Traditionally used as a spread on crumpets or scones and served at high tea in England, lemon curd is the most delicious of simple dessert recipes. It’s excellent served with berries, layered into a birthday cake, spooned on top of waffles or eaten with a spoon straight from the jar. The acid of fresh lemon juice sets, or curds, the egg and sugar mixture. Finished with butter, it's smooth and creamy.
At my bakery, Pint Size, we use a 50-50 mixture of fresh lemon juice and passion fruit purée for an intensely floral lemon curd. (We actually call this recipe lemon crème at the bakery, as it has a higher butter content than a typical lemon curd.) This version sets more firmly and makes a great filling for our Bundt cakes, cupcakes and layer cakes. Our method calls for cooking the curd over a water bath: A heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water protects the custard from overheating (and thus from breaking or scrambling as it cooks the eggs). Take care to note the temperature of your curd before adding the butter or it will melt instead of emulsify. The butter should be removed from the refrigerator and cubed right before you begin, so the resulting texture is soft but still firm.
Almost identical to its parent grape, Muscat, Valvin Muscat pairs well with desserts, especially those with the richness and brightness of lemon curd. Seyval Blanc, a French-American hybrid, has an herbal, fresh aroma with flavors of clean, crisp pear and a hint of spice. A semi-dry style of Seyval will accent the citrusy tartness of the lemon curd.
Yields | 3 cups |
- 4 large eggs
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ²⁄₃ cup fresh lemon juice (from 6 to 8 lemons)
- 1¹⁄₃ cups unsalted butter, cubed
| Preparation | In a pot with a lid over high heat, add 2 inches of water and cover. Once water reaches a simmer, in a large metal or glass bowl off heat, whisk together eggs and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add lemon juice and place bowl over pot of simmering water. Reduce heat to medium and allow to cook while gently whisking. The curd is done when thickened and a whisk leaves lines while stirring, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Strain curd through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside to cool to approximately 130°F using a candy thermometer. Add butter, cube by cube, while whisking to slowly incorporate. Refrigerate overnight before serving. Curd will hold for up to 2 weeks refrigerated, or for 3 months frozen. (This method of making lemon curd doesn’t work for heat-sealing in canning jars.)