“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” –proverb
“When life gives you Meyer lemons, make as many things as possible.” –Food Woolf
After eating a mouth-puckering Meyer lemon trifle at Suzanne Goin and (her husband) David Lentz’s restaurant, Hungry Cat, I decided to try my hand at recreating the dish for Leah of Spicy Salty Sweet and my annual New Year’s celebration.
With sweeter juice, supple peel, and approachable acidity, the Meyer lemon appeals to cooks seeking bright and floral citrus notes. For a desert-phobe like me, this one hundred year-old lemon hybrid’s approachability is a siren song that inspired me to go beyond my comfort zone. The process of making the dessert required my utmost attention and care; in the end, the trifle was a bright finale at the close of an incredible meal (Matt Bites polished off his trifle in two, happy minutes).
As I prepared to collect information about the history of Meyer lemons and recipe information, I discovered that the cookbook that could make this dish possible had gone missing. I checked under the stacks of papers on my desk, scoured the trunk of my car, examined the space behind the stove, eye-balled under my bed, lifted dishes (just in case it was hiding between them), and scanned all of my book shelves. From what I can gather, a hungry black hole swallowed the hardcover whole. Surely Suzanne Goin doesn’t have a legion of muses that require karmic payment for inspiration…Or does she?
Ah well, despite the loss, I’m happy; with a dessert this good and relatively easy (this coming from a dessert-phobe), I willingly give an offering to the culinary muses.
photo by White On Rice Couple
Meyer Lemon Trifle
Inspired by a dish at the Hungry Cat
2 2/3 cups sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 large eggs, beaten to blend
small container of heavy whipping cream (1/2 pint)
3/4 cup sugar
For lemon curd:
Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Slowly add the beaten eggs—being careful not to cook the eggs by adding them too quickly—and whisk constantly. Once you have added all of the eggs to the mixture, return to a medium-low heat. Whisk constantly, until curd thickens (this may happen within 3-4 minutes). Be careful not to let the mixture come to a boil. Strain curd through a sieve into bowl or medium sized casserole dish if you need to chill the mixture quickly. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd and chill, preferably overnight.
For candied lemon zest:
3/4 cup sugar
To make your own candied lemon zest:
Wash lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, cut wide strips of zest, being careful to avoid the white pith. Place zests in a small saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Let boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, drain water, and repeat process two more times.
Next, add 3/4 cup of water and ¾ cups sugar to zests. Cook over low heat until the sugar mixture starts to thicken. Cooking time will be approximately 10 to 15 minutes. *This recipe makes more zest than needed, store extra zests in their candied liquid in an air tight container. Perfect for topping ice cream.
For whipped cream:
In a deep (chilled) metal mixing bowl, beat the half pint of heavy cream until soft peaks form. Use a mixer or a whisk if you want to get an upper arm work out.
Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat until soft peaks return, being careful not to over beat.
To make the trifle:
Fill individual glasses (or bowls) with a layer of lemon curd and whipped cream. Sprinkle crumbled cookies or pound cake on top. Add another layer of lemon curd and whipped cream. Top with candied lemon zest and a cookie.
* Meyer lemon season in Southern California starts in January and can extend to April.
Author’s Note: The missing cookbook was later discovered. It was hiding underneath a stack of ignored bills.