The idea of using food to play jokes, to be funny and to be clever came to me from the children’s book Ketchup on Your Cornflakes? by Nick Sharratt. It was a gift my husband got for me on a business trip to England, and not for April Fools’ Day!
It’s a simple book made of split pages, so that you can turn the top or bottom half of the book and make silly food combinations, such as milk on your toast or jam in your lemonade. It’s definitely interactive and entertaining, like other Nick Sharratt picture books focused on food: A Cheese and Tomato Spider, Don’t Put Your Finger in the Jelly Nelly, and What’s in the Witch’s Kitchen?
On April Fools’ Eve, before going to bed, the kids and I whispered about a plan to fool dad the next day. We agreed to make what looks like a fried egg, but actually it’s a meringue with lemon curd.
For the meringue, I used room-temperature whites from 3 eggs (I saved the 3 yolks for the lemon curd), a pinch of salt, and 3/4 cup of granulated white sugar (sugar determines texture as well—less sugar for less crispiness). To add vanilla flavor without affecting the white color, I used vanilla-infused sugar that I made with vanilla bean shells. Whenever I use vanilla bean seeds in recipes, I toss the bean shells in my sugar jar, and it makes “vanilla sugar.”
The egg whites are beaten with the salt until foamy, then sugar is sprinkled progressively, until the shape of the foam forms what is called bird’s beak. I laid out a sheet of parchment paper and scooped out a spoon full of meringue. For spreading and shaping, I used the back of a spoon to make a thin, circular layer. Perfection here requires avoiding an exact circle. My meringue has a well in the center, a nest reserved for the lemon curd.
The meringue is baked at low temperature (200F) for 2 hours. Increasing temperature to save time is not a good idea—it will turn the meringue brown, if it doesn’t burn it. It’s better to set the oven alarm and forget about it.
After removing the meringues from the oven, let them cool and start making the lemon curd. In a saucepan, whisk together the zest of 3 medium lemons, their juice, the egg yolks, and 1/2 cup of sugar. Over medium heat, stir the mixture until it thickens. Then remove the saucepan from the heat and mix in 1/2 stick of room temperature butter, previously cut in pieces. Once the lemon curd has cooled off, transfer it to a plastic pipe and fill in the gap in the center of the meringue.
Jokes are only funny the first time you hear them. So with the rest of the meringues, we made whatever shapes and sizes we wanted, and we filled them with as much lemon curd as they could hold!
To finish, a sprinkle with crystallized sugar and cocoa powder to simulate salt and pepper… or salt and cumin, like we use in Morocco.
You can plate with real vegetables, bacon, or whatever you like, in order to reinforce the trompe l’oeil effect.
Do you like sugar on your egg? I mean do you like salt on your meringue?