In March 2009, I posted my recipe for homemade lemon curd. Throughout that year, my kitchen became a miniature lemon curd factory—I was hooked on the stuff, and I got everyone else I knew hooked too. I even gave it away to co-workers at Christmastime. That original post contained the following statement:
“It is worth befriending someone with a Meyer lemon tree if you don’t have one yourself. It is also a nice thank you gift to give your lemon supplier some curd in return. This is enlightened self-interest as it will ensure your fresh lemon supply for the future. It is even worth sneaking into the gardens of perfect strangers at the dead of night to abscond with a few fresh lemons off that stranger’s lemon tree. Don’t be too conscience stricken; people with lemon trees often have more lemons than they can possibly use from January through March so they won’t miss two or three.”
First let me say I very boringly buy my lemons in broad daylight like any other law-abiding person. But this tongue in cheek if not so innocent proclamation earned me the title “The Lemon Thief” among my friends, who were still quite happy to go home with pint pots of my lemon curd. And thus the “Lemon Thief Brand” of lemon curd was born. The Lemon Thief dresses like those cat burgling-jewel thieves you see in old movies, complete with black gloves and a mask, and cruises through suburban neighborhoods in the wee hours on her bicycle in search of unguarded lemon trees for harvesting. I even dressed as the Lemon Thief for Halloween.
Since this week’s SKC is dedicated to citrus fruits, it seems to be the perfect time to revisit my lemon curd recipe. However and wherever you obtain your lemons, look for ones that feel heavy for their size and which have a little give when lightly squeezed. A hard, light-weight lemon won’t have much juice. Meyer lemons are my favorite kind to use, but any fresh lemon will do in a pinch. Have your iPod tuned to a nice long recorded book or play list; play stirring music on the stereo, or sit your best beloved in the kitchen to entertain you while you work, because you’re going to be standing there at the stove stirring for a good long time. No matter, homemade lemon curd is worth it.
Ingredients and Equipment:
2 1 pint canning jars, sterilized in a boiling water bath before you begin making curd.Ingredients:
Zest from 2 lemons
Juice of 3 lemons. 3 lemons gave me a generous ¾ cup of juice.
3 whole eggs
¾ to 1 cup sugar
1 stick butter cut into 8 TBs.
For equipment, you’ll need:
1 wire whip
1 wooden spoon.
A double boiler. (This can be improvised with a mixing bowl that fits over a medium saucepan.)
1 grater. (I find a microplane grater is much easier than a box grater for this job but either kind will work.)
1 citrus juicer.
1 sieve to strain the juice
A 1 cup measuring cup.
A canning funnel is very handy for messy cooks like me, but it’s not an absolute necessity.Method:
While you assemble your ingredients, pour about 2 inches of water into your saucepan and turn burner to medium high. The water should be simmering but not yet at full boil by the time you’re ready to cook your mixture.
- Beat your three whole eggs in the bowl portion of your double boiler until frothy and bright yellow.
- Grate the zest of two lemons, and juice all 3 of them. Strain out the pulp and seeds and pour juice into the eggs along with the grated zest. Make sure to get all the zest possible.
- Add smaller quantity of sugar first, and taste it before adding more. You can always add more sugar, but lemon curd should be tart.
Whisk mixture until blended, then set the bowl of double boiler on top of the saucepan and reduce heat to medium low. Add the butter 1 TB at a time allowing each one to be completely incorporated before adding the next, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon as you do so. Stir this mixture until you think the American banking industry might possibly be solvent again, or until you think you will start screaming uncontrollably. In real time it will take the curd about 15-20 minutes to thicken, it will just feel longer. You’ll know it’s done when it’s a bright yellow and it coats the back of your spoon. Your finger should leave a visible trail like this:
Pour the curd into your prepared canning jars, and allow to cool at room temperature, then refrigerate. Eat this on any form of toasted bread, use it as a filling for a lemon tart, shortbread sandwich cookies or a layer cake, dip your baby’s old shoes in it—this stuff is gold. It will keep two weeks in the refrigerator, but you will very likely finish it long before it has time to go bad.
Why should lemons have all the fun?
And now for something completely different. This recipe comes from a little book called The London Ritz Book of Afternoon Tea by Helen Simpson. They are buttery and citrusy, moist and tender, and I’ve never found another Madeleine recipe I’ve liked better. The recipe calls for a lemon, but I got creative one day, and now I like them even more with lime zest and juice.
Ingredients and Equipment:
2 medium eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
8 TBs unsalted butter, melted
¼ tsp salt.
Finely grated rind and juice of 1 regular lime, or 3 Key limes.
½ cup flour. (I use all purpose)
1 madeleine pan
2 mixing bowls 1 large, one small.
A sauce pan
A wire whip.
Method: Preheat oven to 375 F. Melt the butter, then prepare your pan by brushing melted butter into each hollow in the Madeleine pan. A pastry brush is really “the right tool for the right job” in this case. These can also be made in mini-muffin tins, but real Madeleine pans make for prettier cakes. This recipe yield is about 24 madeleines, so I often prepare two pans at the same time. If you only own one, you’ll have to wash it and rebutter it before baking the second set of madeleines, or your second batch will stick to the pan, and not look smooth and nice like the first.
· Separate your eggs, with the egg whites in the smaller mixing bowl and set egg whites aside.
· Grate lime zest and juice the lime(s), set aside.
· Beat egg yolks with the sugar until thoroughly mixed, but still bright yellow.
· Add the lime zest and juice, and slowly mix in the cooled melted butter.
· Measure then sift the flour over the mixing bowl and fold into mixture until just blended.
· Beat egg whites with a fork until frothy, then beat them into egg and flour mixture.
· Using a TB of batter for each buttered hollow, distribute the batter as evenly as possible in the Madeleine pan or pans. Don’t be obsessive, but it does help even baking to have all the little cakes come out about the same size.
Bake in the center of your oven for 15-20 minutes. When done, they should be light brown around their edges. Allow to cool for a few minutes in the pan, then, using a regular table knife, loosen them and turn them out on a wire rack to cool completely.
These are best when they are very fresh, and they’ll have tiny green flecks of grated lime zest in them. They’re especially good with a cup of hot jasmine tea. If Marcel Proust had ever eaten one of these, he’d have remembered things that didn’t even happen to him.