Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lemon Curd Recipe

That yellow stuff on top of the cream cheese on my mini bagels is something wonderful.

I got into a discussion of Lemon Curd with a friend who was coming up for a visit a while back.  He was speaking of his youth in Chester UK area and of how much he loved lemon curd.  I admitted I hadn't had it but next trip out that I saw it I picked some up.

Lemon Curd is a custardy smooth cream that tastes of lemons and sweetness.  If it is done right, it is quite a complex flavor since it uses the Lemon Zest.  If you find a recipe that only uses Lemon Juice, it's just not going to be as good.

This recipe I had found will work equally well with Orange or Lime.  The Lemon Curd is commonly used as Pie Filings but I'd say enjoy it any way you can.

Don't be threatened by something new, this really was easier than it may sound for a beginning cook or baker.  Even Non-Cooks could get this to work, and first time out I got the results I was looking for even though I really went a bit nuts with some bizarre substitutions of technique.

First, Lemon Zest is the yellow part of the skin of the lemon.  If you get down to the white part, it will be bitter so your best bet is to get a Zester.  If you don't want to get a Zester for "just one recipe", use a vegetable peeler. 

Second no matter what you use to get the zest, you will want to chop it down to very small pieces.  It will cook better.

Third, if you can't get your zest chopped down, the solution is simple.  Use your food processor.  Add the sugar to the food processor with a chopping blade, then the zest, then turn it on until everything is chopped down and even. 

All of that is a lead in to how I made it wrong, but it turned out wonderful -  I used a vegetable peeler and then a hand mixer since my food processor was in the dish washer.  It never really got the Lemon Zest down to the right size, you really do want it fine.

Next, when you cook, do so at a low heat and slowly turn the burners to no more than medium.  I got it up to 4 on my electric range with 5 being medium.  If you go too fast, the mixture will make bubbles and when bubbles pop, they'll burn your hands... so keep the heat low.

Finally when you cook this, keep gently stirring.  Use a whisk or a fork.  It will thicken up in about 10 to 20 minutes.  You will want a consistency like pudding.  I used a thermometer and stopped when it got to 180F, but really it thickened much earlier.  I went overboard with the heat but it turned out fine. 

Remember, the goal is to get something that you can spread on toast.  I suggest a Sesame Bagel with Cream Cheese.  Toasted of course...

Now relax.  It's really easy to make something like this!  Trust me, would a face like this lie to you?  No...

There are many recipes out there, the best one I found was the simplest. 

  • 3 Lemons Zested
  • Juice from those lemons
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 stick of unsalted sweet butter

Zest those lemons and get the pieces as small as you can reasonably get them. 
Add Zest to Sugar.
Mix Lemon and Sugar well.
Add all ingredients to sauce pan over low to medium heat.
On the heat, mix all ingredients in sauce pan until smooth.
  • Lemon Zest
  • Lemon Juice
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Butter

Remember to stir the Lemon Curd consistently. 
Slowly raise the heat from low until the mixture thickens but not above medium heat.
Lemon Curd will be finished when the temperature is around 160-180 degrees.
Consistency will be like a pudding, cool and store in jars for up to a month.
Lemon Curd is also wonderful served in tarts or in pies and is an excellent substitute for Lemon Meringue Pie Filling.

These old recipes are usually the simplest and easiest.   I'd say try the recipe as is, then if you prefer a more tart recipe, reduce the sugar to "dial it in" to your tastes.  It yielded 24 ounces of Lemon Curd and tasted to me the same sweetness as a commercially available British Lemon Curd but with a much more complex flavor since it was absolutely fresh.

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