So…while I’d like to think I’m not one of those pretentious dorkknobs who mull over pastry menus like Biblical passages, I do have my opinions when it comes to sweets. (You might have guessed as much.) For example, dessert should celebrate sugar. Yes, I knooow how sophisticated and fabulous it is when a cheese plate is served as a final course. Maybe my Midwest is showing, but dessert needs to be sweet, people. Also? I covet balance. I want a little sweet, a little salty, a little acid, crunchy, creamy, chewy–and I want it all in one bite. And last week my cravings got in cahoots with my brain and produced a totally insane, Big Mama Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream Sundae. My persnickety dessert nature is now a gift, friends. Now would someone please tell my husband that?
As I was tinkering with all the elements for this glorious concoction, I sort of fell in love with the idea more and more as I went along. First? This “recipe” is really more of an idea. You can make this as from-scratch as you like, or as store-bought and simple as you need to while still blowing minds and taking names. If you’re crunched for time or just want immediate satisfaction (I feel you!), then buy a good ice cream, find a jar of lemon curd, look for those little meringue cookies they have in the bakery section, and crumble up a store-bought graham cracker crust (I like crust instead of plain crackers for extra awesomeness). It will all be working in no time.
However! If you’ve had your espresso on a given day, or are just channeling Martha for whatever reason, go big, friends. Make that homemade vanilla ice cream. Stir up a batch of lemon curd. Bake the graham crust. Whip up some meringues and fresh cream (actually, whip fresh cream in any scenario in life). It will definitely alllll be totally worth it in the end.
I took a hybrid approach to fulfilling my pie-meets-sundae dreams. I had planned on buying some meringues and crumbling them into the sundae, and they’re usually perfectly good when storebought, with little, if any, creepy ingredients. But Safeway foiled my plans by not having any that day and ain’t nobody got time to drive to multiple markets looking for meringue cookies. Especially when it takes, like, negative effort to make your own. (There is a long bake to consider, though.) Plus! Since I ended up making my own meringues, I could add a little more salt for my tastes, plus extra vanilla annnnnd–hello!–Instagram some adorable, teeny piped meringue kisses.
But I made up for the meringue-making time with a good jarred lemon curd, adding a couple teaspoons of hot water to loosen it to a more sauce-like consistency. Nothing wrong with that…
…and then I turned right around and got all uppity again and made my graham cracker crust bits from scratch. Because! I wanted to try out using brown sugar for an extra flavor boost and get a little more salt in the mix there, too, for some essential, buttery, sweet-salty crunch on the finished sundaes.
But in the end, because I am a human being, a mother of two small (read: needy) children, and an advocate of not making things hopelessly, needlessly complicated (for now), I bought a good vanilla bean ice cream upon which to throw all the good stuff on top. And it felt so right.
Lemon Meringue Pie Ice Cream Sundaes
I’m not quite sure how to describe the yield for this recipe or provide nice, neat amounts for the homemade toppings, so I’ll tell you this: the methods below produce enough graham cracker crust bits (about 1 1/2 cups) and meringue kisses (about 50) to generously layer and top 6 sundaes, probably more. You’ll notice I have listed salt “to taste” for both of these elements–I added a couple good-sized pinches to both parts because I really love the hint of saltiness that they lend to the composed sundaes, but if that’s not your thing, then add a little less. Both the crust bits and meringue kisses store really well in airtight containers, so they’re excellent for making ahead, or keeping around to top sundaes for a whole week.
If you opt to make both the meringue and graham crust from scratch, you can bake both at the same time–set the oven to the lower temperature for the meringues, and bake the graham crust for longer at the lower temperature, about 30-40 minutes, or until it’s firm and crisp.
If you’re buying the lemon curd, like I did, you’ll need about 1 cup for 6 sundaes (I had a 10-ounce jar). If you want to make it from scratch, make half a batch of the wonderful lemon curd from this recipe. If using jarred lemon curd that is especially thick, loosen it up with a few teaspoons of hot water to make for a more sauce-like consistency.
6 cups (at least!) Premium store-bought or homemade vanilla ice cream
1 cup lemon curd, homemade or from a 10-ounce store-bought jar (thinned with hot water if necessary–see note)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crust bits (recipe follows), or 1 crushed packaged graham crust
50 mini meringue kisses (recipe follows), or about 1 1/2 cups crumbled store-bought meringue cookies
Freshly whipped cream
For the graham cracker crust bits:
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (6 full sheets, crushed or whizzed in a food processor)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Salt, to taste (see note)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl until evenly moistened. Pat into a thin, even layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until firm and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Use a thin spatula to get under the crust and break it into small pieces. (If you’re also making the meringue kisses from scratch, you can bake the crust at a lower temperature for a longer time–see the headnotes.)
For the mini meringue kisses:
1 large egg white, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Salt, to taste (see note)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small, squeaky clean bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg white, cream of tartar, and salt to stiff peaks. Slowly add the sugar, beating until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Beat in the vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste. Scrape the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip (or a ziptop bag with the corner snipped off). Pipe mini meringue kisses about 3/4 inch in diameter. Bake until firm and crisp, about 2 1/2 hours. Turn off the oven, prop open the oven door slightly with a wooden spoon, and the let the meringues cool completely in the oven.
To assemble the sundaes, you know what to do:
Get a cute glass. Scoop in ice cream. Drown in lemon curd, dollop with freshly whipped cream, and festoon artfully with graham crust bits and adorable teeny meringues.
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