This tart, ultra-smooth lemon cream is easy to make and adds a puckery addition to tarts, cakes, cupcakes, doughnuts and more. You can also spread it on muffins or scones. The zest adds more flavor, but adds a texture. If you want the cream to stay silky smooth, leave it out. Lemon curd is all about the bright, clean, lemon flavor; please use freshly squeezed juice. Also, while you can make this in the top of a double boiler, I have found that with constant supervision – do not walk away from the stovetop – you can make this more quickly and easily over low to medium direct heat. Just use a pan with a heavy bottom and watch it carefully. If you have a saucier pan, with a rounded bottom, you will be able to whisk the lemon curd most easily without any scorching.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
Place eggs, yolks, sugar and juice in heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisk together to break up the eggs. Add butter. Cook over low-medium heat, whisking frequently. When the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, lower heat and whisk constantly until mixture thickens and reaches 180 degrees F. (The temperature is more important than the time it takes and the cream itself should not boil). The curd will thicken and form a soft shape when dropped by spoon. It will also begin to look a bit translucent. If desired, stir in zest after removing from heat. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to release heat. Refrigerate in airtight container at least 6 hours or up to 1 week.
Tip: There are four ways to approach the “zest” issue. Citrus zest holds a lot of flavor, but cooking with it or adding it raw result in different levels of intensity. If cooked, it can lose its bright, fresh quality, and of course, if left in the cream, it adds texture. It all depends on what qualities you want. In terms of strength, from least to most intense flavor: leave it out completely, add it after cooking, add it before cooking at strain it out, or add it before cooking and leave it in. Try each to see which you prefer.