Friday, February 5, 2010
Lemon is one of my favorite flavors (after chocolate, of course). In our old house, we had a Meyer lemon tree, which might just be the thing I miss most about that house other than the Viking stove. Nowadays, we rely on the harvest from my parents' or in-laws' tiny, but fruitful, trees. Other people - like Jenn - have a lemon fairy to supply them. We should all be so lucky!
This lemon curd recipe from Alton Brown makes a great filling for layer cakes. It is actually fairly tart, which I like, but I'd understand if you wanted just a tad more sugar to balance it out. It's very smooooth and not too gloppy - maybe a little thinner than pudding, but it still has some substance. Best of all, although it stays fresh in the fridge for two weeks, you can keep it for ages in the freezer if you package it right. Place it in a tupperware, press some plastic wrap right onto the surface of the curd, put on the lid, and freeze. It stays soft in the freezer, so you can scoop off a tablespoonful as needed, or you can defrost the whole amount by placing it in the fridge overnight.
It is so good, I could eat it with a spoon.
Because lemon curd uses only the yolks, you'll have 5 egg whites left over. Great time for healthy omelets or meringues, if you're feeling the need for sweets.
5 egg yolks
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
4 lemons, zested (zest reserved) and juiced
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled
Bring a small amount of water to a simmer over medium-high heat. You're making a double boiler; you're going to cook the curd in a bowl set over the simmering water, but you don't want the bowl to touch the water.
Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure 1/3 cup lemon juice. If you don't have that much, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Pour juice into egg mixture and whisk smooth. If you want, you can add the zest at this point as well, but your curd will not be perfectly smooth. Options: 1) have curd that's not perfectly smooth, or 2) strain the curd after it's cooked. I'll mention this below.
Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. You don't have to stir it constantly, but make it your primary task for those 8 minutes. Don't go off and check your email or anything.
Remove from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. If you used the zest but don't want it in the final product, now's the time to strain. Place the curd in a fine mesh sieve set over a storage container. I stir it around with a rubber spatula until everything but the zest is smushed through. With this recipe, I have not found it necessary to strain the lemon curd except to remove zest.
Remove to a clean storage container and let it cool on the counter. Place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd, cover with the container lid, and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to several months.
Just a note: extra lemon zest or juice can easily be frozen in a tupperware or ziploc bag. So many recipes call for - or benefit from - a squeeze of lemon juice, and now you'll always have some fresh lemon juice at the ready!