The first time I tasted this ice cream, I knew I had to share it with you.
The flavour of frozen lemon is something pretty much everyone is familiar with. Whether you first tasted it in lemon ice lollies, lemon sorbet or even a slush puppy (granita to those of you who are Italian or have ever tried the slightly more sophisticated version of the lurid slop on sale in cinemas around the country), I’m pretty confident you’ll be able to find at least one childhood memory filled with that mouth-puckeringly sharp sweetness, shards of icy lemon melting on your tongue.
This ice cream is the opposite of that sharp, tart, familiar lemon flavour. It’s still bright, zingy and ultimately refreshing, but the use of a custard base and lack of any lemon juice whatsoever in the recipe results in a richer, rounder, smoother expression of lemon. It’s no sorbet and acts accordingly, lingering on your tongue with the fat from the milk and cream, mellowing the lemon, lasting longer.
I first made this ice cream a couple of weeks ago when my parents came over for supper. I wanted something simple and fairly small to serve after the fishy feast of our main course and surprised myself with how much I loved this four ingredient recipe. After we’d eaten, I tucked the remaining portion back in the freezer, thinking about how I could photograph it for the blog the next day then polish it off as a mid-morning treat.
Unfortunately the freezer got left open overnight (I say this without apportioning blame, but Carniverous Fiancé you know I’m looking at you) and the next morning we were welcomed by soggy frozen peas, a packet of ice which was more like water and a pathetic little custardy puddle in place of what should have been my amazing lemon ice cream.
I considered posting the recipe without photos – that’s how delicious it was – but told myself that soon enough an opportunity would present itself to make this ice cream again. And last weekend, with fifty miniature meringues made for our family engagement party and a lot of lovely leftover egg yolks to use up, that opportunity arose.
Although the guests made valiant inroads into the four different desserts I’d made for the night (you can find the carrot cake and treacle tart recipes here and here), a small number of meringues survived to live another day, due largely to the fact that I was having way too much fun and completely forgot to fill and decorate the spares that hadn’t fitted on the serving plate to begin with. Not wanting them to go to waste, I decided to remake that lovely lemon ice cream, this time crumbling shards of crisp meringue into the custard after it had churned.
The resulting ice cream is every bit as delicious as I remembered. The lemon glides across your tongue, interrupted only by melting bites of sweet meringue. If you eat it the same day, you’ll still get some of that lovely brittle crispness. Leave it for a few days and over time the meringue then mellows into gorgeously chewy pockets of flavour. As long as you don’t leave the freezer door open.
Lemon Meringue Ice Cream
(makes approx. 1.5 litres)
Zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
125g golden caster sugar
250ml full fat milk
500 ml double cream
5 large free range egg yolks
8 – 10 mini meringue nests (recipe below), crumbled into rough pieces
Add the lemon zest and sugar to a food processor and blitz.
Combine the lemon sugar, milk and 125ml double cream and salt in a saucepan and warm gently. Remove from the heat cover and set aside to infuse for one hour.
Pour the remaining 375ml double cream into a large bowl and set it over an ice bath with a mesh sieve on top.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks together.
Rewarm the lemon infused mixture then slowly pour it into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until combined. Return the mixture to your saucepan and stir constantly over a medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a heatproof spatula.
Remove the custard from the heat and pour through the sieve into the cold cream. Discard any lemon zest left behind then whisk the ice cream mixture over the ice bath until cool.
Chill in the fridge overnight then churn according to your manufacturer’s instructions. As you remove it from the machine, fold in the crumbled meringue nests then freeze until ready to eat.
Mini Meringue Nests
This recipe will make more meringues than you need for the ice cream above but they keep well in an airtight container for one week. They are also delicious filled with whipped cream or folded into Eton Mess.
5 free range egg whites
220g caster sugar
1 tsp cornflower, sieved
1 tsp white wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 120 degrees C and line two large baking trays with parchment.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add half the sugar and continue to whisk to soft peaks. With the whisk attachment still running, slowly incorporate the remaining sugar, until firm peaks form. Fold in the cornflour and vinegar.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle and pipe concentric rounds of meringue onto the baking sheets, piping two additional rings round the edge to create a nest. If you want to be exact, draw circles on the underside of the baking parchment before you start piping, approx. 7cm in diameter.
Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours or until the meringues feel crisp and lift off the paper easily. Leave in the oven to cool for a couple of hours, or overnight if you can.
Transfer the meringues to an airtight container and consume within a week.