You truly are my sunshine.
My only sunshine.
I zest you and you make me happy when the skies are dreary, dark, and gray.
You will never ever know how much I love you.
Please, please don’t ever go away.
That is my ode to lemon. You dig it?
I remember disliking lemon. I had nothing against lemons themselves. In fact, I was a teenager when I figured out lemons weren’t really limes. Dominicans, you know…
I had a thing against lemon candy. Yellow skittles, lollipops, and any yellow hard candy was eschewed in favor of the more colorful, and tastier red cherry. Sometimes grape and always, always green apple.
That’s just how it was. If you preferred a lemon candy you were labeled a weirdo, an outcast. If there was a yellow candy in your mouth, it better be banana flavored. Because banana certainly tasted waaaaay better than lemon. I mean, lemon was a scent. It came in an aerosol can and was sprayed liberally on your wooden furniture. It was never, ever something you ate.
It wasn’t until years later when zesting lemons for a lemon cake that I experienced a new-found appreciation for those acidic little treats. The act of zesting a lemon with a microplane; the release of the bright, fresh scent… It was like a hug from my grandmama. And my grandma never smelled like lemon.
Now let’s talk about these cookies!
Meringues by design are just egg whites and sugar, aided by cream of tartar for stability. These meringues have confectioners’ sugar added. In addition, I added both bourbon vanilla bean pastes and extracts for flavor. The bourbon in my extract left my meringues a bit darker – So if you prefer stark white meringues, consider colorless flavorings.
Meringues are supposed to bake for an endless amount of time over low temperatures; however, not every home baker’s oven can be set as low at 175° Fahrenheit. I baked these meringues at 200° Fahrenheit, opening the oven about 30-35 minutes into baking to prevent cracking. I then turned off the oven and allowed them to dry for about an hour or so.
Some meringues did crack, but very few.
The sunshine of these cookies is a bright, zesty lemon curd. I doubled the curd recipe because, you know – I’m a giver. You can easily half it – Or use it for something other than filling cookies. Fold it in plain yogurt, or whipped cream for an airy mock-mousse. Feel free to spread it on your morning toast, or my favorite: Eating it straight out of the container.
Truly, honestly – Lemon curd is at its best sandwiched in between these two pillows of meringue. The puckery tang of the lemon curd counteracts perfectly with the sweet vanilla flavor of these meringues, making for a perfect bite.
That is all you need to know about that.
P.S. Lemon, I love you.
- For the meringues
- Granulated sugar - 1/2 cup
- Confectioners’ sugar - 1 1/3 cups
- Pinch table salt
- Large egg whites, at room temperature - 4 large (4 ounces)
- Cream of tartar - 1/2 teaspoon
- Pure vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon
- Vanilla bean paste - 1 teaspoon
- For the lemon curd
- Unsalted butter - 6 oz. (a stick and a half)
- Granulated sugar - 1 cup
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice - 2/3 cup (6 oz)
- Vanilla bean paste - 1 teaspoon
- Vanilla extract - 1/4 teaspoon
- Finely grated lemon zest - 4 tablespoons (from about 4-5 lemons)
- Large pinch of table salt
- Large egg yolks - 12
Make the meringues – Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 200°F. Line 2 large heavy-duty baking sheets with parchment.
In a food processor, process the sugar until very fine, about 45 seconds. Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and pulse until well blended, about 15 seconds.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Begin mixing on medium-low speed until frothy. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
Continue beating while gradually sprinkling in the sugar mixture. When all the sugar is added, increase the speed to high and whip until firm, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla bean paste and extract and beat just until blended, about 10 seconds.
Spoon the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Holding the pastry bag perpendicular to a lined baking sheet, pipe small flat disks about 1-1/4 inches in diameter and no higher than 1/4 inch, spaced about 1/2 inch apart. As you pipe, lift the tip up to form a cute little peak.
Bake the meringues for about 30-35 minutes. Open the oven door slightly, then continue baking for about 35-40 more minutes, until dried and crisp but not browned. Turn off the oven and leave the door shut; let the meringues sit in the oven until cool, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and gently lift the meringues off the parchment. Note: Unfilled meringues will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 weeks.
To make the lemon curd - Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla bean paste, extract, zest, and salt. Whisk in the yolks until well blended.
Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, about 10 minutes.Do not allow the mixture to boil. Another way to test is to pour a few drop on any surface and run your finger through it. If it doesn't come togetherm then its ready.
Strain the curd into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface to keep a skin from forming. Let cool at room temperature; then refrigerate until completely chilled.The curd will keep for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Assemble the cookies - Arrange half of the meringues bottom side up on a work surface. Spoon about 1 tsp of lemon curd onto each meringue shell. Gently press the remaining meringues onto the curd, bottom (flat) side down. The filled cookies can be prepared and kept at room temperature up to 2 hours before serving. Note: These cookies become softer the longer they sit, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Yield: About 40 sandwich cookies
Adapted from: Fine Cooking