Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lemon curd tart--with strawberries

Strawberry-lemon curd tart (I)

Another week, another CSA box with an abundance of gorgeous strawberries. I'm really getting into my strawberry dessert groove over here. And I'm still in my baking groove. The kitchen abounds with cake and cake-related things (about which I'll say nothing at present--check back tomorrow afternoon), so I've felt the need for something fresh and light: not as rich-feeling as cake, but with a richness all its own.

Enter something I haven't made in a long time, but which I should really make more often: curd. It's so easy, it keeps so well, and I dare you to find a more delightful condiment than fresh, sweet-tart lemon curd. Put it on biscuits, put it on toast, put it on shortbread, put it on cake, put it on... pastry!

Lemon curd in crust

How can you go wrong? Even better, put it on pastry with fruit. If pastry + lemon curd = win, pastry + lemon curd + fresh strawberries must give you at least (win)^2. The only challenge is keeping yourself from gobbling up (or perhaps slurping is a better word) the curd before it can make it into the tart shell.

This is the sort of thing that I think should be part of every cook's repertoire, but it's also something that every cook seems to do a bit differently. One of the great things about curd is that it's so flexible and forgiving: there are all sorts of recipes out there, and each one calls for a slightly different ratio of eggs to juice to sugar to butter. There are recipes that use only whole eggs, those that use eggs and egg yolks, zest or no zest, and so on.

So, while I'm posting a recipe, it's actually more like an easygoing set of guidelines. Don't fret if you don't have exactly the right amount of juice, or even if you're missing an egg. I've used several different recipes, and they've all turned out well. The most important thing, I think, is to keep whisking. If you do that, you're golden. Recipe, such as it is, below.

Lemon juiceEggshells

I feel a little silly doing the fancy recipe formatting for this, so we'll go without this time. This recipe scales linearly, so if you want to make more, just multiply the recipe by whatever factor you need. (I made a triple batch just this week, and it's beautiful.) The only thing I would say about large batches is that you want to be extra vigilant about whisking.

This curd is rather tart, so if you like it sweeter, increase the sugar to 3/4 or even 1 cup.

Lemon curd

Makes a little over 1 cup

2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Combine sugar, eggs, zest, and juice in a heat-proof bowl and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Keep whisking until the curd thickens. This will happen suddenly, so be patient. You'll be thinking you've messed it up somehow, and then in the space of two seconds it goes from thin, loose soup to velvety curd.

If you'd like a more quantitative guideline for what "done" means, or if you're worried about killing yourself or your family and friends, use an instant-read thermometer to tell you when the mixture has hit 160F/71C. (This is the temperature at which salmonella are killed.)

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until the curd is smooth.

If you like, you can pass the curd through a fine mesh strainer. This will catch any curdled bits, which can be good if you're new at this or if you need to be extra careful about the consistency, but it will also remove the lovely bits of zest. Your call.

You can serve it immediately, or you can lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and stick it in the fridge until it's thoroughly chilled. It keeps in the fridge for a week, and freezes beautifully.

Strawberry-lemon curd tart (II)


Bee said...

I always use a Nigella Lawson recipe for lemon curd. I'll have to compare it to yours and see which one is the keeper!

Very few people here make it, and yet it is so easy. I might make it today, as our eggs are starting to build up. It's such a gorgeously spring thing to do.

BTW, your pictures are so mouth-watering, Anne.

Anne said...

I'm not wedded to this recipe, so if you find that you like Nigella's better, please pass it on!

I suspect that the fear of curdling puts many people off from making their own curd. But I think they make the danger out to be greater than it actually is, especially if you have a sieve handy.

As for the pictures, thank you for the encouragement! I'm learning... gradually. The equipment (a borrowed DSLR camera paired with some good RAW processing software) helps compensate for my floundering newbness.

kkryno said...

Sorry that I haven't checked by in a while. I've been sort of non-bloggish!

These have to be one of my most favorite things evah! I'm salivating so much I may have to get a new lap-top!

Thanks for the inspiration. :)

Anne said...

Thanks for stopping by! Glad you like the tart. :)