Aug. 1, 2019
Written By: Adriana
Lemon curd is one of those fillings that is really versatile. It uniquely offers a sour note to desserts that can be too sweet, and give you something that is really balanced. We'll go over some tips for lemon curd recipe success and some great ideas on how to use them in your desserts. It’s quite easy to make as well, so stop buying it and start squeezing some lemons 🍋
Lemon curd is a very intense and sour filling made of mostly lemons, sugar, egg yolks, and butter. It is perfect for desserts that require a strong acid component to offset sweetness. Like lemon meringue tarts!
It’s different from lemon filling, which you often find in lemon meringue pies. Lemon filling is lighter in lemon flavor because it has a predominantly sugar-cornstarch base.
I wouldn’t recommend lemon curd for meringue pies, where the dish is much deeper. Bakers who say they are using lemon curd for their pies are in for a *very* sour pie - there will not be enough crust or meringue to offset the sour, and the pie be unpleasant to eat.
To make it, we mix the eggs with sugar, to form a yellow paste, then add the lemon juice and butter cubes. We heat the mixture slowly, which melts the butter and starts cooking the curd, until it thickens (your proteins coagulating!). We then strain it to remove any potential large clump-age, and finally mix with salt and lemon zest for a nice bright flavor.
Whenever I hear the word 'curd' I think of milk, as in 'curds and whey' (Little Miss Muffet...). There's no milk in lemon curd, but a curd really is just proteins sticking together (in science speak, —> coagulation). And since lemon curd contains eggs, (and eggs = protein), the mixture does indeed form curds. These curds are quite small, so all our tongues feel with a well-made lemon curd luscious, bright, silky smoothness.
To prevent large curds from forming (i.e., preventing it from 'curdling'), we want to apply heat nice and slow.
Typically in a lemon curd, we are looking for a good hit of sour followed by sweetness. It should be silky smooth but can vary in thickness: you can have a looser (more runny) curd if you're using it for trifles or on top of scones; you will, however, need a denser curd at times. I'll go over that below.
I think the question is 'what can't you use it with?!' Maybe that's just me, but I love lemon curd.
I've even eaten it on top of sweet coconut rice - the kind in Thai sticky rice and mango desserts. (It was fair game. I was pregnant.)
The key here is to add them to desserts where you need a very intense lemon flavor in a small area. Here are some great ways to use lemon curd:
If you want your lemon curd to have some support, I suggest using gelatin. This is what I do when I make my cream tart cakes:
If I didn’t add gelatin, the curd would ooze out from the layers and not give me the defined blobs. (For lack of a better word :))
On the other hand, leaving the gelatin out will allow the curd to maintain a more loose texture, which is great for scones and filling tarts. It will become a little firm on its own without gelatin when refrigerated.
In a covered, airtight container for up to one week. It doesn't really freeze well.
Lemon curd does contain eggs and dairy (butter), so I'd be ok leaving it out for the day if I plan on serving it, but anything overnight definitely would need to be refrigerated.
Here is the recipe below ⬇️
|grated zest of one lemon (a microplane is great here)||3 teaspoons||6g||-|
|fresh lemon juice (from about 2-3 lemons)||1/2 cups + 1 TB||141g||4.95 oz|
|egg yolks (from about 6 large eggs)||1/4 + 1/8 cups||111g||3.9 oz|
|sugar||1 1/8 cups||225g||9 oz|
|unsalted butter||6 TB||85.5g||3 oz|
|unflavored gelatin (optional, see note above)||1 tsp|
1. Set up a medium bowl by the stove, and place a strainer on top. (If using gelatin, soak 1 tsp in 2 tsp of cold water. Set aside.)
2. In a medium non-reactive saucepan, whisk the yolks and sugar until combined.
3. Add fresh lemon juice, salt, and unsalted butter to the saucepan.
4. Place your saucepan on medium-low heat. Continuously whisk the lemon curd. As the temperature of the curd rises, it will thicken slightly. (You don't want you curd to boil see 'curdling' in the introduction. Pops of steam means the temperature is too high. Quickly remove the pan from the heat to bring temperature down. Place it back on the burner and proceed to heat it slowly until it reaches the right texture/temperature.)
5. The curd is done when it coats the back of a wooden spoon thickly, or if you have an instant-read thermometer, the temperature reaches 196 °F/91 °C.
6. If using gelatin, stir it in the hot curd at this point.
7. Remove the pan from heat and pour the curd into the mesh strainer/bowl. Use a spatula to push the rest through.
8. Add the lemon zest to the warm curd and stir. It will seem slightly loose, but don't worry, it will thicken after it cools a bit. You can cool it at room temperature if you're going to use it soon, or you can immediately pour it into an airtight container for storage in the fridge.
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