Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dancing Taste Buds

One of my all time favorite treats is lemon curd. It is sweet, but tangy. The texture is smooth and like a soft custard. It is rich and addictive, too. I'd never made variations, although I'd read about blood orange curd and tangerine curd and lime curd.

Recently my local grocer had a special on a big bag of teeny-tiny little green key limes - the photo above is a very close close-up. They may be small, about the size of a golf ball or even smaller, but they have a BIG flavor. I just knew that I could make a great key lime curd if I tried. The recipe is exactly the same as for the lemon curd, except that you use 1 tablespoon, packed, grated key lime zest and 1/2 cup key lime juice. It was surprising how many little key limes it took to make 1/2 cup, but there are still some left for other recipes. The unsweetened juice really got my taste buds dancing.

Once I knew I' d have key lime curd, the next question was what to make to hold it and go with it. Since I had a few egg whites left over from making the curd, meringue nests were an obvious choice. I piped the meringue in pretty small nests, so a serving ended up being two personal pavlovas to a plate. The meringue nest held a dollop of lime curd, some diced fresh pineapple and juicy white peaches, diced. A little more lime curd on top completed this rather sweet dessert.

If I made this again, I'd use fruit that was more tart, to offset the sweetness of the meringues. I might even include a bit of melted bittersweet chocolate on the bottom of the nests before adding the curd and fruit. If you make this, remember to leave the meringues in the oven to cool and crisp up, and to only fill the nests when you are ready to serve them as soon as they are made. Just like the dancing of ballerina these were named for, Anna Pavlova, they are delicate, airy and ethereal.

Meringue Nests

4 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar, preferably super fine granulate sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Prepare a baking sheet by cutting parchment paper to fit. Set aside

Place the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (if possible) and beat on medium with the whisk attachment for a minute, then increase to high speed and beat until meringue begins to take shape. Gradually add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time and beat until meringue is stiff, about five minutes. Add the vanilla extract and beat just to incorporate.

Place the meringue in a pastry bag with either a plain or serrated tip and pipe a nest the size you like. (Mine were about the size of the bottom of a 1/3 cup measure and I made 30 small meringue nests.) Leave about an inch between nests.

Bake in preheated 250 degree oven for about 45 minutes. Be careful to not overcook them. They should remain white, not become brown (as mine did). Turn the oven off and leave them in the oven until the oven is cool. Carefully remove the nests from the parchment paper and store in an airtight container at room temperature. Note: Meringues are difficult to make in humid weather and will not keep very well if it is humid.

11 comments :

KJ said...

This sounds delicious. I love pavlova. I love curd. I think I would really love this.

Kim said...

I just bought a bag of limes also. I make lemon curd all the time but will have to try lime curd. Thanks.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Very nice indeed!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Elle, I tried lemon curd for the first time last week - I made some for I was pretty curious about it (it's not common here in Brazil). I fell in love with the stuff. :)
Now that I have seen your post, I can't wait to make some lime curd as well.
These nests are adorable and the idea of drizzled chocolate sounds amazing!

Maryann said...

Hi Elle! Love your lime curd ;)

Elle said...

kj, do try them...easy and fun

Kim, Go for it! The limes really make the curd sing.

Tanna, Thanks!

Patricia, Isn't lemon curd the bomb! Once you have home made, nothing else will do. Try it in the bottom of a pie with whipped cream and strawberries...crust, curd, whipped cream, sliced berries. It's so good that way.

Maryann, Thanks!..Glad you do.

giz said...

I can only just imagine how refined key lime curd would be. I have a hard time finding them here in the great white north.

Peabody said...

Key lime! Now you are talking my language. I have never made it into curd...I wonder why! This looks great.

Mcwhisky said...

Pavlova and curd? Never thought of that. ;)
Oh yea, will the meringue get soggy since there's curd?

Amanda said...

Did you use food coloring to make your key lime curd green? All my experience with key limes yielded yellow results.

Elle said...

Giz,I only see them at a reasonable price in late May or early June...but the fragrance and special key lime flavor make it worth buying when they are available.

Peabody,it makes great curd...eat it with a spoon all by itself :)

McWhisky,the meringue gets soggy if the curd is in it very long. I always put everything together at the last minute and serve right away...sort of like with a souffle'

Amanda,yes, I used a little bit of green and a bit of yellow food color. Afterwards I wished that I hadn't...the green was too green.