Commercial Food Photographer | Best Lemon Curd Recipe Ever

March 07, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Lemon curd: A dessert spread topping, made from a combination of egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice and zest that’s cooked on the stove. It’s soft, smooth, tart and served cold. It’s similar to a custard and is often served with scones or used in pastries and tarts.

My reason for making lemon curd? I had a bunch of Meyer lemons, so I went searching for a recipe to try out. I love lemons because they’re so tart they help cut desserts I would normally find overly sweet, like cake, and since I’m repainting my kitchen from green to yellow, this seemed like the perfect time for an all-yellow post. The new kitchen color is highlighted in red below. By the way, it’s really hard for a food photographer to not choose a color based on its food name. I overlooked  “Spun Honey, Lemon Twist, Butterscotch Cream, and Fruit Compote” to find the perfect color without any outside influences, which is “Chickory Chick”. Beautiful color, but the name is tragic.

I made Lemon Curd twice. The initial recipe was a bit of a train wreck for me. I can’t necessarily blame the recipe, it was my first attempt and it’s possible I just did it wrong. I considered giving up on lemon curd, but I didn’t want all my hard work to go to waste, so I found a different recipe and tried again.
The biggest differences between these two recipes are:
The order the ingredients are combined.
The second recipe called for butter while the first didn’t.
For the second recipe I ditched the Meyer lemons for regular lemons instead.

The two attempts are shown next to each other at the bottom of this next photo string. The one on the left (in pink bowl) was the failure and the one on the right (in clear Tupperware) was the winner. The first batch wasn’t clear and shiny and tasted powdery, bitter and perhaps a little burnt.

Lemon Curd

2 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
3/4 cup butter, cut up in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)

1. Place sugar in a medium-sized pan over a pot of simmering water in a double-boiler. Add cornstarch (if desired) to help the thickening process. Gradually whisk in fresh lemon juice.
2. Add eggs and egg yolks, continuing to whisk steadily. Whisk over medium to medium-high heat, 10 to 18 minutes, until mixture thickens. (If it’s not thickening, increase the heat, being careful to continue whisking.) It should be about the consistency of hollandaise sauce.
3. Add butter, whisking to blend. Cook, continuing to whisk, one to two more minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in lemon zest. Transfer to a bowl and place plastic wrap over it, pressing over the top to prevent a skin from forming.
4. Chill. The lemon curd will continue to thicken some as it cools. This recipe makes about 3 cups lemon curd. Store refrigerated for one to two weeks. After the lemon curd is thoroughly chilled, you can fold in whipped cream to lighten the texture and mellow the flavor, if you wish. I prefer it full-strength.

Tips: Use a large whisk. It helps avoid froth and bubbles from forming on the top.
Make sure not to remove the mixture from the heat until it’s really thickening, when it’ll stick to the spoon and become a little more difficult to whisk. It will thicken more in the fridge, but not like Jell-O would.

Lemon Curd is great on top of cornbread, biscuits or scones. Other ways to eat Lemon Curd?

Lemon Curd Trifle
Ricotta Pancakes with Lemon Curd and Raspberries 
Lemon Curd Stuffed French Toast
Blueberry Lemon Curd and Quinoa Parfait 
Mini Lemon Tarts
Lemon Doughnuts
on top of pavlovas
on top of fresh berries and whipped cream
and last but not least, by the spoonful!

Lemon Curd makes a perfect gift, just spoon into any cute glass container like the one above. A little goes a long way, 4 tablespoons could be a serving–if you eat normal portions, which I don’t. I ate about 3/4 cup in a sitting. I made this for a dinner party. One of my friends looked so sad when her bowl was empty that I spooned out seconds. There’s no better testimonial than seconds.

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