Memorial Day, 2017

Memorial Day. A time to remember the more that a million Americans who have died in the line of duty. People who made the ultimate sacrifice so I can enjoy freedom in this country that I love. A somber holiday, but also a time for hope and for looking forward to the future. I just don’t say “Happy Memorial Day.” It feels wrong somehow.

That being said, it is a time to get together with family and friends and, after a time of remembrance, to celebrate the life we have and the love we share. And food. Don’t forget the food. Hubby and I went to the parentals, as usual, and had a chance to celebrate with all the neighbors. There was enough good food to feed about three times the number of people, but that’s no surprise. Leftovers, here I come!

This year I contributed my favorite little Lemon Cream Cups. They’re always a winner, so I’m sharing the recipe here. They take maybe an hour start to finish and, while they seem a little fussy, really are pretty easy.

Lemon Cream Cups (serves 12)

Ingredients:
4 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 c. heavy cream
4 egg yolks
1/3 c. honey, plus extra for garnish
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
Fresh fruit as desired

Start by making the cups. If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough before, it’s like super thin sheets of tissue paper. There is often nervousness among newbies that they will tear the fragile dough. So let me set your mind at ease. You WILL tear it. Probably more than once. And that’s okay. We’re using multiple layers and the butter will help stick it back together. So don’t worry about it. Perfection here is totally not important. However, you will want to dampen a kitchen towel (just a little…you don’t want it actively wet) and place the sheets of dough on it. Cover with another slightly damp cloth or paper towel. If you don’t keep the dough damp, it will break apart, you will cry, and I will get hate mail. So, please. Don’t skip this step. 😁

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Take one sheet from the stack of dough and place on a counter or cutting board. Recover the stack of dough with the towel, and use a pastry brush to coat the individual sheet lightly with butter. Peel off another sheet, place it on top of the first one, and coat with more butter. Repeat for remaining sheets, ending with a layer of butter. Butter. Yum.

Use a sharp knife to cut the stack into twelve squares, then press the squares carefully but firmly into the cups of a muffin pan. Use a fork to stab the bottom of the cups just a little so they don’t puff up during baking. I forgot this step when I was baking this batch, and you can see in the finished product that the middle was a little puffy.

Bake for 7-9 minutes or​ until the cups are golden and crispy. Watch them closely, because they burn quickly at the end. Remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the cups to cool. Once they’re cool enough to handle, remove the cups carefully to a cooling rack. Set them aside until ready to fill.

While the cups are cooling, whip the cream until soft peaks form. If you have a stand mixer (I adore my KitchenAid!), this is the time to use it. There’s an interesting book called A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat, in which the author talks about how people had to whip cream in the olden days. It really made me appreciate my mixer, that’s for sure! But that’s neither here nor there. However you whip it, get it nice and thick, then pop it in the fridge (another amazing invention!) to keep it cool until you’re ready for it. It only takes a couple minutes with the stand mixer and should look about like this.

Now go ahead and put all remaining ingredients except the fruit into the top of a double boiler, if you have one. I don’t, so I use the “metal bowl in pan of water” method. More on that later.

Using a whisk, mix the ingredients together until everything is well combined. Since I used raw, unprocessed honey (that strange, beige lump you see in the picture…) for this part of the recipe, I whisked until the honey was all dissolved. It took a minute or two. It was done when it looked all frothy.

Bring the water in the bottom part of your double boiler to a low boil, then place the top part into place. If, though, you don’t have a double boiler, that’s okay. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t, either. It would be nice, yes, but I have limited space, so it doesn’t make the cut. Instead, I use a metal bowl and place it into a medium sized pan filled half full with boiling water. Then I just hold the bowl with a good pot holder while I cook. It looks like this:

Keeping the water at a steady boil, whisk the egg mixture constantly for 8-10 minutes, or until it is thick and creamy, almost forming soft peaks. I do mean constantly. If you answer your phone, get a drink, or go read a blog, you’ll end up with lemony scrambled eggs, not a delicious custard. Fair warning! If your arm starts to get tired, just think about those women in the past who had to do this with whisks made of twigs! lol Anyway, when it’s nicely thickened, remove the top bowl from the heat.

Place the hot bowl into a big bowl full of ice. Then keep whisking until the mixture is cool.

This part only takes a couple minutes, so your arm should hold out. When it’s cool, scrape the lemon mixture into the whipped cream and fold it in very gently with a spatula so the whipped cream stays fluffy.

When you have it all integrated, you’ll have a bowl of tangy-sweet lemon fluff! Scoop the fluff into the waiting cups, filling them nice and full. Add the fresh fruit and a drizzle of nice, runny honey. Perfect summer dessert!

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