Are you ready for springtime yet? We’re nearly there, dear reader, and I have just the thing to hold you over: the Meyer lemon. Meyers are a cross between a conventional lemon and (depending on who you ask) either a mandarin or an orange, named for the Agriculture Department official who imported them from their native China in 1908. Though they don’t travel particularly well (their thin skins bruise easily), they’ve enjoyed a steady uptick in popularity, and many California backyards (mine included) are graced with a fragrant citrus tree or two. Meyers are elegantly perfumed and far less puckery than conventional lemons, with smooth, edible skins.
Meyers come into season in November, peak in the winter months and on into March, when the imminent drift into springtime starts to brighten and lighten menus. Whisk their sunny citrus flavor into a lush, dreamy cream (a custard, technically) to serve alongside angel food cake, or fill a pre-baked tart shell and refrigerate it to set up the cream. (Though it’s prepared in a similar way, it won’t set up as tightly as a traditional lemon curd.) The cream pirouettes gracefully along the line between tart and sweet, cushioned by its richness and velvety texture. (Fans of the Creamsicle may find an echo of the childhood treat.) You’ll have to try very hard not to lick the spoon. And the bowl. And another spoonful, for that matter, but I won’t tell anyone if you do.
Meyer Lemon Cream
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking; makes enough to fill one 9″ tart or to serve, generously, with an angel food cake or dozen scones
- 1 C sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 3/4 C fresh Meyer lemon juice (from about 4-5 lemons)
- grated zest from 3 Meyer lemons
- 2 sticks plus 5 Tbsp butter (10 1/2 oz), room temperature
- pre-baked angel food cake, scones, tart shell, etc.
Cut the butter into pats. In a medium saucepan, bring a few inches of water to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl (one that will fit on top of your saucepan), add the sugar and zest; use your fingers to incorporate. Whisk in the eggs and then the lemon juice.
Set the bowl over the simmering water; once the mixture feels warm, begin whisking. When the mixture starts to change consistency and the whisk leaves tracks, use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature. Continue whisking and checking the temp until the mixture reaches 180 degrees.
Remove from the heat and add the lemon mixture to the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Let cool until it reaches 140 degrees or so. Cover and turn on high, adding the butter in about 5 pats at a time through the feed tube. Once the butter is in, keep processing for an additional 3-4 minutes to aerate.
Transfer the lemon cream to a container and cover with plastic wrap, pressing into the cream to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight (and up to 4 days). Use it to fill a baked tart shell or serve with alongside scones or angel food cake.
Note: The original recipe utilized conventional lemons, which you may substitute without any other adjustments.