Friday, June 30, 2006

How I Make Lemon Curd

End of the Month means Eggs on Toast with a Twist of Lemon

photograph picture how to make recipe for lemon curd on toast
Last week, when the Bay Area was basking in a glorious heatwave that now seems like it was just a dream, Fred and I were invited to a "Summer in Rabbit Land" dinner up in Marin. Our gracious hosts, Donna and Juan had prepared a wonderful Spanish spread for fifteen people. Arbequina olives and embutidos (spanish cured meats) accompanied by dry fino and manzanilla of Jerez, tomates y anchoas (ripe tomatoes, white anchovies in an ybarra vinaigrette), ensaladilla rusa (summer potato salad), tortilla de patata, rabbit with peppers in white wine sauce, iceberg lettuce salad with ybarra vinaigrette, lemon sorbet, quesos y membrillo (cheese and quince jam), chocolate 'sandwiches', andaluzan almond cakes and aguardiente. Wow! Did I really eat and drink all of that? Everything was totally delicious.

It was such a perfect evening. The summer solstice ensured us natural light for as long as is possible on this line of latitude, and the unusual heat meant that we could dine outside in their pretty garden, surrounded by fruit trees, oranges figs and lemons... Donna and Juan know that I am exactly the kind of person who cannot refuse when offered homegrown lemons, so it was with a smile on my face that I travelled back to San Francisco that night with a small bag of fruits, freshly plucked from their little orchard.

A few days later, Donna and Juan set off to cycle from San Francisco to LA. So, because I wanted to make something with their lemons that I could share with them later, I decided to make some lemon curd which also happens to freeze exceedingly well. Because it is made with fresh butter and eggs it only lasts a short while in the fridge, although I have never had a pot that went off, it always gets eaten long before it starts to spoil.

I used to make lemon curd as a child, but I can't remember the recipe I used. More recently I made a Tarte au Citron using a recipe Pierre Hermé from The Cooks Book and found that the excess filling made an excellent curd and so it is a slightly lazy version of Hermé's method that I now use.

photograph picture how to make recipe for lemon curd on toast
A Recipe for Lemon Curd
Before starting, please note that this recipe requires your dedication. It isn't difficult, nor is it a particularly lengthy process, but you will be required to stand and stir and not be multi-tasking some other chores in the meantime.

Special Equipment:

- An instant read or candy thermometer
- Electric Immersion Hand Blender
- Glass jars heated in the oven to a temperature of 250F
(I used four x 6oz jars and fully filled all but one of them)

Grated rind of five unwaxed lemons
1 1/4 cups Bakers (castor) Sugar
1 1/3 cups room temperature unslated butter cut into cubes
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 room-temparature eggs


- In a large, heatproof bowl first rub together the lemon zest and sugar
- Set a pan of water to simmer.
*Important* This pan should be able to fit your bowl on top without it touching the water.
- Add the four eggs and whisk everything together
- Stir in the lemon juice until blended
- Place the bowl over your pan of simmering water. If you have a candy thermometer only, then attach it inside the bowl at this point.
- Constantly stir the mixture with a whisk until it reaches a temperature of 180F (check with an instant-read thermometer if you aren't using a candy thermometer).
- Set the mixture aside to cool to a temperature of 140F. This important. If you proceed to the next stage when the mixture is too hot you will end up changing the structure of the butter in an undesirable way and your curd will be ruined.
- Add the butter and mix everything together using an immersion blender for five minutes to make sure the curd is smoothly blended.
- Transfer to glass jars, cool, top with a lid and then refrigerate or freeze for future use.

To serve, spread on hot toast. Yum...

PS - This was intended to be an entry in Jeanne at Cook Sister's EOMEOTE (End of the Month Eggs on Toast Extravaganza) but the event is taking a hiatus for June. EOMEOTE will be back with a vegeance at the end of July, with a theme based on newspaper headlines (as well as the eggs and toast, of course!)

PPS - A new Foodography challenge has been launched here by Andrew at Spitton.

PPPS - Those readers who were interested in the Hangar One Kitten will be pleased to know she is doing well, growing fast and that her "mom", Laurie, has started a flickr set dedicated to pictures of her progress. She has a kitten aid just like mine. Check it out!

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Organic Butter | Straus Creamery
Fresh Farm Eggs | Marin Sun Farms

Other Resources:
Currently my favourite recipe book | The Cook's Book, Jill Norman
Parisian Pastry Chef | Pierre Hermé
EOMEOTE | End of the Month Eggs on Toast Extravaganza

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: The Helmand, Afghan Cuisine

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How I Make Lemon Curd


  • At 30/6/06 16:07, Blogger Anande said…

    Your blog is tres cool!

  • At 30/6/06 16:46, Blogger shuna fish lydon said…

    Also you may put your sugar and lemon zest into the Cuisinart for a few spins-- it makes for an even more lemony flavour.

