Wow. That doesn’t sound at all appetizing, does it? Lemon curd. Lemon-curd. Lemon cuuuuurrrrd. Nope. No matter how you say it, (or write it,) it doesn’t sound very tasty. But it is so, SO much more than tasty. It should really be called something more indicative of the feeling evoked when the tangy, creamy goodness hits your mouth. I think Lemon Bliss is more accurate.
Blissful is exactly what I feel if I am eating lemon curd. I love it on biscuits in the morning, with a big, steamy mug of chai latte. It is, by far, one of my favorite custards.
A custard, by definition, is a substance that is thickened by eggs. Such is the case with ice cream, cheesecake, pudding, and lemon curd. Custard does not have to conjure thoughts of thick, gelatinous or congealed substances, like Grandma’s custard used to be. Lemon curd is smooth, creamy, and delectable.
Well, would you look-y here? Only 5 ingredients. Love that!
All you need to make lemon curd is:
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/3 C. granulated sugar
2 ½ tsp. fresh lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
¼ C. fresh lemon juice (1-3 lemons, depending on size and season)
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 eggs at room temperature, chalazae removed and beaten well
And no, I don’t iron my table linens. I don’t iron anything at all, if I can help it.
Before we get started, it is worth noting that many custard recipes require the use of a double boiler. The idea behind it is that the water heats into a steam that acts as a buffer between the custard components and the direct heat on the bottom of the pan, heating them more slowly. While I understand the necessity of heating custard components gradually, I think the same effect can be achieved by heating the ingredients over low heat, while stirring constantly. If it makes you nervous, by all means, use a double boiler.
Mix the cornstarch and granulated sugar in a small saucepan.
Stir in the fresh lemon juice and zest into the sugar and cornstarch, until totally combined. If you are not sure how to zest or get the most juice out of a lemon, I explained how to do it in my Lemon Drop Cookie recipe.
Add the butter to the saucepan, and begin heating over medium-low heat. Stir constantly, until butter is melted, and mixture begins to thicken and bubble–this takes about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool slightly for 2 minutes.
While the hot lemon mixture is cooling out a bit, crack your eggs into a liquid measuring cup. See the rubber-bandy looking white thingies attached to the yolks? Those are called chalazae. Yep, there’s a name for them. They are the part of the egg white that keeps the yolks centered in the egg. While useful if you are an embryonic chick in need of nourishment, they don’t break down with cooking, and tend to get tough and chewy in custard. Therefore, they must go. Use a fork to try twist away the attachment, and remove them–like you are twirling spaghetti.You could also run the eggs through a fine mesh strainer which will trap the chalazae on the other side, but that is more mess than I want to deal with, as I have biscuits in need of a friend.
Whisk the eggs until they are well incorporated. By well, I mean that they will lighten in color a bit, and look a bit fluffy. You shouldn’t see any obvious egg white.
Then, continue whisking the eggs while slowly pouring about a third of the hot lemon mixture into the eggs. I was having trouble whisking/pouring/photographing all at once, so I chose two to show here. Pretend I was doing all three, OK? By whisking the eggs while adding some of the hot liquid, you are gradually increasing the temperature of the eggs so that they don’t scramble. This process is called tempering.
Chalazae and tempering? I’m sharing all sorts of useless trivia, today. I’m totally your phone a friend if you ever get into the Cash Cab, or end up on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
After tempering the eggs, bring them over to the saucepan. While stirring the hot lemon mixture, pour in the tempered eggs. Continue cooking and stirring over medium-low heat. Stir and cook for about 2 more minutes, or until the sauce thickens toward a thin custard consistency.
Dip a spoon in the custard, and run your finger down the center of the spoon. Sauce is done when the slight stripe made with your finger remains for several seconds on the spoon before starting to run back together. Remember, we want the lemon curd to be spreadable, so it will not be as thick as a pudding.
Pour the custard into a shallow dish, and cover the surface with waxed paper. Pop it in the refrigerator to cool for several hours. The waxed paper will prevent a “skin” from forming on top. While I love skin on a pudding, it is hard to spread on a biscuit if it forms on lemon curd.
Once sufficiently chilled, spread the lemon curd onto fresh biscuits. Add a little fresh fruit, and a mug of chai tea, and you have my favorite comfort food breakfast. If you have any lemon curd left after breakfast, or if you aren’t going to eat it right away, transfer it to an airtight container. It also makes a nice filling between cake layers, or sandwiched between butter cookies.
Lemon curd will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Or so I’m told.