Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of Lemon (Curd)

How powerful are lemons? They can form part of a battery set-up in science experiments. Switching on bulbs, lighting up taste buds, it's all in a day's work for this versatile fruit. One way to harness its culinary jolt is making a gorgeously silky-smooth concoction that lends itself to both desserts and sweet/sour savoury dishes. The name of this deliciousness? Curd. That's right. Curd. Lemons need to hire a new publicity team!

Though not difficult to make, the better known method can result in bits of coagulated egg white swimming about in the otherwise pristine curd necessitating pesky straining. Borrowing the basic butter/sugar creaming technique used for making cakes, Elinor Klivans details this clever approach in her article for Fine Cooking, Issue 26.

makes four fluid ounces, recipe can be doubled/quadrupled

  • Butter, softened, 3 T
  • Egg, large, 1
  • Egg yolk, large, 1
  • Lemon juice, freshly squeezed, 5 1/2 T (around two large lemons)
  • Lemon zest, 1/2 tsp, made from either non-treated lemons or ones that have been scrubbed and dried.
  • Sugar, 8 T

Using a sharp, fine grater, make the zest, being sure to scrape off only the yellow skin. Then halve and squeeze the lemons.

Gather the sugar, juice, zest, butter, and the whole egg and extra yolk (I crack the egg in my palm and let the white drain through my well cleaned fingers).

The additional yolk imparts richness and deepens the colour

Cut the butter into small cubes and put in a mixing bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Add the sugar, mashing it at first into the butter with a fork then switch to beating with a wooden spoon until the mixture is more fluffy than not. The entire procedure took about ten minutes; an electric mixer will take a minute or two.

Add half of the eggs and beat until smooth. Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Pour in the lemon juice which will cause temporary curdling.

Put into a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Over low heat, stir for a few minutes or until the mixture becomes smooth as the butter melts. Raise the heat to medium, carefully simmer (no boiling, please!) for about five minutes while stirring til the curd when coating a wooden spoon stays put after your fingertip does a pass down the centre. If making a larger quantity, it may take longer. Stir in the zest.

Pour into a bowl or jar. Lemon curd is wondrous, splendid, and darn good!

Fresh out of the fridge, it will be much thicker, more like baked custard

Covering the curd's surface with a circle of clingfilm a bit larger than the diameter of the storage jar will prevent a skin from forming. Though it keeps just a week or so in the fridge, when frozen it will maintain its punch up for two months while remaining soft enough to scoop out when needed. Scraped-off curls of frozen curd are plush in texture, close to that of thick caramel, melting sublimely in your mouth. 

OK. You got curd. Providing you haven't scoffed it down immediately. Hey, don't look at me! Here are some suggestions for the more civilised among us:

  • Stir in plain yogurt and top with granola
  • Spread on toast, scones, shortbread, English muffins
  • Make cake/cookie sandwiches
  • Filling for tarts, mini or large
  • Lemon curd bars (When baked, curd deepens in colour and firms in texture)
  • Parfait with vanilla ice cream, top with candied lemon peel, chopped nuts, fruit (blueberries are particularly good)
  • Fold into whipped cream and use as a topping/frosting/mousse
  • Thin with cream for pancake/dessert sauce
  • Add a little to rice along with parsley
  • Chinese Lemon Chicken

In the potager and flower garden, various shades of red are making the rounds: vermilion, crimson, magenta, scarlet.

The very last bell pepper close to becoming completely red

When we first moved here five years ago, we brought a potted mum which happily grew on our Grenoble balcony for ten years.

Since then, not only have countless new plants been made from the original's cuttings, I have finally succumbed to the French custom of not prominently showcasing one of my favourite flowers in the front garden as these plants are reserved mostly for honouring the dead come All Saints' Day.

A pot of mums on the back patio just beginning to flower

The bougainvillea's bracts are still hanging on.

Dirac the kitten has graduated from batting around garlic cloves to the more demanding athletics of bouncing a ping pong ball into our house's deepest crannies. Those are very late season tomatoes, my dear Dirac, not red ping pong balls!

A colleague of The Calm One lives in a nearby village called Dirac. It's surrounded by countryside, farms, and forests.

Citizen Watch!

Not that the foliage colours in southwest France come close to the visual delight I often witnessed in New England, but it is still too early for any show to start. Instead a burnished green sits waiting.

À la prochaine!


How to cream together butter and sugar, either by hand or by electric mixer