    I also prefer curds made with whole eggs as opposed to just yolks. I think the taste stays fresh & bright longer with this recipe.

    Your generosity never ceases to astound me. And delight us all!

  • At 30/6/06 18:47, Blogger Dagny said…

    I notice that the recipe calls for unwaxed lemons. I assume that this means that most of the lemons in the supermarkets are waxed. Therefore, I should only use this recipe for lemons from my aunt's tree. Right? And if so, I know where I'll be tomorrow afternoon.

  • At 30/6/06 19:05, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    Dagny! It's nice to share. ;)

    Kitten Aid!! ha ha ha

    Sam, that looks decadent. Mm.

  • At 30/6/06 19:07, Blogger Sam said…

    Thank you Lottie.

    Shuna - good tip about the cuisineart - but that means more washing up! It would be a shame to waste the yolk.

    Dagny - I am not sure if all supermarket lemons are waxed. I assume so. In the UK I was able to buy special (more expensive) lemons from the supermarkets that were specifically labelled unwaxed. Here I have never seen that, so instead I have to scrounge my lemons from friendly trees or otherwise buy them at the farmers markets.

    Cookie - Decadent - yes - I am glad I made plans to give over half of it away! Did you see that pile of butter??????

  • At 30/6/06 19:12, Blogger Sam said…

    duh - i meant the white

  • At 1/7/06 05:39, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi sam... i bought some le butter at the grower's market today... and it was so tasty on a hot crumpet. your lemon curd looks delicious... i will make a batch once i finish this jar... it won't be long ;)

  • At 1/7/06 07:30, Blogger Kalyn Denny said…

    Sam, I loved reading this. I confess, lemon curd is one of those things that I only had a vague idea of what it was before this.

  • At 1/7/06 14:08, Blogger Unknown said…

    MMM... lemon curd. I'm eating some as we speak. Lumtastic.
    I also have grapefruit curd in the pantry!

  • At 2/7/06 05:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    hi, i jus made the same lemon curd for some tarts! it was yummy ;) by the way, love your blog! thanks for all the links to sf restaurants etc - very helpful!

  • At 2/7/06 16:01, Blogger Farmgirl Susan said…

    What a lovely lemon curd lesson. I adore the stuff. I'm sure lots more people will now, too--thanks to you!

  • At 5/7/06 03:53, Blogger Jeanne said…

    Oh wow - I can actually smell the lemon curd on that piece of toast! I have aloways adored lemon curd - I think it's a childhood thing as my dad always used to eat lots of it. I definitely want to try this!

    And apologies for the lack of EoMEoTE this month - I am going to add you to the bottom of last month's roundup, seeing as such a fab treat deserves a little eggy publicity ;-)

  • At 5/7/06 08:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    In the course of running the Fish Creek House Bed and Breakfast in Southwest Montana, 'Ive eaten a LOT of scrambled eggs. I've gone through book after book, dozens of articles and scoured the world via restaurant and the internet to find the perfect recipe and method to create what - for all appearances - would seem like the easiest dish in the world to make.
    Read on to see the trial and error - the pain and glory - that was involved in deriving the recipe.

    The truth is that scrambled eggs are easy to make. Unfortunately, they are also the easy to make WRONG. At a root level, scrambled eggs are simply beaten eggs which are fried and - for lack of a better word - scrambled. But like most things that are simple (take love and martinis as examples), people have found ways to make them needlessly complex.
    No cheese. No overt flavorings. Just eggs and what it takes to make them taste and look like great eggs.

    What NOT To Add

    Cottage Cheese -- Several recipes I encountered recommended whisking a Tablespoon of small curd cottage cheese in with each egg. Visually, the result was creamy and mildly fluffy scrambled eggs. In terms of taste, the cottage cheese did not contribute or detract from the eggs -- but it did make the dish seem somehow impure. You knew there was something in there besides the egg. The aspect of cottage cheese that secured its fate as a stay-out-of-our-scramble ingredient was that no matter how vigorously you whisked the dish had texture irregularities. Every other bite had the unwelcome surprise of a noticeable cottage cheese curd.

    Real Cream - I tried two recipes that used real cream ("the fat skimmed off the top of raw milk" as defined by the Wikipedia Dairy Products Guide). One said to add 1 Tablespoon of real cream per egg. The other instructed the use of 1 and ½ Tablespoons of cream per egg. Both recipes created beautiful eggs with a creamy yellow color. Sadly, the resulting flavor was not so beautiful. In both cases the first bite tasted terrific, but the more I ate the more I had to admit that these eggs were just too creamy. The recipe with 1 and ½ Tablespoons of cream left a slight, unpleasant milky after-taste.

    Sour Cream - Scrambled eggs with sour cream can not be considered scrambled eggs in a purist sense. The sour cream adds a distinct flavor. Therefore, scrambled eggs with sour cream will be saved for mention in a future article on specialty or flavored scrambled eggs.

