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Growing up, no two things were more important to my Saturday morning family ritual than watching the severe bob of Elsa Klensch deliver the latest from the Paris runways on Style with Elsa Klensch and eating elaborate cakes. Why Elsa hosted a show about high fashion on CNN still continues to baffle me, but the opulence of the designs she spotlighted in addition to the decadent fancy desserts I was eating—for breakfast!—guaranteed that I'd be an aspiring bon vivant for life.
One of my favorite of these weekend treats was a phenomenal lemon poppy seed party cake with a thin spread of lemon curd between each of the cake layers. There's nothing that summons springtime more than the combination of fresh lemons and nutty poppy seeds, and this lemon poppy seed pie will make you feel like you're lounging under a stately oak having a mid-afternoon picnic—even if you're trapped in an urban jungle.
The most difficult part of the pie is ensuring that the lemon curd filling doesn't end up a lumpy, egg chunk-filled goopy mess. There's nothing more unappetizing than finding a big piece of boiled egg white jutting out of an otherwise smooth, creamy dessert. Combing all the ingredients in a large bowl before moving the mixture to the stove is a surefire way to prevent the egg for coagulating too quickly and eliminates the need for a strainer with the filling. While some people swear by using only egg yolks for a curd, the whole eggs provide a lighter, fluffier filling that is especially well suited for a pie. If you prefer a thicker curd (more like what would be found at an English tea), use five egg yolks and save the whites to whip up some meringue cookies.
While it may be your first inclination, don't be stingy with your poppy seeds! Using enough poppy seeds in the dessert will provide a textural pop and allow the nutty, buttery flavor of the seeds to shine through, especially in the crust. This recipe could easily be adapted to use any variety of citrus fruit, but would be a particularly zesty treat with blood oranges.
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