Tuesday, April 2, 2013

best.dessert.ever.

UPDATE: Check out this post on the new eathalifax!

I can't say this enough. I just made the Best Dessert Ever. Like ever.

But let's back up a bit first. You may remember a while back Castello (aka Tre Stelle) contacted me about testing some of their new cheese. A delicious endeavour indeed. They liked my post so much they offered to send along more coupons for free cheese. And folks free cheese is two words to which I will always respond with an enthusiac yes! So, although it took months, I'm back with a review of another cheese in the Tre Stelle line. This time I knew just what to get. Creamy, delicious, decadent mascarpone. Not so long ago I whipped up a wild mushroom mascarpone dip for my first Cheesemus but this Easter I had visions of a towering lemon curd and mascarpone vanilla bean pavlova. Oh yes I did.



gorgeous farm fresh eggs
And where else to find inspiration than the baking blogs of all baking blogs, Sweetapolita. Bookmark it. Like now. While she made hers with a chocolate ganache, I already knew I was lemon curd all the way. No better way to usher in Spring than some tart lemony goodness. Plus what else are you going to do with the 12 leftover egg yolks?! And so I am thrilled to present to you, the Best Dessert Ever:

Lemon Curd & Mascarpone Vanilla Bean Pavlova



vanilla bean meringue:
12 egg whites, room temp
2 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean powder
pinch sea salt

lemon curd:
12 egg yolks
1 1/4 cup sugar
zest of two lemons
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp cold butter, cubed

mascarpone cream:
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup white creme de cacao
630 g marscapone, softened (1 lg container plus 1/3 of another)

First things first, preheat the oven to 250. Get those egg whites in your Big Red (or whatever color of KitchenAid stand mixer you prefer) and whip away. Meanwhile, cover three baking sheets with parchment and trace three 8' circles on each. When the whites are becoming thick with soft peaks, add in the salt and vanilla bean. Gradually add in the sugar about 1/2 cup at a time until the peaks become glossy and stiff. Using a palette knife, spread the meringue onto the parchment, evenly filing in the circles. Bake about 2 1/2 hours until dry, rotating every half hour or so. Turn off the oven and leave in an additional hour or so. I actually turned my oven off at the 2 hour mark then simply left them in overnight. Plan ahead for this cake folks especially if your oven will be occupied by a chicken for most of the day you plan to serve it!

To make the lemon curd, make your self a dandy lil' double boiler with a bowl set atop a pot of simmering water. In the bowl, mix together the yolks, lemon juice, zest, and sugar. Cook, whisking often, until the yolks become thick. Remove from the heat and strain to remove the zest. Whisk in the butter, a few pieces at a time. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to avoid that icky film and refrigerate until use.

Lastly, for the mascarpone layer, whip the cream and sugar in a stand mixer or food pro. I generally use the food pro because you'd be amazed at how incredibly fast it makes whipped cream. Meanwhile, whip the mascarpone and creme de cacao until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream.

To assemble, spread 1/3 the mascarpone cream on one meringue followed by 1/2 the lemon curd. Repeat, ending with the mascarpone cream to top. I garnished mine with some sugared lemon twists but candied lemon slices would be great too or simply some mint or even more lemon curd. Cuz lord knows, we all need more curd.

As you can imagine, this cake blew our minds. So much so that despite being holiday full from an Easter potluck of charcuterie, spicy red pepper soup, Jigg's dinner, herb roasted chicken with haskap, pistachio & sage stuffing, scalloped potatoes, and a banana walnut cake with cream cheese frosting, I still went back for seconds. I swear this cake had magical powers, putting me in a sugar-induced, lemon-fuelled trance like state where being full was completely irrelevant. And it wasn't just me either. Oh, I'm looking at you Kelly, Amber, and Kathy. I won't admit how much of that cake I actually ate Easter Sunday but next time I make it, I best invite more friends.