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
- 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.
- 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.
- You can serve this on scones or pour some over gingerbread. My favorite way is the gelatin-thickened pie way.
- 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.