Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Lemon sugar: the sunny, aromatic result of running Meyer lemon zest together with granulated sugar in the Cuisinart.
Some years back, when personal blogs were still a Thing, I discovered a certain site whose author wrote eloquently about food culture, cooking, and (especially) baking. Had I not already been thoroughly entranced by the way she expressed her love for the Kitchenly Arts, her piece about Patricia Neal would have snagged her a permanent spot on my blogroll. (Remember blogrolls?)
At that time, my baking “expertise” - such as it was - did not extend to breadmaking, so much of what she wrote on that subject was lost on me. But there were a few recipes that I essayed, and the results were good enough that they are still part of my repertoire unto this day.
Yesterday I was casting about for something sweet I could make for dessert. It was Dee’s birthday, and Houston Steve and his lovely daughter Monica were going to join us for dinner. Monica, alas, has issues with gluten - real ones, not the “I feel so much better since I went paleo” ones - and so cake was out of the question, moreso since Dee does not generally care for cake, birthday or no. And that’s when the Lemon Curd light went on in my brain.
It’s hard to beat a proper lemon curd, especially when you make it with Meyer lemons. It’s a tad on the rich side, but it has the perfect balance of custardy creaminess, sweetness, and bright citrus. Paired with a fresh blueberry compote, it is sunshine on a spoon - the kind of dessert that can be served any time of the year. And I’ve never seen a recipe that can outdo the one I copped from the Bakerina over ten years ago. I’m happy to post it here on the (hopefully unlikely) chance that Jen’s blog goes dark, but you really should go back to the source: There’s so much more there than just this one recipe.
Meyer Lemon Curd
½ cup sugar
3 large eggs, plus 4 yolks
¾ cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 4-5 lemons worth)
2 tsp lemon zest
4-8 tbsp chilled butter, cut into small chunks
Zest the lemons, being careful not to remove any of the white pith. (A Microplane grater is perfect for this purpose.) Put the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor with the zest; process for about one minute until the sugar is aromatic and lemony.
Once you zest the lemons, juice ’em. For the best yield, have them at room temperature (nuke them for about 15 seconds if they are cold from the fridge) and roll them around on the countertop while applying gentle pressure with the palm of your hand. By doing this, I only needed three good-sized Meyer lemons to get the requisite six ounces of juice.
In a metal bowl or the top of a double boiler, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and lemon zest-sugar together until blended. Place over simmering water and cook, whisking frequently, just until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Continue whisking and stirring as you cook, bringing the mixture to 160˚F. As you approach the target temperature, the mixture will become foamy; the foam will then subside and the mixture will begin to thicken. You’re looking for a consistency like loose sour cream. Do not overcook or the mixture will curdle - you do not want a pile of lemon-flavored scrambled eggs.
Remove from the heat and press through a strainer into a clean bowl. Now, whisk the butter into the still-warm mixture, one chunk at a time. [Use the full 8 tbsp if you want a richer curd - I generally use 6 tbsp, which still gives rich and tasty results.]
Place the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water until chilled, then decant into a serving bowl or storage container. You can parcel it out into individual tartlet shells, ramekins, or wineglasses if you wish before serving it forth.
Damn, this stuff is good. There’s a bit left over from last night, and the knowledge that it is sitting there defenseless in the refrigerator is testing the limits of my self-control.