I teased you yesterday talking about lemon cheesecake. But, in all fairness, I said I had to do a few things before I could really give you a recipe. And, here we go.
It pools on top of the creamy cheesecake and drips down the sides when you cut into it. It’s swirled into the cheesecake batter for a tart and tangy flavor burst. In essence, it makes this cake. Well, really it does, since it wouldn’t be lemon cheesecake without it.
Now, I could have gone down to the store and bought a jar or two of lemon curd, but what’s the fun in that? You’ve probably caught on by now to my food nerd tendencies. I do love a culinary adventure, and I’d always wanted to make homemade lemon curd. So I couldn’t wait to give it a shot.
Lemon curd is sort of like a cross between lemon jam and lemon pudding. It originates in England, and is used as a cake or tart filling or served alongside scones and cream at high tea. I love it. It’s sweet and lemon-tangy, glossy and completely decadent.
I’m sure most people have never — and would never — make their own lemon curd. But I’m here to tell you. Like most things I’ve found we’re intimidated to cook, it’s really easy. It only takes time.
You know that I enjoy cooking from scratch so I know what’s in it, but I also relish the idea of preserving the old ways of doing things. Learning to make a homemade treat and filing away that perfect recipe makes me feel like I’m honoring and cherishing the past. Keeping traditions alive. That has a price above rubies.
This recipe actually makes a ton of lemon curd, 2 cups or so — much more than you need and more cost effective than buying it in a jar. Plus, the jarred stuff doesn’t have your love in it.
Homemade Lemon Curd
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest (about 6 unwaxed lemons)
- 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (also about 6 lemons)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
First, zest and juice about 6 lemons. To zest, only take off the outermost, yellow part of the lemon skin. The white part — the “pith” — can be bitter. I bought organic, unwaxed lemons since I didn’t need any chemical wax preservative in my beautiful cake. Yuck.
Btw, check out this relic of a juicer my mom still has! It’s a total ’70s throwback, but it still works like a champ.
In a bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until well blended.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing them in thoroughly before adding the next one. While mixing, pour in the lemon juice slowly. Then add the zest. At this point, the mixture will look “curdled,” or separated, just like bad milk. That’s totally normal and exactly what you want!
Pour the curd into a pot and heat it on the stove over medium-low heat. Whisking constantly, let it cook for 14 to 16 minutes. Keep it moving in the pot so that it never gets too hot in one place at one time.
It will thicken and get glossy. Then you can try the whole back of spoon trick (is it me, or have I been making a lot of custard recently??). Dip a wooden spoon into the curd and (carefully! quickly! hot!) run your finger through it. It’s ready when it coats the back of the spoon and your finger mark stays with no dripping or running through it.
*Instead of the stove, you could make this in the microwave. Just pour the lemon curd from the mixer into a microwave-safe container. Microwave on high for a total of five minutes, stopping the microwave and stirring every minute. Microwave for 1-2 minutes longer, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until the curd thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove the curd from the stove (or microwave) and pour it into a glass or other heat-safe bowl. Be careful — it is very, very hot. Tear off a sheet of plastic wrap and press it directly onto the curd. Like pudding and custard, this ensures it won’t form that dry, pudding skin.
Let it cool for a while on the counter, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours until firm. You can move the curd to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
You can serve it alongside warm scones. You could make a layered trifle with cubed pieces of pound cake, fruit and whipped cream. You could eat it with a spoon straight from the bowl.
Or, you can make lemon cheesecake…