Lemon Curd, Two Ways

The Perfect Tart Filling

The Perfect Tart Filling

Little Miss Muffet has ruined lemon curd with her stupid bowl of curds and whey.  Let me set the record straight.  Little Miss Muffet was most likely eating cottage cheese.  Little white curds in some milky whey.  Ah!  Milky Whey!  Get it?!  Ahem.

Lemon curd, on the other hand, is the smoothest, most lemony goodness in the universe.  An alternate name for it is “lemon cheese,” maybe as a nod to Little Miss Muffet.  I can’t find the origins of the term out on the vast Hinternet, but I imagine that it has to do with the controlled coagulation of the eggs–if you cook it too quickly or at too high a heat, you’ll end up with lemon scrambled eggs.  And scrambled eggs are sometimes referred to as curds.  Just a guess.

Anyway, I told you I am doing a wedding cake tasting on Sunday.  I decided to cheat and buy some lemon curd and raspberry jam.  For the main event, I’ll be making everything from scratch, but I thought I would save myself some time at the holidays by just buying these two items.  The jam is lovely.  No problem there.  There were three brands of lemon curd on the shelves.  I was excited.  I read the labels and chose the one that had all natural ingredients:  butter, lemon juice, pectin, eggs, etc.  I got it home and tasted it, and, ew!  It tasted like congealed Pledge.  No offense meant to Pledge, mind you.  Pledge is a delightful product, but I would never spread it on a cake.  I might actually attempt polishing furniture with this lemon curd, though.

Lemon curd is ridiculously easy to make.  It is intensely lemony and you will immediately fall in love with it and want to eat it all.  Resist the urge.  I will even teach you how to make it thick enough to use as a pie filling, for the bestest lemon meringue pie in the universe.

I will teach you two versions–a straight up version, and one spiked with some white chocolate and a little creme fraiche.  Both are fantastic.

Lemon Curd, the first:

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 oz. lemon juice
  • 1 t. lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt, to taste
  • 1 oz. butter (a little more or less–more on that in a minute)

Over medium heat, whisk eggs, juice sugar, salt and zest together.  Never stop whisking.  Whisk until the mixture thickens and reaches 160 degrees, F,  using an instant read thermometer.  Remove from heat, strain into a bowl.  Whisk the butter in.  Chill with plastic wrap pressed right onto the surface of the curd.

Now, about the butter–a little less will be a little less rich, but it will have a smoother texture when chilled.  Using a little more will be much richer, but it will have a slightly grainy texture when chilled.  Both are good.  Your choice.

Fancy-Pants Lemon Curd

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 yolks
  • 1 1/2 oz. butter
  • 1 1/2 oz. creme fraiche
  • 1 1/3 oz. good quality white chocolate (not coating)

Cook first four ingredients together with a pinch of salt over medium heat.  Follow the rules above.  Strain and pour the lemon mixture into a bowl in which you have put the butter, creme fraiche and white chocolate.  Let sit for a minute, and then whisk until smooth.

Things to Know

  1. You can use key lime juice, blood orange juice, raspberry puree or passion fruit puree in place of the lemon juice.  Any tart puree is perfect for this.
  2. To thicken for a pie,  reserve 1/4 of the lemon juice and sprinkle 1/2-1 teaspoon of gelatin over it.  Let it sit until you have a solid block of lemon juice.  Add this portion to the main lemon mixture off the heat before straining. You’ll probably want to play with the amount to get the filling as soft or as boingy as you want.
  3. You can serve this on scones or pour some over gingerbread.  My favorite way is the gelatin-thickened pie way.
  4. Fold some whipped cream into the curd for a less intense and lighter-textured curd.  Instant lemon mousse!

But whatever you do, take it from me and never, never, never buy lemon curd at the store.  Unless your furniture needs polishing.

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Comments

  1. linda says

    I made 200 lemon tarts today! And I made the curd in a huge batch and will use it for weeks. I didn’t even know you COULD buy it. But I certainly don’t want to eat Pledge.

  2. says

    Lemon Curd is a Christmas staple in my family. One of my sons always asked for it or lemon pudding that separates to sauce on the bottom and light spongy cake on top.

