Monday, March 26, 2012

Torched (Or Tortured) Lemon Curd Parfaits


Pic from Mustard's Site

It started out as a desire to make a Mustard's Grill style lemon meringue pie.

A chef friend had brought it to a gathering late one night after his shift (apparently and luckily for all of us, the meringue didn't quite reach the advertised "ridiculously tall" mark and was deemed unservable.) What appeared to be a simple pie, was actually an epiphany.

Without having prior knowledge of the pie's reputation, (when we lived in Napa Valley, we were dirt poor so no Mustard's Grill dining for us...but I can promise in the next few months I will report back on the full experience.) I immediately knew this wasn't my mama's meringue.  It tasted faintly caramelized and I knew it was made with brown sugar (confirmed by said chef friend).

A whole new complexity in the pie component I had grown up not really even liking (maybe because my Texas family called it "calf slobber" for some unkown reason), made me decide I had to make it.

Mike's the Tall one!
I decided to debut it during a dinner we were hosting to say a belated thank you to our friend Mike who had helped us with this awesome Sonoma event.

Not understanding the science involved in making a brown sugar meringue and also wanting to make the crust Gluten Free I had unknowingly placed two challenges between me and my pie.


The lemon curd was a no brainer.  I have a crazy producing lemon tree so plenty of Meyer lemons for that and with the lemon curd instructions in step 4 of this recipe it's super easy.

I used a shortbread crust recipe that I immediately knew upon removing from the oven wasn't going to be what I wanted.  It looked more like a big cookie since the middle puffed up and the sides melted down (and I even baked it straight out of the freezer!)  So I knew adding a 1" layer of lemon curd was just asking for trouble.  I did discover a great shortbread cookie recipe, I think.  I'll try it again later using as that instead of a crust and let you know!

Now for the meringue...who knew that you have to be a molecular scientist to do this deed!  I Googled brown sugar Italian meringue since I felt the texture was more that style than a traditional meringue and found this, the equivalent to a "white paper" for making meringue  Being more intimidated than ever, I decided to simply use an Italian meringue recipe I had used before and substitute brown sugar.  Realizing I wished I had that science background, I had a very enjoyable nougat going, but it was too heavy and grainy for the top of a delicate lemon curd.  (But hey, come to think of it maybe I'll try that again, too, adding some almonds and pistachios for a true French nougat.) Saving that for a snack later, I was back at square one.

Cut to 5:30pm with Mike due in an hour, I had to figure this thing out and Stat!  Lacking the lab coat and candy thermometer necessary for the brown sugar version, I simply made the  meringue from this recipe with organic sugar. The shortbread "crust" became a crumble when blended with almond flour and thankfully my lemon curd set up beautifully.  Layered into ramekins and torched (or tortured as my youngest son still calls it.), it was just as delicious though not as "ridiculous".

I'm still wanting THIS pie though! Mustard's here I come!


Okay...to sum all this up into one long recipe (as a consolation for the length, some make-ahead tips:  Shortbread and curd can be made a day or two in advance. Parfaits can be assembled in ramekins early in the day then torch (or torture) just before serving either with a real-live-go-to-the-hardware store blow torch or place briefly under broiler.)

Torched Lemon Curd Parfaits
Make each component then layer Lemon Curd and Shortbread Crumble in eight 6-oz ramekins.  Meringue on top only.

Shortbread Crust turned Crumble:  

1 1/2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour (I use 1/2 cup each rice flour, tapioca starch and cornstarch mixed with 1/2 tbsp potato flour)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp butter, cut into pieces and very cold
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup almond flour

Lightly spray removable bottom tart pan(s) with gluten-free, nonstick cooking spray.

Put the sweet rice flour blend, confectioners' sugar, and salt in a food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Add the vanilla and butter pieces and pulse until the dough just starts to come together and form clumps. The dough will still be very crumbly -- gather some in your hand and squeeze it -- it should hold its shape when you open your hand.

Press the dough into prepared pan(s) evenly on the bottom and up the sides. You can use the bottom of a measuring cup to help even out the bottom. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough all over with a fork to keep the dough from puffing too much while baking. Place the crust into the freezer for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the chilled tart crust for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the crust is golden brown. Let the crust(s) cool completely in the tart pan(s) before filling. (Only here is where I had to detour...I broke off half after it cooled and ran it in the food processor with the almond flour.)

The shortbread crust can be baked a day ahead. Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. 

Lemon Curd:
4 extra-large eggs
3 extra-large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Pinch of kosher salt

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, and lemon juice together in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, alternating between a whisk and rubber spatula (see note above), until the lemon curd has thickened to the consistency of pastry cream and coats the back of the spatula.

Remove the lemon curd from the heat. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring to incorporate completely. Season with the salt. Let the curd cool about 8 minutes, and then strain it into a small bowl or jam jar and cover with plastic wrap or into a pre-baked shell if making a pie or tart.

Meringue:
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2 large eggs)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch fine salt
Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan that can hold a standing mixer's bowl above the water.

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl by hand. Set the bowl above the boiling water and continue whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch (135 degrees F) and the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat the whites at medium-high speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to high and continue to beat to make a stiff, cool meringue, about 10 minutes. Spoon or pipe on top of the curd.

Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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