Every now and then I get an itch to try to make something that sounds exotic and difficult, only to learn that it’s not nearly as tricky to make as I’d thought. I’ve decided to turn those discoveries into a semi-regular series here at The Happiest Home called “Easier than it looks.” Because it’s satisfying to do things yourself, and I admit it, sometimes it’s fun to impress people with something that seems fancy but was really oh-so-easy. And trust me – if I can make it, so can you. -Meagan
On the Fourth of July I decided to make lemon-cheese tarts, only to learn that the recipe I wanted to use called for lemon curd. I knew I could buy it already made, but had no desire to head back out to the supermarket on a holiday when I had guests arriving in a couple of hours.
So I Googled around to see how difficult it was to make, and found – to my great excitement – that not only is lemon curd simple to make, but it also requires very few ingredients: eggs, sugar, butter, and lemon. That’s it! And I already had those on hand.
After looking at a few recipes I settled on Alton Brown’s version, because I trust his recipes, and his process of tempering the eggs seemed straightforward and easy.
But because I almost always find recipes difficult to follow the first few times, I re-wrote this one to be a little easier for a novice curd-maker.
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
The zest and juice of 4 lemons
1 stick cold butter, cut into pats
To make the lemon curd:
- Combine egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl that will fit in/over your saucepan without touching the water (you will use it as a double boiler) and whisk until smooth. Stir in the lemon zest.
- Add 1/3 cup of lemon juice. (The recipe suggests adding water if you didn’t get enough juice from your lemons, but I had more than enough!)
- Put about an inch of water in a medium saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once the water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place the metal bowl containing your ingredients on top.
- Whisk mixture until it thickens. When it’s ready to come off the heat, it will be light yellow and coat the back of a spoon when you dip it in. This took about 10 minutes for me.
- Remove from heat and stir in the butter one pat at a time, stirring continuously. When one pat of butter melts, drop in a new one.
- Pour into a jar or other container and cover tightly. Alton’s recipe instructs to place a layer of plastic wrap directly on top of the curd to prevent a film from developing, but I wanted to put my curd in a canning jar and the plastic wrap thing seemed impractical (wouldn’t the level go down as you used it?) I just skimmed the white film off of the top when it formed, but you could probably even mix it back into the curd without hurting it.
And that’s it!
This stuff is seriously delicious. It lasts about two weeks in the fridge, so you’ll have plenty of time to use up any leftovers on scones, in lemon bars, on muffins, pancakes, rolled up in crepes…
I’m all about keeping things simple in the kitchen, and often, using an already-prepared ingredient or element makes it much more possible to pull a meal together on time and without turning into Grouchy Cooking Mom (I think you know who I’m talking about here….)
On the other hand, sometimes I enjoy the challenge of learning to make something myself rather than reaching for a box or jar. And it might just be me, but I think that fresh lemon curd tasted better than anything I could have bought at the store. Besides, isn’t it nice sometimes to know that you can make something amazing from a few basic ingredients you already have on hand?
The graham-cracker shells for my tarts, on the other hand?
Hey, I reserve the right to be inconsistent sometimes!
Are you ever pleasantly surprised when making or doing something that sounds a lot more difficult than it turns out to be?