My daughter Kirsten and her husband Mike had invited us over for dinner one evening and I decided to bring a Tarte au Citron, Kirsten’s favourite dessert. I was a bit short on time, and happily employed the trusty no-roll crust from the French Apple Tart recipe to make the base for the tart. The filling itself was a bit more problematic. Like Kirsten, I love lemon curd, but I also dislike all the multi-step double-boiling and straining of lemon zest that renders the process annoying and messy.
Fine Cooking, once again, came to the rescue with this variation on Classic Lemon Curd. Easy peasy.
Or it would have been had I not let my mind wander at the point where I was to add the lemon juice. I’d separated two of the eggs, and had left the egg whites sitting in a bowl right beside the bowl of lemon juice. In my distracted state I added the egg whites to the butter, sugar and egg mixture in the mixing bowl instead of the lemon juice. Grrrrrrr… Of course, we were low on sugar and I’d used the last of it to make the batch that was now being poured down the sink. What’s that saying about more haste, less speed? Or in my case, more daze, less speed.
Off to the grocery store for more sugar. Happily, I had sufficient eggs, and the lemon juice was sitting still there in its bowl, intact. I quickly mixed up another batch, cooked it on the stove and popped it into the cooled tart crust just in time to take over for dinner. The recipe makes two cups, enough for the tart and a bit left over to enjoy on its own.
- 3 oz (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 c sugar
- 2 large eggs plus
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2/3 c fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Slowly add the eggs and yolks. Beat for another minute. Mix in the lemon juice. Although it will look curdled and quite unappetizing at this stage, it will smooth out as it cooks and the butter melts.
- In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, cook the mixture over low heat until it looks smooth. Increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (about 10 minutes). Don’t let the mixture boil.
- You'll know it's thick enough when dragging your finger through a coating of the mixture on the back of a spoon leaves a path. If you're using a thermometer, 170°F is the target.
- Remove the curd from the heat; stir in the lemon zest.
- Transfer the curd to a bowl. Press plastic wrap on the surface of the lemon curd to keep a skin from forming.
- Chill the curd in the refrigerator. The curd will thicken further as it cools.
- Covered tightly, it will keep in the refrigerator for a week and in the freezer for 2 months.
- Tip #1: It helps to zap the lemons in the microwave for 10-15 seconds just before squeezing them. The yield increases from about 3 tbsp to 1/4 of a cup per lemon. Astonishing!
- Tip #2: use a microplane to zest the lemon. It'll save your fingers, and the zest comes out beautifully fine, perfect for adding to the already cooked curd.
- Note: Many lemon curd recipes call for a coarser version of the zest to be strained out at the end, just before the butter is stirred in. This recipe is dead simple. No staining, fussing or bothering. Bung in all the ingredients at the beginning and add a bit of lemon zest at the end.