This dessert is like a fluffy lemon mousse; however, it is made without gelatin. It is prepared easily by making a lemon curd base, which can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator. To prepare, just fold in the freshly whipped lemon-scented cream. Serve simply in an elegant dessert dish, perhaps garnished with a lemon curl. If you ever have the opportunity to acquire Meyer lemons, this is heavenly when made with their exotic, perfumey flavor. It also would be lovely served with fresh fruit or alongside angel food, genoise or pound cake. Save the leftover curd for tarts, toast, scones or cake filling. MAKES ABOUT 2 1/2 CUPS
• 1 cup whipping cream
• Handful of lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves
• 3 medium lemons
• 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
• 4 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. In a bowl, combine whipping cream with lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves, bruising the leaves against the side of the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to overnight.
2. Remove zest from the lemons with a fine lemon zester or grater. Halve lemons and squeeze juice from them. Strain to remove the seeds; there should be about 1/2 cup juice.
3. Put hot water in the bottom of a double boiler. Combine the zest and juice in the top of a double boiler along with the sugar and butter. Place over medium heat and bring the water to a simmer. Stir ingredients occasionally, until dissolved and blended, and hot to the touch.
4. In a separate bowl, beat eggs well and pour them through a strainer into the top of the double boiler. Stir often while the mixture cooks; it will begin to thicken. It should get nice and thick in about 10 minutes — it should be like a thick white sauce or gravy — and sort of sheet off the spoon. Cook for a few minutes longer after it sheets. (If you want to use a candy thermometer, the temperature should be between 150 and 160 degrees, but this really isn’t necessary).
5. Remove the top part of the double boiler from the bottom and stir curd occasionally as it cools. Once you can put your hands on the outside of the pan, cover the top of the curd with wax paper and let cool to room temperature. Once cool, refrigerate until ready to use.
6. When ready to assemble, remove herb leaves from cream, squeezing leaves to remove all of the essence. Using a hand or electric beater, beat whipping cream. When it starts to thicken, add vanilla and blend well. Fold 1 1/2 cups of the curd into whipped cream, and reserve the remaining curd for another use. The lemon cream can be refrigerated until ready to use, or served in individual dishes. If kept refrigerated, you may need to whisk it a bit just before serving.
Susan Belsinger is the author of Not Just Desserts: Sweet Herbal Recipes (Paul’s Printing, 2005).
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