Yeah, I know. Easter’s still like a month away. But Wegmans has beautiful pastel displays featuring the most glorious looking chocolates so it put me in the mood to start Easter planning.
I start early every year. We host 20+ people so it’s kind of a must.
Oh, and those Easter decorations? Been sitting in my kitchen since last Easter. Once it got to be November and I still hadn’t figured out where to store them I figured at least they wouldn’t get lost in the basement, right?
Right. So anyway, lemon curd. Not the most appealing name, I know. But it is so wonderful. Bright and tart, not too sweet, not too sour. It’s basically lemon meringue pie filling but better. I made it for the first time a couple years ago. I folded meringue and whipped cream into it to make a lusciously light mousse. Then I layered it with cubes of pound cake and fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries to make the most amazing trifle ever.
And did I mention how much cheaper it is to make at home than buy it in the little jars they sell at the store? MUCH. And I think we can use all the help in that area that we can get.
Here’s what we need to get started – 3 XL eggs, 3 XL egg yolks, a stick of butter, sugar, a teeny bit of salt, and a couple/few lemons. My lemons were large so you may need more than two (up to four). There are a ton of lemon curd recipes out there. Some only use egg yolks, some don’t use butter, some use less sugar, etc. This recipe is a combination of a couple that I’ve come across.
You’re also gonna need to set up a double boiler. If you have a double boiler already, good for you, use that. Otherwise – it’s worth monkeying around a few minutes with different sized bowls and pots until you find two that work together well. It’s important – you want to be able to put about an inch of water in the pot, set the bowl on top, and have the bottom of the bowl NOT be touching the water. You also want the pot to come up the sides of the bowl high enough so that when you put your ingredients in they aren’t any higher than the pot line. I know, that was awkwardly explained. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
Now that we’ve got that figured out it’s time to zest our lemons. Remove all the yellow zest without grating off the bitter white pith beneath. And please, try try try not to zest your finger. Owie.
NAKED LEMONS!!! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
I don’t know about you guys but it drives me insane when I finish zesting a lemon and most of the coveted zest is hopelessly stuck in the zester. I now keep a little toothbrush in my utensil drawer specifically for getting most of it out and into the bowl.
Next, we’re going to halve our lemons and squeeze out all the juice. This is easier if your lemons are room temp.
There’s our lemon juice. We should have 1/2 cup. If you don’t have half a cup, squeeze another lemon until you get there.
Now, to our lemon juice and zest we’re going to add our egg yolks…
…our whole eggs, a pinch of salt…
…and a cup of sugar.
And we’re gonna whisk that all together. Meanwhile, put an inch of water in your pot and set it over high heat.
Once the water is simmering, carefully set your bowl into the pot and turn the heat down to low. We actually don’t want the water at a full boil (as the pic shows, I know, oops). Double boiling is a gentle heating process.
Okay there. See how my lemon mixture is right about at the line of the pot? That’s good. If it were higher, the mixture at the top wouldn’t be getting heated by the steam underneath. Even with constant whisking that’s just inefficient. This is good. If I were making a larger quantity I’d need to grab a bigger pot and almost certainly a different bowl. C’est la vie.
Now, we’re going to leave this on the stove, whisking (almost) constantly until it thickens. The whisking keeps the curd from getting unevenly heated and lumpy.
And now, for your benefit, a quick bit of backstory (if anyone else just heard Doofenshmirtz’ voice in your head, cheers, you’re my kind of girl).
This is the point where I was sure I had done something wrong the first time I made it. I watched a video where they said that this step would take about 10 minutes. Ten minutes my butt. It takes me just a bit over 20 to get the curd thickened. I remember whisking and whisking, going waaaay, past the ten minute mark going, “I don’t know. Is it thickened yet? Is this the way it’s supposed to be? It doesn’t look thick like when Tyler did it on the video.” Trust me – when it thickens up – you’ll know. It’s obvious. This picture was taken at 20 minutes in. Still thin and soupy as when we started. But hot. You’re almost there though you would never know it unless you’ve done this a few times.
Then suddenly, it changes. And all is right in the world. It becomes thick like hot pudding and paler in color. You’ll be able to see distinct whisk marks in it when you stir. Now, you can take it off the heat. Hard part’s done! Hooray!
Okay, last step. Cut up the stick of butter into chunks…
…and whisk it into the curd, chunk by chunk until it’s all melted and incorporated. Taste it now. It’s totally divine.
As you can see, this recipe makes just a bit under 3 cups. Now you can use the curd as a cake filling, a tart or pie filling. You can mix it with meringue and whipped cream to make an awesome lemon mousse. Or you can just eat it by the spoonful. I made this yesterday in prep for a larger project which I shall share with you in a couple weeks in the Decorator’s Corner. Until then –
Fresh Lemon Curd
3 extra large eggs
3 extra large egg yolks
zest of 2 lemons (at least 2 teaspoons but more is okay)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
a pinch of salt
1 stick of butter
Set up double boiler. Put an inch of water in a pot. Set a mixing bowl in the pot. The bowl should sit high enough that it does not touch the water but low enough so that the lemon curd will sit below the level of the top of the pot.
Zest and juice lemons until you have 1/2 cup of juice.
Add whole eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and salt to lemon juice and zest. Whisk to combine.
Set pot of water over high heat until simmering. This will only take a couple minutes with an inch of water inside. Once simmering, carefully place bowl on top and turn heat down to low.
Whisk (almost) constantly until curd thickens. Expect this to take around 20 minutes. When the curd thickens it will have the consistency of hot pudding and it will turn a more pale yellow. Remove from the heat.
Whisk in the butter, a tablespoonful at a time, until melted and fully incorporated.
Use as you would wherever “bottled lemon curd” is called for. Stays good in the fridge for 3 weeks. Makes just under 3 cups.