Lemon curd

Hello, lemon curd.  Fresh, familiar, decadent, springy.  I like you very much.

I’m still relatively new to making custards, but curd is a cakewalk even for a newbie like me.  It’s fruit juice or puree, sugar, butter, eggs, cooked gently until thick and glossy.  This is the lemon inside a lemon danish; the sunny yellow spread on top of a scone; the gooey-soft filling between the layers of a cake.

This lemon curd is rich and luxe, and a little goes a long way.  It looks adorable in a glass jar, and goes down smoothly enough to be downright dangerous.

I’ve recently discovered Meyer lemons.  I know, I know, every foodie worth their salt loves to talk about how fabulous Meyer lemons are.  But they’re new to me, and a pleasant surprise at that: small and sweet and incredibly seasonal.  Where supermarket lemons are puckery, Meyer lemons are fragrant–still plenty tart, but without the acrid edge of their larger, yellower cousins.

Because Meyer lemons are small and delicate, with a thinner peel and less pith than regular lemons, they don’t ship well.  You have to buy them at farmer’s markets, or else make friends with someone who has a tree.  I’m fortunate to work a few blocks from the San Francisco Ferry Building, which has midday farmer’s markets on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  But Meyer lemons are certainly not a requirement for lemon curd; regular lemons will work just fine, with a little extra sugar to balance the sour.

There are soooooooooo many options for what to do with this curd.  You can spread it on toast, like jam, or do the very English thing and dollop some on top of a scone.  You could try it as a pastry filling, or mixed with whipped cream, or spread into a tart shell and topped with fruit.  Daisy’s World has a fabulous-looking recipe for parfaits with lemon curd and vanilla cream.

Me?  I have a batch in my fridge right now.  I have big plans for it.  Stay tuned…

Lemon Curd (makes about 1 cup)

Adapted slightly from David Lebovitz

Update: Since posting this recipe, I’ve found that I prefer a little less butter than originally called for: 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) instead of 6 tbsp. I think it makes the fresh, tart lemon flavor stand out more. Do as you please–the curd sets beautifully either way.

1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1/3 – 1/2 cup granulated sugar (depending on how sweet your lemons are)

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt

4-6 tbsp unsalted butter, cubed

In a medium saucepan, whisk together lemon juice, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and salt.  Add butter and put the saucepan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter melts.  Keep cooking–you can increase the heat to medium, if you dare–and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and turns glossy, which should take 3-4 minutes; don’t let it bubble at all, or it’ll curdle.

Like any custard, the curd is done when it coats the back of a spoon and a line traced with your finger stays in place; it will still be fairly liquid at this stage. Immediately remove the curd from the heat and press it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl (I used a rubber spatula to scrape the saucepan and push the curd through).   Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate overnight to let the curd firm up.  Store in the fridge, tightly covered, for up to a week; or, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the curd, cover the container and freeze for up to two months.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Lemon curd

  1. Kimmi Tyler

    One of our favorite eateries has a simple lemon curd crepe that makes me inordinately happy. Crepe, tart curd, and a dollop of whipped cream. Simple but ridiculously delicious.

  2. Veronika

    Hm. Is there a way to modify this to remove egg whites, do you think it’d work?

    • Absolutely! There are tons of recipes out there for yolk-only lemon curd. As a bonus, you probably won’t have to strain the curd, because it’s the egg whites that cause clumps. You might have to add an extra yolk or two to compensate, and the curd will probably be a little thicker and richer than if you’d used egg whites–but who says that’s a bad thing?

      • Veronika

        Aha! That leaves sooo many options open! And T is a huge lemon fan, so I think I will be trying this and soon!

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