if you've never had this incredibly good dessert spread, it is something you MUST make. admittedly, i can sit and eat the whole thing on its own unless i exercise massive willpower — it really is that good.
making lemon curd is a fairly simple procedure, however it can be messed up if you don't keep an eye on things. as it involves eggs and heating them, there is always the margin for error where you can end up with scrambled eggs. not to scare you off from trying it, assuming you've never made it before, it is a terribly simple procedure and one which will leave you with a product far superior than that of anything store bought.
the way i am doing it here is for a microwave method which makes things go very quickly as opposed to the stovetop method which involves a double boiler or heat diffuser and constant stirring. seeing as most people these days own a microwave, it's a logical alternative. if you want to do it on stove top, see the recipe for alternate instructions. additionally, i use a heavy duty (i.e. powerful) microwave oven, so if your's is less powerful, it may require longer cooking times.
important for making a good lemon curd is straining the lemon juice and the eggs. this must be done to avoid "guck" in it thereby achieving that silky smooth texture for which it is known. this is achieved with a fine mesh strainer and not one with wide holes. one also needs to use unsalted butter or in a pinch semi salted, and omit the dash of salt called for in the recipe. also, heed the instructions (as usual) as adding the eggs while the lemon and sugar mixture is too hot, will end up cooking your eggs and ruining the whole exercise.
i've never tried using non dairy margarine for this to make a parve product but i'm sure it could work. will it taste as good? to be very jewish about it, i'll answer the question with another question and ask, "does anything taste as good without butter?" please. as the saying goes, it's always better with butter!
another thing is the use of just egg yolks versus whole eggs. i've tried both, the results are the same in my opinion. in this one, i'm using the whole egg and not just their yolks.
if you want a non-egg version, see the end of the recipe. i've never tried it so i can't give it a seal of approval. if any of you vegan-ites try it, or have, let me know in the comments forum at the end of the posting. i'd be interested in knowing how it is.
and now, on to the recipe......
quick 'n easy luscious lemon curd
certain things must be indulged in and this is one of them. tart, sweet and buttery this is the best spread for any english morning breads or for a filling for a refrigerated pie, topped with sweetened whipped cream. forget the diet — life is too short not to enjoy certain things. lemon curd also makes a great holiday or host/ess gift; the recipe is easily doubled or tripled. if you like, you can make an extra tart variation using limes instead of the lemons.
makes ~ 2 cups (16 oz or 500 mL) — can be doubled or tripled
1/3 c (2.6 oz or 75 g) unsalted butter
3/4 c (1/3 lb or 151 g) granulated sugar
1/2 c (4 oz or 118 mL) lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 eggs (yolks & whites)
dash of salt
ream your lemons and strain them. this is very important. measure out the 1/2 c of juice. if you like you can add the grated lemon rind (which i don't like but that's up to you).
place the lemon juice, dash of salt, sugar and butter in a microwave safe glass bowl (medium sized).
microwave on high heat for up to 4 minutes, stirring after every minute. make sure to do this! if may take less than 4 minutes if you have a strong microwave oven. when the butter is melted, and all is dissolved, place it on the counter to cool for at least 3 minutes.
in the meantime, get a mesh strainer, and place it over another bowl. take the two eggs, one by one and, with a whisk, extract as much egg as possible. you will likely have some left over which does not pass through. that is fine.
continue with the next egg and repeat procedure. take a spatula and press the remaining egg against the mess to extract as much egg as possible.
discard what does not pass through it.
place the eggs in the cooled down lemon butter mixture and whisk well to blend.
now place the bowl in the microwave and cook it at 1 minute intervals. stir after each one minute.
in my case, after 1 1/2 minutes, it is almost cooked! i continue to cook it at 30 second intervals for a total of 3 minutes until the mixture cleaves onto itself and is thick like a very light pudding or whipped cream. whisk again well.
do not over cook the curd. it will thicken upon cooling.
place the curd into a very clean (sterilized) jar — i use a funnel to do this.
let it cool completely. i usually place a piece of muslin or light cotton cloth (or use cheesecloth) over it to allow the steam to escape. if you cover it with the lid, the steam will form water on the curd. if you're using a wide mouth jar, you can always cover the curd with a piece of plastic wrap and stab slits into it to allow the steam to escape as it cools. either way works.
knock the jar on the counter a few times also before it cools to let any air bubbles come to the surface.
store in the fridge.
STOVE TOP METHOD:
on top a double boiler or heat diffuser, over medium low heat, dissolve the lemon juice, sugar, salt and butter.
strain the eggs. place a 1/4 cup of the butter mixture in the eggs and mix them well and then slowly dribble the egg mixture into the lemon butter one. do this off the heat.
return the mixture to the heat and whisk continually until it gels and thickens.
see above for cooling and storing it.
NON EGG (vegan) version:
1/4 c (cold) water
1/2 c sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c lemon juice
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
pinch of salt
in a bowl whisk together the water, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until cornstarch dissolves.
transfer everything to a saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium high heat.
stir constantly and when mixture thickens, reduce the heat to low. cook it for another minute and keep stirring constantly.
now pour mixture into a bowl and add lemon juice and zest. mix well.
let cool and thicken at room temperature.
this version is best served at room temperature. it can be refrigerated, covered, for several days but before serving, beat it again thoroughly with a whisk.
makes approx. 1 cup.