Lemons are king

Citrus rules in the winter, and lemons are king (or queen). This recipe embraces the lemon in a simple yet sumptuous dessert. 

Citrus rules in the winter, and lemons are king (or queen). This recipe embraces the lemon in a simple yet sumptuous dessert. A “fool” is a British dessert, traditionally prepared with custard and pureed fruit. Whipped cream is often substituted for the custard in popular variations.

Fools are a wonderful way to showcase seasonal fruit. In the spring and summer, berries, such as strawberries and raspberries, are mashed and folded into the cream. In the winter, citrus takes center stage in the form of a curd.

A fruit curd is a thick spread or sauce made with fruit, eggs, butter and sugar. A good curd is bright and puckery, so any fruits with a little zing or tartness, such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit and passion fruit are great contenders.

This fool is a billowy trifecta of whipped cream, Meyer lemon curd and crumbled meringue, unabashedly folded together and layered into a glass, parfait-style. The brilliant yellow curd ripples through the cream, providing a jolt of sweet and tangy citrus. Consider it a little sunshine in a glass.

Meyer lemons are at their peak in the winter months. They are brighter, sweeter and less acidic than Eureka lemons, which are more commonly found year-round. Eureka lemons can be substituted for the Meyer lemons.

Meyer Lemon Fools

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes, plus chilling time

Yield: Makes 6 servings; 1 1/2 cups lemon curd

Lemon Curd:

4 large egg yolks

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup fresh Meyer (or Eureka) lemon juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

2 ounces prepared or store-bought vanilla meringues, about 6 (2-inch) meringues

Meyer lemon slices for garnish

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 1 to 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then lower the heat to a bare simmer.

In the bowl of the double boiler, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Place over the bottom of the double boiler and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the curd thickens and coats the back of the spoon (about the thickness of hollandaise sauce), 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until the butter melts before the next addition. Transfer the curd to a glass jar and place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or up to 1 week).

Beat the cream and sugar until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup curd and, using a spatula, gently fold into the cream, leaving some streaks of the curd visible. Crumble half of the meringues into the mixture.

Spoon a thin layer of remaining curd into the bottom of 6 (4- to 5-ounce) glasses or Mason jars and sprinkle a thin layer of crumbled meringues over the curd. Divide half of the cream between the glasses. Add a drizzle of lemon curd to each glass, then top with the remaining cream.

To serve, top each glass with a dab of lemon curd and a few pinches of crumbled meringues. Garnish with a lemon segment, if desired.

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