- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 lemons, zested
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 eggs)*
- 1/2 cup sugar
- A large cookie sheet, well greased, or lined with parchment paper
- A 2-inch cookie cutter
- A small ice cream scoop, about 1 1/2 inches across
- A pastry bag fitted with a small plain tip (1/4-inch or less)
- A kitchen torch**
Pastry Bases: Mix the butter, flour, and salt until sandy in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, blend the yolk and creme fraiche. Add to the flour mixture and mix until barely combined. Form into a disk, wrap, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Lemon Curd: Bring 2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan. Whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the lemon zest and juice and place the bowl over the simmering water (without letting the bowl touch the water; pour some out if needed). Cook until thickened, whisking occasionally, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Let cool to room temperature, cover, and freeze overnight or up to 3 days.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Flour a work surface and roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thick. Prick all over with a fork then cut out 2-inch rounds. Transfer to the cookie sheet. Bake until light golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes and let cool. (The whole recipe can be made up to this point up to 3 days in advance.)
Up to 6 hours before serving, assemble the dessert. Arrange the pastry rounds in a pan that will fit in your freezer (use two, if needed). Use a small ice cream scoop to place a ball or scoop of frozen lemon curd (it won't be frozen solid) onto each round. Place back in the freezer while you make the meringue.
Meringue: Whip the egg whites until foamy, then add the sugar and continue whipping until stiff and glossy. Transfer to your pastry bag. Pipe meringue around the base of each pastry round, spiraling around and up the lemon curd ball and gradually enclosing the top to create a beehive. Fire up your kitchen torch and brown until lightly browned all over. Return to the freezer until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.
*Raw Egg Warning The American Egg Board states: "There have been warnings against consuming raw or lightly cooked eggs on the grounds that the egg may be contaminated with Salmonella, a bacteria responsible for a type of food poisoning.... Healthy people need to remember that there is a very small risk and treat eggs and other raw animal foods accordingly. Use only properly refrigerated, clean, sound-shelled, fresh, grade AA or A eggs. Avoid mixing yolks and whites with the shell."
**Propane Gas Torch Warning: Propane gas torches are highly flammable and should be kept away from heat or flame, and should not be exposed to prolonged sunlight. Propane gas torches should only be used in well-ventilated areas. When lighting a propane gas torch, place the torch on a flat, steady surface, facing away from you. Light the match or lighter and then open the gas valve. Light the gas jet, and blow out the match. Always turn off the burner valve to "finger tight" when finished using the torch. Children should never use a propane gas torch without adult supervision.