    With Lemon Curd, I have been known to cheat and buy tart shells, but I have never bought a jar of Lemon anything.

    • says

      Good for you. The only jar of lemon stuff anyone should ever buy is furniture polish! I love lemon pudding cake that separates into pudding and cake, too. I think your son and I would get along quite well:)

  3. Kristel says

    Could I make this lemon curd ahead of time and freeze it? I’m making my wedding cake and would love to have as much prep work done ahead of time as I can! Thanks!

    • says

      As much as I wish I could tell you to go for it, I would not advise freezing lemon curd–I’d be afraid it would weep and the texture would thin out. The good news: Frozen cake=no problem (wrap and freeze it immediately upon turning out from the pan to have a Very Moist, Amazing cake); frozen frosting=no problem. Just bring to room temp and rewhip.

      Lemon curd, fortunately, doesn’t take long to make. Pour it through a strainer directly into an ice bath (large bowl set inside an even larger bowl filled with water and ice) and stir to chill quickly. Once your curd meets your cake, the whole shebang will need to be refrigerated.

      Good luck, and happy wedding!

  4. Aunt Tilly says

    Hello Jenni~  I finally decided to try my hand at citrus curd and made a few batches (2 lemon; 1 lime) only to have them taste horribly metallic!!  Then, I changed the method of cooking it to an enamel pot on the stove technique I researched and voila! no icky metallic taste!  I made a batch of lemon and one of orange.  However….I froze them knowing I wouldn’t have a use for them for a little while.  Took out a spoon this afternoon to get just a little taste.  Dang……it’s CRUNCHY!!  I didn’t let it defrost so maybe it’s ice crystals???  Quite honestly, it’s more like the sugar didn’t melt but it wasn’t that way when freshly made and in the frig for days.  It was smooth and yummy!  Any ideas on what’s happened or if it would improve if I let it defrost?

  5. Aunt Tilly says

    First, let me revise my post below to explan that the batches of curd I made were NOT from your recipe above ~ I made them a week or so before finding this web site……darn it.   TODAY ~ I tried your basic recipe above and absolutely LOVE it!!!  It is now my go-to recipe for all flavors of curd!!  Smooth……lemony…..rich……lucious… amazing lemon curd!!  And FAST ~ wow!  Could not believe how fast this was to make!  It’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to just eat the entire thing while still warm.  I know you mentioned it in your write-up but hey……I figure if you’re not going to blow your own horn ~ who will????  I’m a believer!!

    Relating back to my sugar-crystalled previous recipe of curd, I put it back on the stove and heated it up to 160.  It smoothed right out ~ so back into the frig for cooling.  I did a taste test when cold and encountered only a few crystals so it’s useable for something just for me, not company.  But at least I know I have a GREAT curd recipe now!!

    Thank you so MUCH!!!
    Aunt Tilly

    • says

       I’m so glad that it turned out!! Isn’t it just one of the best things?!  That metallic taste that you mentioned in your other post comes from the reaction between the acids in citrus and aluminum–no aluminum pans when making curd! But is sounds like you figured that one out, so yay!

      Since it’s so quick to make, I wouldn’t recommend freezing it, but I’m glad you managed to get your other one to smooth out. Hooray!

      • Aunt Tilly says

        Thanks ever so much for this recipe.  I keep sneaking tastes to be sure there’s no gritty or metallic taste.  There’s none at all!!  I did use stainless steel for the double boiler method and don’t know why it had that aftertaste but down the disposal it went!  I’ll stick with my little enameled Le Creuset pot for making this delicious stuff!!  Now all I need to do is get some oranges & limes to see how those turn out! :-)

  6. Rebecca says

    Oh, lemon curd! Something I don’t think I could live (as happily) without!
    I DO freeze it, though, and very successfully. I just put it into tiny canning jars and stick it in the freezer. Then when I want it quickly, the small amount doesn’t take very long to defrost… and since I’m already going to the freezer to take out the container of miniature Almond Shortbread tart shells which I make specifically to FILL with lemon curd on a moment’s notice of company arriving… all is bliss in my world.
    I haven’t tried your recipe yet, but I am just this minute about to. :)

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