This is the story of one great dessert idea that morphed into another one.
Once upon a time there was an American pastry chef working in Paris, France. She didn’t exactly feel creatively stimulated at work, so she did a lot of cooking and baking at home. Her husband’s birthday was coming up and she wanted to make him something special. While flipping through a cookbook by one of her favorite pastry chefs (which, it so happens, she found extraordinarily cheap in an outlet-type bookstore on her street), she remembered that her husband was crazy for lemon curd (and oh, did this book have a fabulous recipe!).
But what would be the best lemon curd delivery method? Sure, it’s great in a tart, but our heroine wanted to make something unexpected.
“Since we’re still in the cold, drippy, wet pre-spring that is early March,” she thought, “maybe I can work it into a bread pudding… yes! With a fluffy meringue on top! It’ll be great! Like lemon meringue pie, but more wintry and comforting.”
So over the next few days she gathered her ingredients: eggs, brioche, milk, cream, butter, and untreated lemons (imperative if the zest is going to be used). On the big day, the pastry chef noticed that almost all of the brioche had been eaten. Sometimes these things happen. She made a mental note to pick up a croissant on the way home from work.
Later on, the day’s (paying) work behind her, she cubed up the croissant and began soaking it in a custard made with milk, cream, and egg yolks. She set the whites aside for the meringue and began making the lemon curd. The final product was luscious – tart and lemony, with a hefty dose of fresh butter rounding it out.
There was no electric mixer in the charming Parisian apartment where the pastry chef and her husband lived, but love can give one’s arm muscles unexpected stamina. She whisked and whisked and slowly, the egg whites began to form soft peaks. The volume of meringue turned out to be more than anticipated, and it was about this time that she realized she had no pastry tips to make the meringue look pretty, and no torch to toast it in an attractive fashion. Not to be discouraged (and not wanting to waste any of that hard-won meringue), the pastry chef decided to fold it into the custard, thereby making a soufflé batter of sorts.
She filled the bottoms of some ramekins with lemon curd, and spooned some of the bread pudding batter on top. Another scoop of curd went into the middle, the cups were filled to the rim with more batter, and the desserts made it into the oven just as the pastry chef’s husband arrived at home.
Puffed and golden, the little puddings with their secret stash of lemon curd delighted the birthday boy, and they all lived happily ever after.
Originally published on Croque-Camille.