Little Cousin Eileen used to love lemon slices. So small and frail with a big cloudy mop of blue hair, you’d think she’d get blown away if you’d turn the fan up high enough. But it was that wilful, slightly cantankerous character of hers that kept her going till 96. An interesting little lady she was. I often sit in the rocking chair Grandma inherited from her and ask myself how she didn’t get dizzy by that rocking rate. And the consumption of the many lemon slices. Perhaps even the two combined?
I don’t know if she’d like these – they’re a little different to the dense standard version you can get at the bakery. If it’s an indication at all, the first time I made a batch, Grandma’s lady friends went nuts about them. And if three lots of women with four times more cooking experience than I have ask me for a recipe, well then it is definitely an honour on my behalf to share it.
What you end up with is a cinnamon-kissed shortbread base, slathered with a tart and creamy lemon curd with a crisp coconut macaroon topping. Sexy stuff.
Lemon Curd and Coconut Macaroon Slice
Makes 12 or so
For the crust
150g / 1 cup plain flour
75g / 1/3 cup caster sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
For the lemon curd
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp double cream
2 Tbsp plain flour
For the coconut topping
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
½ caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
180g / 2 cups shredded coconut
For the base, preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 20 cm square baking dish with baking paper. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Rub in the butter with your fingers until it resembles sand, then knead together until a dough forms. Press into the bottom of the prepared tin and bake for 10 minutes until ever so slightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 160°C.
In the meantime, make your lemon curd. I am an impatient person so I forego the double boiler method and just do it in a saucepan. Just keep whisking the crap out of your curd and you won’t have to worry about curdled egg. So in a small saucepan, melt the butter on a low heat. Add the sugar, salt, lemon juice, zest and vanilla. You don’t want the mixture boiling, just nicely warm. Again, a shortcut created by me to speed up the process. (You can start with cold ingredients if you want.) Add the eggs and yolks, and start whisking. Keep at it until it thickens to the consistency of custard, or yoghurt or whatever you want to compare it to. Remove from the heat and stir in the double cream and flour. You can now pour it over the base.
Whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl for a few seconds with a fork, then add the salt, sugar and vanilla and whisk a little longer. Stir in the coconut and distribute over the lemon curd. Bake for 20 minutes, checking regularly to see how the coconut’s going, because it browns quite quickly. Once it’s golden brown and some of the tips have caramelised even darker, remove from the oven and cool. Then place in the fridge to firm up before cutting into as many squares as you want.
Chances are your grandma will love these, too.