Not Your Grandma's Lemon Meringue

On Sunday morning, my grandma would often whip up a few (at least three or more) lemon meringue pies for Sunday dinner. Although the taste of this tangy lemon dessert transports me back to my grandma’s kitchen, it’s actually a very different dessert comprised of four separate elements: lemon panna cotta, lemon curd, meringue shell, and tuile cookies. You can make each of these components ahead of time and assemble it for your guests at the last minute.


Meringue Shells

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar*

Panna Cotta

  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar*

Tuile Cookies

  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Curd

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Sweetened Blackberries

  • 3/4 cup blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar


To make the meringues

  1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  3. Using a pencil, trace four 4-inch circles on the paper using a glass or cookie cutter as a guide. Turn the paper drawing-side down.

  4. In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form. Reduce to low speed and gradually beat in the superfine sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form.

  5. Spoon the meringue onto each parchment paper circle, smoothing the meringue to make a solid round. To make the shells, use the back of a spoon to push the meringue toward the edge of the round to form a 1-inch-high wall. Swirl meringue up into short peaks on the sides.

To make the panna cotta

  1. Heat 3/4 cup of the half-and-half and the milk in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the zest and cook for 8 minutes to infuse the mixture with lemon zest flavor.

  2. Meanwhile, pour the remaining 1/4 cup half-and-half into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the half-and-half and let stand for 10 minutes.

  3. Stir the superfine sugar into the milk mixture in the saucepan, whisking to dissolve. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin, whisking until it dissolves. If any gelatin particles remain, return to low heat and stir until it's all dissolved.

  4. Grease four 3-inch ramekins or 4 cups of a muffin tin. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring bowl or container for easy pouring. Fill the ramekins or cups. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set, 2 to 4 hours.

To make the tuile cookies

  1. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl. Whisk in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Whisk in the flour to combine.

  2. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  3. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with a nonstick liner or parchment paper.

  4. Working quickly, spoon no more than 1⁄2 teaspoon batter onto the prepared baking sheet to form thin cookies. Using the back of a spoon or offset spatula, thinly spread the batter into rounds.

  5. Bake until lightly browned around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

  6. Quickly use a spatula to remove the cookies from the baking sheet. While hot and soft, mold the cookies over a wooden spoon handle or rolling pin to form curved shapes.

To make the lemon curd

  1. Heat the granulated sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

  2. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the egg yolk. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture slightly thickens, 8 to 10 minutes.

  3. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the butter until it melts.

  4. Cover the surface of the curd with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate until firmed up, about 10 minutes.

To prepare the sweetened blackberries

  1. Combine the blackberries, turbinado sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a small heavy saucepan.

  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

To assemble

  1. Place a meringue shell on a dessert plate. Unmold a panna cotta into the shell.

  2. Spoon about 1 tablespoon lemon curd in a line down the side of the plate. Using the back of a spoon, widen the line to a pretty smear.

  3. Top the panna cotta with a tuile cookie. Lastly, spoon a few blackberries around the meringue shell. Drop a few dots of blackberry juice onto the lemon curd for decoration.

If you do not have superfine sugar, pulse granulated sugar two times in a food processor.

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Not Your Grandma's Lemon Meringue