Labor Day(ish)

Lemon Meringue Pie Cookies

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Isn’t Mother’s Day basically the same as Labor Day?  After all, there would be no mothers on this earth without a day of labor. #lamaze
Lemon meringue pie, like quiche & quinoa, has somehow acquired a decidedly feminine aura.  Sure, it has a light & delicate look — one might even call it dainty — but, when made well, the sharpness of that lemon curd is a full-on bodyslam of flavor, with a crisp-yet-airy meringue topping to add balance to the dessert.  Even the manliest of men should be able to appreciate something like that!

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My own mother is likely one of the biggest lemon meringue pie fans.  Unfortunately for her, however, when I was a kid, my mom was the only one in the house with a penchant for this particular pie.  My dad is a more classic chocolate dessert kind of guy (when he does partake), and my sister and I had eyes for nothing but the most cloyingly sweet of desserts in our misguided youth.  Thus, since a whole pie is a lot for one person to eat, she rarely ever got to indulge in her favorite dessert, with tastings limited only to the occasional diner visit.

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Though I have grown to appreciate lemon meringue pie as an adult, my dad is still a staunch Klondike bar man, so my mom continues to have LMP only sparingly.  As such, I decided to make Lemon Meringue Pie Cookies as this year’s Mother’s Day confection.

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Referencing this recipe as a starting point, I made some adjustments to accommodation my travel plans, schedule, & personal cookie-making ingredient & method preferences.  I have to admit, I’m THRILLED with the results!  All 3 components — lemon curd, cookie, meringue — travel very well (better than most small children, actually), and they are so easy to assemble when serving time comes.

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I recommend prepping the components the day before you plan to serve the cookies, to permit enough time for proper cooling and maximized structural integrity.  I made the curd first, splashing lemon juice directly in my eye only once (#win).  I mixed up and baked the cookies next, then made the meringues right before bed (since they do best when allowed to cool in the oven, with the door cocked, overnight).  You could probably, get away with making these cookies all in one day, if you start with the meringues first thing in the morning, but I much prefer to do casual, unhurried baking, so I recommend splitting the process over two days.

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These cookies take only minutes to assemble and look like they took MUCH more effort than they actually did — it’s amazing what magic a piped meringue can play on the untrained (and even the trained!) eye.  Just be sure to accompany your Mother’s Day cookies with a handmade card, and your spot in the will will be set in stone — Happy Mother’s Day!

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Lemon Meringue Pie Cookies

Lemon curd:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (keep the zest of the 2nd lemon for the cookies)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 egg yolks (keep the whites for the meringue), room temp
1/3 cup lemon juice (~ 2 large, juicy lemons)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temp
Cookie base:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon (I told you you’d use it here!)
1 1/2 cups bread flower
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 egg, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla meringue:
2 large egg whites, room temp for quick whipping
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make curd:  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, use a whisk to combine the sugar and lemon zest, & set aside for 10 minutes to allow the lemon zest to perfume the sugar.  [[Note:  if you’re using a nonstick saucepan, be sure to use a silicone whisk to avoid scratching the nonstick lining]]  Thoroughly whisk in the cornstarch, then the lemon juice and egg yolks, until totally smooth.  Whisk in the lemon juice, then place the saucepan over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, for ~3 minutes, until thickened & smooth.  Remove from heat, and use a rubber spatula to fold in the butter until totally incorporated.  Transfer the curd to a clean, widemouthed jar, and lay a small piece of plastic wrap over the entire surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming as the curd cools to room temp on the counter.  Once cooled, screw on the lid tightly, and chill the curd until you’re ready to assemble the cookies.
Make cookies:  In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the granulated sugar & the lemon zest, then set aside for 10 minutes to allow the lemon zest to perfume the sugar.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl or large measuring cup, use a fork to combine and aerate the flour, baking powder, & salt; set aside.  Returning to your lemon-sugar bowl, add the softened butter and powdered sugar.  Using the stand mixer’s paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), cream together the butter & sugars, until pale and fluffy, ~3-5 minutes (depending on how soft your butter is) on medium speed.  Add in egg then vanilla, and beat for an additional 3 minutes.  Turn mixer to low, then gradually add in dry ingredients, mixing only until JUST combined.  Use a rubber spatula to quickly form the dough into a coherent mass.  Scoop out ~1 1/2 teaspoonfuls(ish) of dough, & roll them into rough balls with your palms.  Chill dough balls on a wax paper lined plate for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Remove chilled dough balls from fridge, and re-roll the dough balls between slightly dampened palms (this part makes the dough balls TOTALLY smooth, for neater-looking cookies).  Place 8 or so cookies per sheet, allowing ~2″ between cookies.  Bake for 6 minutes, and remove cookies from oven (they will look very unimpressive at this moment).  Using a clean 1/2 teaspoon measure, make a deep depression in the center of each cookie, and return cookies to oven for an additional 8 minutes.  Remove cookies from oven, & quickly re-depress each cookie to really define the imprint.  Allow cookies to cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then remove cookies to wire racks for complete cooling.
Make meringues:  [[You can totally make these with a hand mixer if you can’t stand them; just increase the amount of whip time to achieve your stiff, glossy peaks]] Preheat oven to 250 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  In a freakishly-clean stand mixer bowl, quickly whisk together the egg whites and sugar, just to incorporate.  Place mixing bowl over a small pot of simmering water (without submerging bowl base in the water).  Whisk over the simmering water for 3 minutes, until sugar has fully dissolved (you have to keep whisking, otherwise you might end up with a sweetened egg white omelette instead!).  Dry the condensation off of the outside of the bowl, and insert the mixing bowl into the stand mixer, fitted with the balloon whisk attachment.  Whip on high speed for ~3 minutes, until you achieve stiff, glossy peaks.  Beat in vanilla.  Transfer whipped egg whites to a pastry bag, fitted with a star tip (or, if you’re me, a zip-top freezer bag, with the corner cut off to accommodate a taped-on star tip — works just as well!).  Pipe small meringues, ~diameter of a nickel, close together on the prepped baking sheet — no need to account for spreading.  Bake for 1 hour, then shut oven off, prop the door open (keeping all small children, pets, & wayward boyfriends away from the kitchen), and allow to cool overnight.  If you have plastic stove knobs right above your oven door, you may need to cool these cookies on the countertop to avoid melting your knobs.
Assemble cookies:  Remove chilled lemon curd from the fridge, peel off the layer of plastic wrap, & stir with a few brisk strokes.  Place ~1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon of curd (depending on the size of your thumb indentations) into the depression in each cookie — I find a teaspoon and small rubber spatula (or finger) work best for this step.  Place a meringue on top of each curd dollop, and press down gently.
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[[Note:  For best results, assemble cookies just prior to serving to prevent soggy meringues.  Store lemon curd in the jar, in the fridge, and cookies & meringues in separate airtight containers, at room temp, for up to 5 days.  This assemble-to-consume is an excellent form of portion control!]]

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3 thoughts on “Labor Day(ish)

  1. Thanks for sharing. These look delicious! I really like your meringues. They’re beautiful and perfect. I haven’t tried your method of heating over a double boiler for only a few minutes so I will have to give it a shot!

    Like

    1. This is a relatively new meringue-ing method for me too! I’ve been binge watching The Great British Bake-off recently, and they do so many different meringue types (even an intriguing brown sugar one). Enjoy 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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