Lemon Curd Tart

If it seems like there’s no end to when lemons are in season, that’s because it’s the truth. On the west coast alone, lemon season runs from winter through summer in California and fall through winter in neighboring Arizona.  It makes the old adage of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” easier to live by.

But there are other things to make with lemons. One of my favorites is lemon curd and by extension, this lemon curd tart.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup shortbread cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 cup (4 tablespoons butter, melted)
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Steps:

  1. For the crust, combine the shortbread cookie crumbs and 4 TBSP of melted butter in a separate bowl. Mix until the crumbs start to stick together (the butter acts like a glue).
  2. In a 9-inch tart pin, press out the cookie crumb butter mixture into a thin crust until the bottom and sides are covered. I like to start in the middle of the pan and work my out to the sides. The ingredients should be enough for two 9-inch tarts. Set aside.
  3. To make the lemon curd, combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, salt, and butter chunks into a stainless steel saucepan.
  4. Over medium to low heat, whisk continuously, until the mixture starts to thicken and bubble. This takes, on average, about 10 minutes.
  5. When the mixture thickens, remove from the stove and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a stainless steel bowl.
  6. Place the bowl containing the warm lemon curd into an ice bath. This will help stop the cooking process.
  7. When the lemon curd has cooled, pour the mixture into the tart tins with the shortbread crust. You should have more than enough filling for the two tarts and, possibly, a bit extra. At this stage, the lemon curd will not be fully set yet. Place the tarts in the refrigerator (covered in plastic wrap) and chill for about 2 hours.

Notes:

  • Researching lemon curd recipes? Then I’m sure you’ve noticed that some will call for the use of a double broiler while this one does not. A double broiler is essentially a pot on top of a pot; the lower pot is filled with water and the top pot holds the food stuffs to be cooked. The water in the lower pot is brought to a boil causing heat to be transferred to the upper pot, but at a much lower rate  / intensity than direct stove top contact. This method is typically used to cook delicate or sensitive items that are easy to burn.
  • However, a double broiler isn’t always necessary. While I’ve burned chocolate a few times, I’ve haven’t (yet) messed up making lemon curd. This is because you’re constantly whisking, stirring those little atoms up in a frenzy, helping them form the bonds of curd-ship. Regardless of using a double broiler or not, you are going to have to whisk and whisking (i.e. the constant motion) helps prevent the mixture from burning.
  • Whisk, baby, whisk. This is easily the most daunting and irritating part of the whole process. Depending on factors such as temperature (ingredients, stove top) and whisking speed, this can take up to 20 minutes. There have been times when I was sure my arm was going to fall off from the whisking, and just when I was about to give up hope, the mixture would always start to thicken. Lesson here? Perseverance is the key. When you break it all down, lemon curd is easy to make. All it really takes is some whisking.
  • What the thick? So you whisk and you whisk and you whisk. Then suddenly, you’ll notice the small changes in the curd. Maybe it’s a figment of your imagination, but maybe it isn’t. The mixture isn’t as fluid as it once was and you start having to whisk a bit harder just to maintain constant speed. Viola! The mixture has thickened! The true test is to dip a spoon into the mixture and use your finger to draw a line down the back. If the curd remains separated, then nirvana has been obtained and it’s time to strain and cool the lemon curd. If not, then continue on whisking, friend. Don’t give up hope. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.

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