March 12, 2010

Long time coming

Last weekend, I was working on a new recipe to post, trying to find the right balance of flavors and necessary ingredients, a recipe involving chocolate and bananas and cinnamon, one that was baked twice even, using two different pans, but, although good, it still needs a bit of tweaking.  So, instead of banana bread this week, you get Meyer lemon curd, a recipe I've finally been able to make with Meyer lemons, unlike with my previous attempts (see here and here) at wanting to use the citrus.  This here is the real deal.  Mostly.

Thick, creamy, and very lemony, this is one of the best batches of lemon curd I've ever made. Slightly more on the tart than sweet side, it hits the right balance between the two extremes. Good on toast and scones, some even use curd as a filling for cakes or tarts. I'd have to say, though, that it's almost best when sneaking a quick spoonful from the fridge, standing there with the jar in one hand and a spoon in the other, savoring the bright tang of lemon and smooth, cool texture.  Mmmm, yes, it's that good. 

The Meyer lemons rolling around in the fridge were a little too soft, almost too ripe, by the time I decided to turn them into a curd, so unfortunately not much of the rind could be zested.  The zest of regular lemons worked just as well, though, so if the same happens to you, just mix the two types of zest together.  Firm lemons are always preferable -- firm, not hard.  Hards means they're old and drying up.  Firm means they're at the peak of perfection and the rind grates beautifully.  You'll get a much higher yield of zest with a firm-skinned lemon.  A soft lemon is past its prime, gushy, and verging on moldy.  I was able to salvage enough juice for this recipe from the Meyers, but they probably should have been used long before.  Ah well.  The curd still tastes excellent, so no harm done.

If you love the sweet tart combination of lemon curd, you'll just have to make it at home.  Store bought varieties don't even come close to comparing with homemade.  They're too sweet, too cloying, and more like a gel than anything else, which is a rather strange texture to encounter in a curd, especially when it sticks to a spoon instead of gently sliding off.  Curd should be thick, smooth, velvety soft, and spreadable, but nothing like jelly.  It takes time to reach that thick consistency when cooking, too.  Slowly cooking and continually stirring over low heat is the key, not adding cornstarch.  The stuff's just not necessary.

Meyer Lemon Curd
Inspired by Gourmet, January 2001

-If you use regular lemons, you may want to up the sugar to 1 cup.

1 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice, strained
2 Tbsp packed finely grated Meyer lemon peel
¾ cup granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 stick (8 Tbsp) butter, cubed

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a glass bowl large enough to fit over saucepan without touching the water but small enough to fit partially inside the pan (I used a 3 quart pan and a 2.5 quart bowl). Lower heat until the water just simmers, set bowl in pan, and add butter to mixture, whisking frequently until butter melts. Keep checking the water to make sure it doesn't boil so the eggs won't curdle.

Once the butter has melted, whisk mixture almost continually until it's thick enough to hold faint marks of whisk, around 25 - 30 minutes. Strain curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a smaller bowl, covering surface with plastic wrap, and chill until cold, at least three hours. Once chilled, peel off plastic wrap and transfer curd to an airtight container. It will keep in the fridge up to a week.

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