Lemon Curd – rules and bending the rules

April 19, 2012
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12-04-15_LemonCurd

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.

12-04-15_LemonCurd

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!

12-04-15_LemonCurd

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.

12-04-15_LemonCurd

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Lemon Curd

Ingredients:

3 eggs
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

Method:

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:

Eggs

  • 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.

Sugar

  • 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.

Butter

  • 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.

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12-04-15_LemonCurd

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21 Responses to Lemon Curd – rules and bending the rules

  1. muppy on April 19, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    looooove all your tips. i am the hugest fan of lemon curd and i do occasionally make it, can’t even think right now which recipe i use? but i’ll be back here when i’m making it next, thanks :)

    • JJ on April 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      Thanks! I realized that I completely left out an option to add cream – probably because I don’t do it ;)

  2. Monica (@gastromony) on April 19, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    You really can’t beat a nice batch of lemon curd! So versatile and takes anything to the next level :D Nice!

  3. Paula on April 19, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    Lemon curd is a huge favorite of mine…so much so that I can’t have it in the house beause it never makes it into a recipe. I’ll try this when I know there is company coming (Cathe) so that I don’t eat it all myself. And the photo of the eggs and lemons will be a watercolor soon…stay tuned.

    • JJ on April 22, 2012 at 11:56 pm

      aww thanks Paula – can’t wait to see it!

  4. Sara on April 20, 2012 at 3:42 am

    Thanks a lot for the explication about lemon curd.. it’s typical of anglo-saxon world, while here it’s not known so much.. so thanks!

  5. Lizzy (Good Things) on April 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    Great post JJ, really well researched and informative. I love lemon curd and wish I could eat more of it… but I would need a two-man-tent sized kaftan! Delicious pics too!

  6. Amanda on April 20, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    I am sooo with you on this – there is no need to ever buy commercial versions of this. It is so easy to make and well worth the small effort it takes.

  7. Katherine Martinelli on April 23, 2012 at 6:34 am

    Lemon curd is my absolute favorite! I love all your notes – thanks!

  8. Peter G | Souvlaki ForThe Soul on April 24, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Lemon curd is a favourite…and I agree that everyone has an opinion on it! I like to make a passionfruit version and wedge between sponge cake layers!

  9. Ada on April 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I just made this lemon curd and it is most delicious! I licked my utensils clean and even opted for a second piece of bread just so I can eat more of this deliciousness. Thanks for posting this recipe.

  10. Roberto Leibman on August 23, 2012 at 1:51 am

    I just made some hibuscus curd… same recipe but replace lemon juice with some brewed hibiscus tea and a bit of lime juice and zest.

    • JJ on August 24, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Oh yum! Sounds delicious!

  11. Viv on November 23, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Great topic! You were saying to make an extra thick curd add an egg or yolk only. What’s the difference in the outcome in taste of adding just the egg yolk vs whole egg? And what is it that actually sets a curd? I see some lemon tarts with the curd soft and others are a lot firmer( looks nicer to cut into)? Thanks!

    • JJ on January 24, 2013 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Viv, there is little change in taste between a whole egg and egg yolk but yolks are richer. The eggs are what makes it set so a higher ratio of eggs to liquid will result in a thicker curd, want it thinner then add more juice!

  12. abby on March 20, 2013 at 11:52 am

    Thank you so much for breaking down the process of making curd! Have you experimented with other flavours as well? I’m interested in making a berry curd, but I’m wondering if I need so much lemon juice? Any insight would be greatly appreciated – thanks :)

    • JJ on March 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Abby, you can replace the lemon juice with an equal amount of pretty much anything. One of the comments above mentions using hibiscus tea and lime juice! If using a berry puree I’d add a few Tbsp of lemon juice to it to help raise the tartness level but stick with the liquid to egg ratios and it should work just fine :)

  13. Teresa on April 24, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    I am going to make lemon and blueberry curd by blending blueberries with the lemon juice. I use this for my yogurt. What I’m wondering is can this be frozen and then thawed instead of canning?

    • JJ on May 1, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      Sounds like a delicious combo! Not sure about the freezing as I’ve never done it. Perhaps try to freeze a small amount of it (1/4 c or so) then defrosting a day later to see how it goes :)

  14. Melissa on June 20, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Hi, I made some lemon curd last night (not this recipe) but similar and mine has turned out more orange colour than yellow? Am I doing something wrong? I only used egg yolks as well.

    • JJ on June 20, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      Hi Melissa – I’d guess your egg yolks were a gorgeous orange colour before you started! The colour of any curd using a clear-ish juice will be determine by the shade of the eggs you use (lime curd will look just like the lemon version too). Random tip – adding salt to eggs before they are cooked and letting them sit for a white will turn them more orange as well. :)

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