One taste of the lemon curd and my mouth started to pucker - albeit in. Tart and sweet, but not too sweet. Almost like fresh homemade lemonade from the middle of the summer time, the kind that just is not made anymore. Extra lemons and extra zest is the key to perfect lemon curd (although I should not leave out the patience that is needed for the continued stirring as the butter, lemon juice, sugar, and eggs come together to form this wonderful treat). This month the Daring Kitchen (hosted by Jasmine from Canada) posted its June Challenge: "Bakewell Tart...er Pudding". The premise was a tart with frangipane (and almond confection of sorts...) and a homemade jam or preserve (which was optional). I like the idea of the challenge, especially given the fact that I call myself the Queen of Tarts and had yet to post a tart recipe. Frangipane was new to me, and I was up for the challenge - almonds are a favorite, especially when mixed with butter and sugar. I chose to take on the optional homemade preserve and make lemon curd. I had a Waitrose Magazine tucked away with my cookbooks with a curd recipe that I adapted several times over.
The dessert worked its lemony-almond magic when I presented it for several nights ago. Give it a try - it is worth the effort. Yes, there is butter in every element of this dessert, and it is by no means a "light" dessert, but a little goes a long way, and it will not disappoint.
Lemon Curd - adapted from Waitrose Magazine, January/February 2006
1/2 C butter softened (unsalted)
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs lightly beaten (at room temperature)
1 1/2 C sugar
In a double boiler, heat the butter, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Do not allow the water in the double boiler to get more than a simmer. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add about 1/4 C of the butter/lemon mixture to the eggs to temper the eggs and mix. This will slowly increase the temperature of the eggs so when you add them to the butter/lemon mixture they do not cook! Then, slowly add the egg mixture to the butter/lemon mixture stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (make sure you get the bottom of the pan as well). You will stir for about 20 minutes until the curd thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. It might happen that you see pieces of cooked egg in the curd. If there are only a few pieces, you can rescue the curd. Once the curd is cooked and thickened, pour into a mesh strainer, and strain. This will also make for a smoother curd. If you are going to use it straight away (in recipe below) pour into a bowl, cover, and allow to cool in the refrigerator overnight. You can also put into a sterilized canning jar if you plan to keep the curd for longer. If you want to put in canning jars, boil a pot of water, place a jar in the water and boil for 15 minutes covered. When ready to use, CAREFULLY remove the jar from the water (tongs are great for this) and remove excess water from the jar. Pour curd into the jar, place the top on, and allow to cool completely before placing in fridge.
Crust - adapted from Jasmine's recipe on Daring Kitchen
1 1/4 C all purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen
2 egg yolks
1/2 almond extract (or vanilla)
In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, and salt. Take the frozen butter and grate it into the flour (use a cheese or box grater - use the large hole side). Using your hands, mix the butter into the flour until the mixture begins to form into a crumb-like texture. Set this aside.
Lightly beat the egg yolks together with the almond extract (or vanilla) and mix into the flour mixture. Slowly add the cold water one tbsp at a time while mixing the dough (I continued to mix with my hands - had more control that way). Kneed until all the egg yolk is incorporated. Form into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days. When you are ready to use the crust, use a 9" tart pan. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin on a well-floured surface until it becomes about 1/4 inch thickness and is about 1 1/2 times the size of the tart pan. (*if the dough is too sticky, add flour 1 tbsp at a time until it is workable. You should work quickly however since you have butter in the dough, and it is best if the dough does not get too warm). Drape the dough over the pan and begin to press it into the sides and bottom of the pan. You will probably have dough left over, which you can use to fill in any imperfections - holes, etc... Take the tart pan and freeze for 15 minutes. Remove from freezer and prick the bottom of the pan about 10 times with a fork (spaced apart) to allow for air to escape while baking. Cover the dough with aluminum foil pressing the foil into the sides and bottom of the dough. Then, cover the bottom and sides of the aluminum with pie beads or dried beans (16oz). This will keep the dough to the bottom and sides of the pan when you put it in the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking. Place tart pan in over for 15 minutes and bake. Remove from oven, carefully remove the foil - with the beans - and allow to cool. Now on to the frangipane!
Frangipane: (again...adapted from Jasmine!)
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
3/4 confectionery sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 ground almonds
2 tbsp all purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar together until the mixture is fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture will not appear well mixed - this is fine, let it go! Add the eggs and the almond extract (scrape down the sides as needed) and slowly add in the ground almonds, the salt, and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will begin to become incorporated and start to have a wonderful almond smell. Yes, the eggs are raw, but it also has a fantastic taste (if you care to taste it...). Pour into the pie tart pan...
and return to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. The frangipane will rise a bit in the pan and begin to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. When it is cool, pour the lemon curd on top of the frangipane. You will probably not need all of the curd - maybe 1 - 1/2 C. Spread evenly, and place the tart in the refrigerator for 1 hr. Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving. Decorate with lemon zest or almonds.