I may have mentioned once or twice that I love almost all things lemon. This luscious dessert was inspired by one I've seen in many forms over the years, most of which use lemon pudding mix and cool whip. It's easy and a potluck favorite. Personally, I think boxed lemon pudding is vile. I like my lemon to be freshly sweet and puckery, not cloying and artificial. Add to that the fact that we don't do cool whip anymore due to allergies and hydrogenated fats, and I needed to come up with my own "scratchified" version. What I ended up with was a rich, not too sweet and lightly lemony dessert. There is a nice punch of lemon from the curd layer and the other creamy layers are subtly lemon flavored as well. This is not like lemon meringue pie or a lemon bar that is really tart, but I still love how it turned out. And darling hubby, being somewhat of a lemon wuss, likes this milder tartness very well. ☺ Once again, using real ingredients instead of the processed stuff makes this rich and satisfying with a much smaller piece. This is also a dessert where you can try out your favorite lemon curd or filling. I've seen the condensed milk version and starch based lemon filling used as well as just simple curds. Feel free to use your favorite. You could even change that flavor to a berry filling which would be delightful and I know this is offered in a chocolate too, though I'd leave out the lemon zest in the other layers in favor of vanilla if I tried that. (I originally used a bit more gelatin for my lemon layer, but found it did not need that much since it gave a little more firmness than I was looking for. Still good, but I wanted it softer in the future, so I decreased a little.) This is a great make ahead dessert that can be assembled a little at a time throughout the day.
Layered Lemon Delight
makes one 9x9" pan (16 pieces)
1 cup flour (I used light spelt)
2 tbsp powdered sugar
½ cup (1 stick) butter (add a dash of sea salt if using unsalted butter)
½ cup diced pecans
½ cup sugar
2 tsp unflavored gelatin
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup lemon juice (feel free to do ½ cup lemon and water each for a little more tartness for the lemon lovers)
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup whipping cream
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream
¼ cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp unflavored gelatin2 tbsp finely diced pecans
Preheat oven to 375ºF. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and 2 tbsp powdered sugar. Thoroughly mix in the flour and chopped pecans. Press into the bottom of a 9" square pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.
Stir together ½ cup sugar and gelatin in a small saucepan. Blend egg yolks, water and lemon juice together with a fork. Pour the mixture into the sugar through a fine mesh strainer. (Takes care of any curdled egg whites in your custard.) Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in lemon zest. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
In a medium mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese and the ½ cup sugar until fully blended and no sugar crystals are left, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest. Whip the ½ cup cream until soft peaks form. Lighten the cream cheese mixture with one dollop, then fold in the rest. Spread on top of the pecan crust with an offset spatula as flat and even as you can get it.
Pour the cooled lemon custard on top and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
In a small pan combine gelatin and lemon juice; let stand until bloomed (thick). Place over low heat, stirring constantly, just until the gelatin dissolves. (You can also do this in a custard cup for 10 seconds in the microwave.) Remove from heat and cool but do not allow it to set. In a medium bowl, whip the 1 cup cream and ¼ cup powdered sugar until slightly thickened. While beating on low speed, gradually add in the gelatin mixture. Whip at high speed until thick. Don't get it too stiff or it will be difficult to spread. Pour/spread out the cream onto the lemon layer and sprinkle with the 2 tbsp finely chopped pecans.
Chill for at least an hour before attempting to cut into it.