20 April 2012

Alice Waters' Lemon Curd

I have a confession.
I am obsessed with lemon curd.

I'd never given lemon curd a fair shake because of its name. Lemon curd. Curd kind of sounds like crud, especially to my dyslexic brain, and who wants to eat that? Subconsciously, it made me skip over curd entirely, which is just so silly because I love bright, citrus flavors, not to mention bright, citrus flavors with a bit of sweet. And don't get me started on how I feel about things you can put in tarts or smear on scones.

It all began while I was sitting in my kitchen (a kitchen without an oven, if you remember, but with a teeny fish grill and a toaster) flipping through Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. This cookbook was a gift to us from dear friends for our wedding, and, in the 8 months since, it's become my absolute favorite. Waters doesn't just (just!) give you a fantastic recipe collection, but she takes you through how to cook, the basics of everything from vinaigrette ratios to how to grill, pan fry, souffle. At the end of each recipe are substitutions and variations and if-you-don't-have-this-put-in-thats. These were things that, as a self-taught cook, I kind of knew, but I kind of didn't. I have read it cover to cover, several times, and flip through it often. This book has given me the confidence to waltz into a farmers' market and buy whatever is fresh and know that I can figure out how to cook it. I know. I'm amazed, too.

When one combines Alice Waters with beautiful photos from Pintrest and places that on the breakfast bar of a certain lady who is craving some sweets but doesn't have much in the way of ovens or pans that fit in fish grills, you have a recipe for discovering, and subsequently obsessing, about curd.

Curd, people. Not crud.

Listen, this is easy. Super easy. There is no need to buy bottled lemon curd every again. In the time it takes you to get to the store and back, this will be done and in your belly. It's lemons (or any kind of brightly flavored fruit), sugar, butter, eggs, a careful eye, and constant stirring for 10 minutes. That's it.

I've made this twice now, and the last time I put it into little premade tartlet shells, which were quite good. I've mixed it in yogurt with granola and called it breakfast. I've smeared it on toast and called it lunch. I dalloped it on strawberries and called it dessert. I ate it straight from the jar and made resolutions to stop cooking and go to the gym.

In my next take, I'm going to try Heidi's Ginger Grapefruit Curd or Smitten Kitchen's Mango Curd. It'll be my third batch in as many weeks, and I can't even bring myself to say that I'm sorry.

Adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food 
with input from Two Tart's lemon and grapefruit curd.

(Note: Two Tart might have the cutest red nails in all of food blogdom.)

Waters' recipe calls for milk, and I've substituted water, simply because I don't usually buy it and recycling milk containers here is ridiculous (it involves a walk back to the grocery store). My curd has turned out fine each time. I also never strain it, as Two Tart's suggests, and so far, I haven't been overwhelmed with any errant egg curdles. I do whisk right when I take it off the store to break it up and make it super smooth. The thing to remember here is to stir and pay attention when its on the stove. This is not the time to mutitask. No refilling you water glass, no answering text messages, no doing the dishes. Just stir.

3 lemons
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt (skip if you're using salted butter)
6 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Zest 1 lemon and then juice all 3 lemons. You should have about 1/2 cup of juice. (Waters says 4 lemons, but I always seem to have enough juice with 3).

Beat the eggs, egg yolks, water, sugar, and salt straight into your saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, and plop in the butter.

Place on medium-low heat and stir constantly, just until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle (No multitasking!). When it's thick, take it off the stove and place in a bowl or jar right away. (This usually takes about 10 minutes for me, but my stove runs warm.) Cover and refrigerate.

To bake a tart, place in shell and set in preheated 375 degree oven until the curd is just set, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your tart. My itty-bitty tartlets took 8 mins in my toaster oven.

Yield: 2 cups

*I know. Our friends have a geneology blog. How cool-slash-interesting is that? I love it.


  1. I'm like a million per cent Scottish so I'm pretty sure lemon curd is in my veins. It is SOOOOO GOOD. It's great on toast. It's even better on a scone with some devonshire or clotted cream. It's best by the spoonful straight from the jar :-)

    I think I should do my grammie proud and try to make it from scratch...

  2. The timing of your post is perfect! I was actually just the other day wanting to make something from mangos, but mango cupcakes and cake just look, well, disgusting. And to be honest I didn't know what curd was, I think I just associated it with crud and called it a day. Now I know differently, knowledge is power.

  3. Sounds blissful. We are inundated with lemons here (California) and there are only so many lemon drop martinis a girl can drink before people start to talk. I'm going to rebrand myself as a lemon curdler.. Perfect!

  4. Ooooooohhhhhhhhhh, I loooooove lemon curd!! The first time I made it I had some leftover, so I just kept it in the fridge and would periodically open the door and eat the leftover curd with a spoon. My cholesterol suffered, but MAN, I was so happy.

  5. curd is something that I am simply *DYING* to try, but am hesitant, because it looks so addictive. and lord knows I don't need much more on my booty. but now I may have to, because life in franny land (friend + nanny = franny) can get quite routine. plus, having 3 other adults to eat it constantly hanging around might save me from myself.

  6. So glad you are enjoying the book! I'll have to get me a copy. Thanks for linking to my blog too. You're....what's the word...awesome!


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