Lemon Curd is one of those recipes that everyone has a spin – and an opinion – on. You should use whole eggs, you must only use egg yolks. You must adhere to x ratios of sugar to juice to make it very sweet, you must keep it tart. Use more butter, use less butter – mix it in before, mix it in at the end. Cook in a saucepan, cook over a double boiler. Strain the juice, strain the cooked curd. And on and on it goes.
The versatility once made is as varied as the list of recipe options. Fill a blind-baked pie shell, cover with meringue and bake, grill [broil] or blowtorch for a quick Lemon Meringue Pie. Use as a topping for a Chiffon Cake in place of icing. Spoon over natural yogurt or ice cream for a tangy twist. Layer between vanilla cake rounds then swirl through buttercream before icing for a sky-high Lemon tower. Or just dollop on toasted bread or scones instead of jam. All before even considering other things – like whipped cream or crushed raspberries – you can combine with it!
Lemon Curd is one of those things that surprised me the first time I made it – it is so simple. So simple in fact that you should never, ever, buy it in a jar. And there is no need to be put off by the reasonably vast number of versions out there because in reality, with a few simple guidelines, it’s easy as pie to make. Lemon Pie to be exact.
1/2 c lemon juice and 1 Tbsp zest
1/2 to 3/4 c sugar
15 to 75 g [1 to 5 Tbsp] unsalted butter
Pinch of sea salt
In a small saucepan whisk eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice and salt.
Over a low heat bring just to a simmer – whisking all the while for about 5 minutes until mixture begins to thicken. You’ll be convinced nothing is happening then bam out of nowhere there it is. Continue to stir for another 3-5 minutes until thick.
Remove from heat and whisk in butter if using. Pour into pie shells or refrigerate until cool. Curd will thicken further as it cools.
Makes approx 1 c Lemon Curd.
Notes, because I love a good note or ten:
- you can use whole eggs, yolks only or a combination of both.
- for the curd on my Chiffon Cake I used the left over 2 yolks plus an extra whole egg to keep it a bit thinner.
- the darker your egg yolks, the more yellow your Lemon Curd.
Lemon juice and zest
- to ensure the curd sets properly I wouldn’t use much more than 1/2 c juice to 3 eggs – but you could use less for a more mild flavour.
- some people strain the curd before cooling to remove the zest, it doesn’t bother me so I don’t bother.
- this is where it gets interesting… 3/4 c sugar will create quite a nice flavour but it is a bit sweet for my liking so I only use 1/2 cup which renders a tart-ish curd. I recommend starting with less and adding a bit extra if required, it also depends on what you are pairing it with though – a sweet cake can handle a less sweet curd, and vice-versa.
- I still use white sugar for Lemon Curd… horrors. I haven’t tried Coconut Sugar or Rapadura and both would work well but the curd would be a much darker colour rather than bright yellow. I would imagine that honey or agave would be lovely too but quite different.
- The addition of butter creates an extra layer of richness and makes the curd satiny smooth. You can go without or add a bit of coconut oil if you want to be dairy free.
- Some recipes I’ve seen call for adding the butter at the beginning, I prefer the method that whisks small pieces of the butter through the still warm cooked Lemon Curd at the end – up to you really.
- I only add a small pinch – 1 tsp or so – but go for broke if that is what you like.
- Unless you are only using a tiny bit of butter go with the un-salted version.
a pinch of sea salt
- Salt simply brings out flavour and intensifies sweet things. Since I add very little butter I tend to use a salted version and skip the pinch. As long as you have a bit of salt it all works out.
Bonus round – Variations on the theme:
Now that you have the basic method and quantities down you can start to experiment!
- Put in an extra egg or egg yolk to make an extra thick curd, put in one less or use one whole with two yolks for a thiner pourable topping.
- Use Lime, Orange, Pink Grapefruit or Raspberries and it’s a whole other, very tasty, ballgame.