There is a restaurant in Toronto called Four Bistro, and everything they serve is under 600 calories and they have the cutest little desserts in shot glasses. You can order 1, 2, 3 6 glasses...whatever you like. So that is the idea I started with for my dessert, except I was told by my wise friend Anthony that a shot was far too small so I better go for a martini. So I did!
This dessert may seem a bit fussy and full of steps but it is actually really easy to make, requires relatively few ingredients and is great for those who do not want to spend time baking cakes or making a pastry dough. The first layer in the glass is a graham cracker crumble, which is topped by a tart lemon curd, which is then capped by a toasted meringue. Now it has been absolutely YEARS since I made a meringue but it came out perfectly. It is much easier than I thought.
The only technique that might be a bit foreign is using a double boiler or "bain marie". This cooking technique is used when you want to cook a delicate item - that usually includes eggs - and need to ensure it doesn't burn or the eggs don't scramble. In the lemon curd recipe, we cook the lemon curd in a mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water, so the mixture cooks without direct heat being applied. Traditionally, bakers often use this technique to melt chocolate so they can ensure that it doesn't scorch. (I have found a microwave on low power works just as well and only uses one bowl!)
This recipe will make enough for 6 generous martinis or 8 slightly smaller ones. I have used 4 oz. sized martini glasses. The components should be made in this order for best results:
Graham Cracker Crumble
1/2 package graham cracker cookies
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse graham crackers in a food processor until fine and no large pieces remain. Add in sugar and process again. A bit at at time, pour the melted butter into the graham cracker sugar mix and pulse quickly to incorporate butter. The mixture should hold together if you pinch it with your fingers.
Spread graham cracker mixture on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for approximately 10 minutes in preheated oven, stirring every few minutes. The graham crackers will dry slightly. When ready, remove from oven and let cool. Use right away or store in an airtight container until needed.
4 large lemons (or 6 small ones), at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
zest of 2 lemons
Zest and juice the lemons, being sure to strain out the seeds.
Cook's Note: You should end up with about 2/3 cup of lemon juice. If your lemons do not render that much juice, then just top it up with a bit of good quality lemon juice concentrate (ssshhhh....). Also, I like my lemon curd quite tart, so you can add another 1/4 cup of sugar if you want it sweeter.
Place strained lemon juice and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Bring a small pot of simmering water to the boil. The pot should contain about 2" water. Place the mixing bowl over the simmering water to create a double boiler. Whisk the sugar and lemon juice together until sugar dissolves and the gritty feeling in the bowl is gone.
Remove the lemon juice-sugar mixture from heat. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk. Slowly add eggs a 1/4 cup at a time into lemon juice mixture, whisking constantly until it thickens, about 8-10 minutes. Do not leave the curd unattended during this time, otherwise you will be serving lemon scrambled eggs.
Once the mixture thickens, remove from heat and pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Return curd to the pot and add whisk in the butter one piece at a time. Once butter is incorporated, whisk in the lemon zest and let cool slightly. The curd will continue to thicken as it cools. While cooling, cover the curd with plastic wrap, being sure to place the plastic wrap right on the surface of the curd to ensure that a skin does not form.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Place egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar a bit at a time until all incorporated. Add salt. Whip on high speed of your mixter until egg whites are stiff but not dry, approximately 5 minutes.
Cook`s Note: The terms you will read in recipes involving beating egg whites are foamy, soft peak and stiff peak. Your egg whites are foamy when they have turned white, have thickened slightly and a lot of bubbles appear. Continuing to beat the egg whites on high will next bring them to soft peak where you can scoop them, and soft peaks that fall. Stiff peak is next and the egg whites are shiny and peaks will hold.
This video is actually a bit cheesy but it is a pretty good demonstration of what foamy, soft peak and stiff peak egg whites look like. Check it out if you need a reminder.
To assemble martinis:
Place a layer of graham crumble crumbs in the bottom of a 4 oz martini glass, about 3 tablespoons. Top with 3-4 tablespoons of lemon curd. Top with egg whites. Using a pastry blow torch, caramelize the exteriors of the merinuge until peaks are slightly browned.