I’m planning on making a cake at the weekend, and I want to put some lemon curd in between the layers. And whilst I could easily buy some from the supermarket, it won’t be a patch on homemade.
I don’t know what’s so different about shop bought lemon curd, whether it’s the amount of lemons used, or the limitations of automation, but it’s just not the same product. Nothing you can buy commercially is going to pack the same lemony punch as the stuff you make yourself.
But the best thing about making your own lemon curd is that it’s actually really easy. As you’re using eggs to create the set, there’s no scary boiling syrup involved, and there are very few steps.
The only downside to making your own lemon curd, I suppose, is that it doesn’t have a very long shelf life. I would happily store it for about a month in the fridge, but not much longer. Luckily, I’ve never had to throw any away though, as I always manage to eat it in time 😉
Before you begin, you will want to prepare your sterilised jars. This recipe will make about 600ml of curd. Place your clean jars onto a baking sheet in a cold oven, and set the temperature to 140ºc. Once the oven has reached temperature, set a timer for 15 minutes, and then switch the oven off.
You want your jar to be relatively cool when you pour in your curd, as you don’t want to scald it. You could easily prepare your jar ahead of time.
It is important to wash your lemons in warm water. Not only do you want the zest to be completely clean, but if you lemons are waxed, the warm water will help to remove the wax coating.
I always like to crack my eggs first, in case I get any pieces of shell breaking into the bowl, so it’s easier to retrieve them. I’ve cracked thousands of eggs in my life, and I still manage to mess it up once in a while. Sometimes I’ve seen videos where people crack eggs directly into a moving mixer. Those people are crazy.
Use a fine grater to zest the lemons into a large bowl. A microplane is preferable if you have one, as you want the zest to be as fine as possible. I picked up a trick from Martha Stewart about holding the zester upside down. This way, you can see exactly what you’re grating (you don’t want the white pith), and you also don’t spray the zest everywhere as you grate, as it collects in the top – neat!
Slice the lemons in half and juice them into the bowl. If you have one of these ‘bartender’ style squeezers, it’s very useful as it retains the pips. Otherwise, squeeze the lemons over a sieve. It’s vital that you don’t get any seeds in the curd, as it will give the final product a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Add the sugar to your mixture, and then get your saucepan of water simmering. Whilst you are waiting for this to heat up, weigh out some unsalted butter into a large bowl, and place a clean sieve on top, ready to strain your curd once it’s thick enough.
Once the water is simmering, place your bowl of mixture on top to create a bain-marie.
You will need to spend about 10 minutes stirring the curd until it has thickened. Keep everything moving continuously to keep your lemon smooth.
You will probably find that the curd thickens quite suddenly. Check for set by seeing if the mixture will cover the back of a spoon. If you push your finger through it, the curd should hold it’s shape and not flood back.
Once you have reached this stage, you can sieve your curd onto the butter. Whilst I quite like the zest in the curd, the thought of seeing a spindly piece of egg white looking back at me from my toast is too much to bear! A sieved curd will also give you a better appearance in cakes, so I think it’s worth doing. As you’ve cooked the zest, you will have already extracted most of the flavour.
Using a fresh whisk or spatula, scrape the bottom of your sieve (you don’t want to lose any of your lovely curd!), and whisk your curd and butter together. Once everything looks smooth and homogenous, you can transfer the curd safely into your jar.
I like to use a jam funnel, because I have dubious motor skills. I couldn’t find my horseshoe magnet today, so I grabbed a magnet off the fridge to help me transfer the lid.
Your curd will keep for up to a month in the fridge, but mine never lasts that long. Perfect in cakes, or spread thickly on toast, or straight out of the jar with a spoon!
3 Eggs and 1 yolk
200g Caster Sugar
Crack 3 eggs into a bowl, and add one more yolk.
Using a fine grater, preferably microplane, grate the zest into the eggs. Only take off the very outer layer of the lemons, none of the white pith.
Squeeze the lemons into the bowl, making sure not to get any pips into the mixture, and then add the sugar.
Place the bowl onto a bain marie and simmer gently, stirring constantly.
Make sure that the bowl is not touching the water.
Stir for about 5 minutes, until the curd has thickened enough to coast the back of a spoon.
Pour curd through a sieve to remove zest and any cooked egg pieces.
Stir through the butter, and then pour into a sterilised jar.
Store in the fridge for up to a month