Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lemon Curd - a summer/fall hybrid

For the last month, I have been wishing for this weekend - praying for it.  Because this weekend, friends, is when I can come out of the closet and celebrate because it will be Autumn.  I can eat my candy corns in public, and wear my new cute boots around town without sideways glances because "August is the middle of summer."  Whatever.  After Labor Day starts the best season of the year.  And it is taking every ounce of fiber in my being to not post breads and soups and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Luckily for me, I found a cross-seasonal food that has both an awesome "summer" vibe to it, and the ability to span all through the glorious winter and the bitter cold months: Lemon Curd.  As a child, some of my fondest memories are sitting at our long oak table waiting for my mother to finish making lemon curd (probably for something important) so that I could have a bowl of it.  As an adult, I stick to slathering it on scones, crumpets or quick-breads.  It's wonderful in cakes, as a pie filling or just straight off of a spoon.  I have no doubt I'll be re-visiting lemon curd many many times here.

Making lemon curd takes a small amount of effort, but will pay off in spades compared to the bottled stuff.  You know what, that's only right if spades were made out of awesome, because it is just... so... I mean... I have no words.

First up, we are juicing some lemons.  I find if I microwave the lemon for 10 (ish) seconds before I go to juice it, I get more out.  Today I had two large lemons just sitting in my crisper, and luckily got an entire 1/2 cup out of them (and watch for seeds as you juice so you don't spend the next 3 minutes hunting them down and taking them out like some people I know did...).  And then zest one complete lemon, which will give you about two tablespoons, depending. 

Zesting, as a note, is just the yellow part (the white is bitter) and I love doing it on my microplane.  Love.  I have an actual zester as well, but it just takes so much more time.  If you're into zesting anything (fresh nutmeg, citrus zest, or finely-grated cheese) invest in a microplane greater.  You'll be so happy you did.

Placing all the ingredients in a 2-quart heavy sauce pan on medium-low, or a double-boiler over medium heat (I prefer the double-boiler because it gives me a little bit of wiggle room), start wisking.  Once it starts to heat up, add a piece of butter, and stir until melted.  Repeat until all the butter is in the lemon curd.  Keep wisking. 

The curd will lighten and thicken enough to hold trace-marks of a wisk.  When the first bubble appears you know you're done (it takes about 6 minutes, and for those science-people out there, it's about 160-170 degrees).

Transfer to another bowl and chill for 5-10 minutes (go ahead and stir that once for even cooling if you think of it), and place the plastic wrap directly onto the lemon curd to avoid a horrible film forming on the top.  (as Alton Brown would say, "That is not good eats") 

Refrigerate for at least an hour.  And ENJOY!  Use it in-between cakes, offer it as a treat to your children for doing their chores, or put it in a pie crust.

I made sure to lick my spatula.  I highly recommend it.

To get you started on an idea of what to do now that you have this tasty treat (and I'm telling you, this stuff goes on anything!) mix with whipping cream and use as a frosting, or filling for any pastry/dessert.

Using 3/4 of a cup of lemon curd, and one small box of freshly whipped cream (with powdered sugar and vanilla... and yes, you could skip out here and use Cool Whip, but why bother when you are SO CLOSE to perfection?), combing the two by adding 1/3 of the lemon curd to the whipping cream (mix), and then incorporate in two batches the whipping cream (now mixture) into the lemon curd.  Frost to your heart's content.

I ended up piping mine into chocolate cups, and it was Divine. 

Lemon Curd
Active time: 20 minutes  Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup butter, cut into bits

Wisk together juice, zest, sugar and eggs in a heavy saucepan or double boiler.  Wisk frequently.  Stir in butter piece by piece as the last one melts.  Continue to wisk until curd thickens, lightens slightly, and the wisk leaves traces - about 6 minutes.

Transfer to a bowl, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes (stirring once during this process) and cover with plastic wrap (make sure the wrap is touching the curd to avoid a film).  Refrigerate until cool. 



  1. Ahhhhh. I remember those divine little yummies and here I am reading about cooking and ignoring the mountains of clothing I'm supposed to be listing. In the spirit of my favorite WW1 flying ace,"Curse you, Ginger Cook!" :) OK, maybe I'm actually distracted by life but your blog made for a good excuse.

  2. Your mother and mine would never have served you a bowl of lemon curd, Gingie. You waited, fist clutching spoon, bowl chasmously empty, for a bowl of lemon pie filling. In this way, you were not sent into a diabetic coma and summarily lived to Adulthood. And it was Good.

    This Curd - wait, is this a "filling" or a true "curd"? Curd is like marmalade only homogenous - you use a knife and spread it in place of Jam. This could be that - or something else. OK, Alton Brown, once again you are messing with my head.

    WHICHEVER THIS IS - it looks divine beyond divine, and I now need a good berry-filled scone recipe to justify the making of same! Alternately, mixed with the whipped cream, this would be insanely yum as filling for (anything) cream puffs!

    But - is it Curd? IS IT? (Could it be a fruit whey?)