This recipe requires a little patience, mostly because you need to allow time for the lemon curd to cool. And no, you can’t just use a jar. The lemon curd is the star of the show here so if you use shop bought stuff, what are you showcasing – your shopping skills? Give me a break.
The meringue used here is nothing to get your knickers in a twist about either, it’s Italian meringue which differs from ‘normal’ meringue in so far as the sugar is added to the egg whites as a hot syrup. Classed as cooked meringue, this is generally more stable and suitable for piping, folding and in this case toasting with a blowtorch, in the style of a baked Alaska.
You can prepare these a day or two in advance, in fact it makes sense to make the lemon curd the day before to sidestep the ‘waiting for it to cool stage’ - the quantity of curd here is enough for this recipe and a jar left over for your troubles. Lemon curd will keep refrigerated for a week or two, or at least until you next have toast.
Don’t panic if you have excess meringue or mousse left over, the quantities for the sugar syrup are about the minimum you can get away with in a small pan. The quantities here will fill 6 to 8 individual glasses, 180 ml size. Choose something with a wide mouth to make it easier to fill cleanly, and which will give you a clear surface area to get at with your blow torch later.
You will also need an electric whisk and a sugar thermometer.
(Makes 6 - 8 individual portions)
For the lemon curd
2 small lemons
3 large eggs
115g caster sugar
75g butter, cubed
For the mousse
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
150g of double cream
For the meringue
5 large egg whites
250g caster sugar + 60ml of water
For the lemon curd
Half fill a pan with water and bring to a gentle simmer on a low heat, whilst you:
Zest the lemons by whichever means you prefer, and finely chop the peel. Roll the lemons under the palm of your hand to release the juices then halve them, and juice them.
Break the eggs into a large heatproof bowl and beat them with a fork, pour the lemon juice over them in a steady stream and beat together briefly to mix. Add the sugar and stir it in to dissolve. Then add the lemon zest and the butter and sit the bowl over the pan of simmering water.
Stir regularly (but not obsessively) for the next 20 minutes or so or until the curd has thickened, something the thickness of mayonnaise will do. It will thicken further as it cools and even more so when it’s had a spell in the fridge.
I suggest filling your presentation glasses (2 or 3 tablespoons/an inch deep in each glass) with the curd and letting it cool in situ in the glasses, whilst you prepare the next stages.
Add 60ml of water to the caster sugar in a small pan and set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Add the thermometer to the pan and turn the heat up a notch – now is the time to start whisking your egg whites.
In a clean bowl whisk the egg whites into stiff peaks, keeping your eye on the temperature of the sugar syrup and timing your whisking speed accordingly; ideally you want the syrup to hit 120 ⁰C just as the egg whites have reached stiff peak stage. With the beaters still running, dribble the syrup in a steady trickle onto the egg whites, but avoid it hitting the beaters. Continue to add all the syrup in a steady stream, beating it in and chasing it around the bowl with the beaters as you go. Continue beating the meringue for a good 10 minutes; ideally it should be room temperature by this time and be very thick and glossy.
In another medium sized bowl, add 2 tablespoons of icing sugar to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and add 150g of double cream. Whisk this until the cream is starting to hold its shape in soft peaks. Add 150g of the meringue to this and fold it in.
Divide the mousse between the glasses and level the tops.
Use either a palette knife or piping bag to top the mousse with the remaining meringue and shape or swirl the meringue creatively (bear in mind that smooth and flat will look very uninteresting when you come to toast it later, but too many peaks will catch and burn before you can achieve an all-over colour).
The mousses will keep in the fridge for a couple of days, however leave the final blowtorching until you’re thinking about serving.