Matt says: I have a confession to make. It’s been weighing me down for some time now.
I love lemon curd – it was a staple in the Clifton household of the 1980s – give me a slice of cheap, white bread slathered with a jar of Robertson’s, and I was in heaven. We only started making our own over the last few years, but the first time I had really good homemade lemon curd was on our honeymoon, in Scotland.
We were on our way to Dunkeld Cathedral, a lovely old 14th-century ruin near Perth. We had written a few postcards to be mailed home, and spotted, along the road, a combined post office and tea room. Perfect! The business was run by a delightful elderly couple and their teenage daughter, and we ordered a round of tea and lemon-curd sandwiches. I tell you, it was curd to die for. Anyway, we finished up, complimented the couple, and remembered that we needed to deal with the postcards. I bought stamps, popped them in the box, and then we waved goodbye to the slightly perplexed-looking couple, thanked them again, and left.
We drove out, very satisfied with ourselves, probably burping little lemon burps, I don’t remember, but it sounds like the sort of thing we’d do. We got about forty minutes out through the mountains, and then a thought struck me. “Em”, I said slowly. “Did you pay them for the tea?” Emily looked at me. “No … I thought you did…”
Oops. We did seriously mean to post some money back to the tea shop, but what with one thing and another, we never got around to it, and at this point we can’t even remember exactly where it was. So, if you run a tea shop in Scotland, and you’ve been about £15 short on the books since 2005, but can’t work out why, it’s us. Sorry about that. It was lovely curd, though, I can tell you that.
So here’s our own homemade lemon curd recipe. It makes us want to commit more curd crimes, hope you feel the same after making it. We use it as the filling in this insanely good Zucchini Cake.
Seriously Lemony Homemade Lemon Curd
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
- 4 lemons
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 extra-large eggs
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons) + 1 tablespoon extra for cornstarch if using.
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest of 4 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and process until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. I let it rip for a full minute or so, scraping the bowl down once or twice.
Juice the lemons and remove the pits. You’ll need about 1/2 cup plus an extra tablespoon or so for the cornstarch, if using.
In a stand mixer or in a bowl using an electric beater, cream the butter with the sugar and lemon peel mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Note: It’s going to look like a disgusting, curdled mess at this stage. Like, seriously revolting. Do not panic. I promise you it will come together and look delightful.
If using, mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a little bowl. Set aside.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. Don’t walk away from it as you do this part or you will have lemony scrambled eggs. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. If using, add the cornstarch slurry and stir for a few seconds. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate. It will get even thicker as it cools.
- Since you’re using so much of the peel, organic lemons are a good idea for this.
- If you forgot to bring your butter to room temperature, use this trick: while it’s still in the wrapper, put it in a ziplock bag and immerse the bag in a tupperware filled with slightly warm water. Make sure the whole stick is submerged. It should be soft enough to use in about 5-7 minutes.
- If you’re using the homemade lemon curd as a filling for a cake (like the Zucchini Cake), you’ll want to use the cornstarch so it’s a little stiffer. If you want it for other uses, like slathering it on shortbread or eating it out of the jar when no one’s looking, you can leave the cornstarch out.