    Baking Powder -- Scrambled eggs with a pinch of baking powder per egg had a great appearance. They were fluffy, yet firm. I was surprised to find there was no trace of baking powder taste. Unfortunately, the texture of the scramble in the mouth was uneven with specks of firmer pieces in a single bite.

    Sea Salt - When salt is heated it breaks down to the same components regardless whether its table salt or sea salt. As Robert Wolke says in his book What Einstein Told His Cook, "...when a recipe specifies simply 'sea salt' it is a meaningless specification. It might as well be specifying 'meat'." If you see a recipe that says to add sea salt to eggs before whisking…. you can be sure it was written by someone who needs to learn more about the ionic bonds that hold sodium and chlorine together.

    Sugar - Eggs, flour and sugar are the primary ingredients of a great many deserts. Remove the flour and you end up with neither desert nor scrambled eggs - at least not from a purist scramble perspective. What you do end up with is a kind of specialty egg dish that deserves further exploration in the field of breakfast. It's not fair to call them scrambled eggs, but their sweetness makes them an interesting complement to pancakes and waffles

    What NOT To Do

    DON'T beat egg whites until stiff peaks form

    With or without added ingredients like sugar and cream of tartar, the result of scrambling looks like a big dollop of melting Crisco crossed with cottage cheese.

    DON'T stir eggs slowly for an extended period

    I came across one recipe that actually instructed to stir the eggs in the fry pan (heated at your stove's lowest setting) with a wooden spoon for 30 minutes.

    First of all, the eggs didn't set after 30 minutes at the lowest heat setting. I tried once more at a slightly higher setting. After 10 minutes, the eggs began to show subtle signs of setting. I continued to stir the eggs in the pan for 10 minutes. The result looked more like butternut squash than any eggs I've ever seen. The texture was close to chewy and the extended cooking time seemed to have cooked away all the flavor of egg.

    Do It Or Don't - It doesn't Make a Difference

    Keep eggs at room temperature before scrambling - Kitchen tests showed no significant difference between room-temperature and refrigerated eggs from the same carton. Refrigeration actually deters the growth of salmonella enteritis. Even though salmonella is very rare (1 out of every 20,000 eggs may contain the bacteria), it is advised that your eggs always remain stored in the refrigerator.

    The Art of Scrambling - Proper Technique

    The Best Way To Beat Your Eggs

    One of the most important ingredients in scrambled eggs is hardly ever mentioned... air. It would be nice if we could just dollop a Tablespoon of air into the mixing bowl, but for the time-being, incorporating air into beaten eggs requires good old-fashioned elbow grease (or the electric equivalent).

    The more you whisk -- the more air bubbles become trapped in the shaken and unraveling protein of the eggs. As the eggs cook, protein molecules firm-up around the air bubbles resulting in a spongy texture and hopefully full and fluffy scrambled eggs.

    The American Egg Board describes well-beaten eggs as "frothy and evenly colored". When your eggs match that description (generally after about 2 minutes) you should stop beating.

    Over-beating will completely unravel the protein molecules and destabilize their ability to form a microscopic casing around the air. In terms of whisking motion, a tilted wheel motion works far better than a vertical stirring motion. A fork works as well as a whisk but requires a slight bit more time and energy.

    The Best Way To Scramble In The Pan

    The actions you take once the eggs hit the fry pan will dictate the size of the scrambled egg pieces (curds). Some recipes suggest stirring the eggs with a wooden spoon immediately as the eggs hit the heated surface. Others direct you to let the eggs start to set before stirring/scrambling. Of the two, the second method results in larger fluffier pieces.

    Getting Hungry?

    Before we scramble our brains contemplating the best plate to eat scrambled eggs off of, the texture differentials of eating with a spoon and the ideal temperature of the chair you sit in as you eat... let's get back to the reason we're here. For your breakfast pleasure, The Fish Creek House Presents...

    This recipe serves 2 hungry people.

    6 large eggs
    6 teaspoons (1 teaspoon for each egg) low-fat milk
    3 dashes of salt (1 dash for every two eggs)
    1 Tablespoon butter for frying

    Heat a large non-stick frying pan to a setting just above medium. A 12-inch pan works well for 6 eggs. Do not add butter yet. We just want get the pan ready.

    In large metal or glass mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and salt. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

    Alternatively, you can place the eggs, milk and salt in a blender and blend for 20 to 25 seconds. Allow the mixture to set for a couple minutes to let the foam settle.

    Melt the butter in the frying pan. As the very last of the butter is liquefying, add the egg mixture.

    Do not stir immediately. Wait until the first hint of setting begins. Using a spatula or a flat wooden spoon, push eggs toward center while tilting skillet to distribute runny parts.")

    Continue this motion as the eggs continue to set. Break apart large pieces as they form with your spoon or spatula. You will come to a point where the push-to-center technique is no longer cooking runny parts of the egg. Flip over all the eggs. Allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer. Transfer eggs to serving plates. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat up!


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