, both reserved for use
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/4 cups cold water
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
Have four 6 oz. custard cups at the ready, or six 4 oz. custard cups.
In a medium saucepan whisk together 1 1/4 cups sugar, lemon juice, egg yolks, cornstarch and 1 1/4 cups water. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly. After 7-10 minutes, the custard will start to thicken. Remove from heat when bubbles have disappeared and mixture is thick. Stir in butter until melted. Divide between custard cups. Chill in refrigerator while preparing the meringue.
The meringue is browned in the oven or with a kitchen torch. If using the oven, go ahead and preheat to 400 degrees. Skip this step if using a kitchen torch.
Fill a medium saucepan 1/4 to 1/3 full of water and bring to a simmer. Combine egg whites, remaining sugar, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla in a heat-proof glass bowl. Have ready your hand mixer and a candy thermometer. Place bowl over simmering water and beat with hand mixer on low speed until temperature reaches 160 degrees on the thermometer – this won’t take long! Remove from heat and beat until stiff peaks form.
Remove custards from refrigerator and top with meringue. Place on a baking sheet and brown meringue in oven for 6-8 minutes (keep a close eye on this) or brown with kitchen torch.
Serve at room temp. or chilled – delicious either way!
Yield: about 3 dozen 3″ cookies [click to print]
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened (3/4 lb.)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Generous pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together. Don’t over mix! Beat until just incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix again briefly. Sift together flour and salt and add to the butter mixture; mix on low until just combined.
Turn dough out onto a piece of wax paper and top with another sheet of wax paper. Roll into a flattened disk. Chill for 30 minutes. Dust work surface with flour and place dough – wax paper removed – on surface. Roll dough to 1/2″ thickness and cut into desired shapes – I used small round fondant cutters, the largest at 3″. Place cookies on parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and fragrant.
Note: If making small holes in the 3″ round cookies as I did, cut the smaller holes just after the cookies come out of the oven.