ASB Basics: Luscious Lemon Curd
Updated: May 5, 2019
Sometimes the name lemon curd can turn people off to this delicious treat. You need not worry about this; that means there will be more to go around. This method is based off of Ina Garten's recipe (which is unique to begin with), but I made a few adjustments to improve the flavor and ease of preparation.
A traditional lemon curd recipe usually involves mixing lemon juice, zest, egg yolks, and sugar over a low flame until it thickens then slowly adding in cold butter to the warm mixture. This method is much like making crème pâtissière (pastry cream), switching lemon juice for cream. Garten's method is wildly different, and I think it's harder to screw up. You first make a lemon sugar in the food processor, then you cream the rest of the ingredients as if you were making a cake.
I made a few adjustments to Garten's recipe. First, instead of using essentially three bowls: a food processor for the sugar, a stand mixer for the creaming, and a saucepan for the cooking, I cream the butter and eggs directly in the saucepan with a whisk or electric beaters Second, I use slightly less sugar than Ina because I like to accentuate the fresh tartness of the lemons. Third, I add constrarch to the mixture when I'm using it to fill a cake-- I don't want the curd spilling out of the sides. Fourth and finally, I strain the curd through a fine mesh sieve right after it's done cooking to remove the zest (it imparts enough flavor while the mixture cooks) for an extra smooth custard.
I like to store my leftover lemon curd refrigerated in old jam jars. It's excellent spread on toast, swirled into Greek yogurt, or dolloped onto biscuits.
Yield: a little over 2 cups
3-6 lemons (will vary based on size and juiciness)
1–1/2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (275g) sugar
2 tsp cornstarch (optional; use if you intend to fill a cake with the curd).
4 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 stick (113g) unsalted butter, very soft at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind of 3 lemons (reserve the rind in the bowl of a food processor), then juice enough lemons into a measuring cup to produce 1/2 cup of juice.
Place the lemon peel, sugar, and cornstarch in the bowl of a food processor fitted with its metal blade; process until the sugar is fragrant and the rind is in very small pieces.
Transfer the sugar mixture to a medium saucepan. In the saucepan, off the heat, cream the butter into the sugar mixture with a whisk or electric beaters. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until they are completely incorporated. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt; beat to combine. Use a silicone spatula to scrape down the sides of the pan if necessary.
With the heat between medium low and low, cook the mixture until it thickens, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. When you first start the cooking process the mixture will look curdled as the butter melts; do not worry, this is normal.
IF you did NOT use cornstarch, cook for 10 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
IF you DID use cornstarch, when the mixture just starts to boil in the middle, after about 10 minutes (boiling custard looks a little unusual–it looks like a crater of air suddenly pushing down), turn off the heat.
Immediately strain the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or container to remove the bits of lemon zest and any lumps that could have been formed the in the cooking process. Make sure to scrape the underside of the sieve with your rubber spatula to get all of your delicious lemon curd into the bowl.
Use plastic wrap to cover the bowl, pressing it up all the way to the surface of the lemon curd (to avoid a skin from forming); refrigerate several hours to cool and thicken, preferably overnight.