Can I tell you what I'm obsessed with right now?
Because if there's one thing I like as much as chocolate, it's lemon.
Unfortunately chocolate and lemon don't go all that well together (in my opinion, anyway--I've always preferred the more classic chocolate and orange combo). But do you know what goes REALLY well with lemon curd? Whipped cream. It's my new favorite combo. Swear to god. I eat it plain. I just ate it with soggy berries too, and that was fantastic. And not that I like to brag, (but I will for a minute), my culinary school instructors said that the dessert I made for my final project, which was a lemon layer cake with strawberries, was the best in the class. I chalk it up to the GENIUS use of lemon curd/whipped cream filling that glued the whole thing together. (But shhh, don't tell anyone. That was basically the only "secret" ingredient.)
I was intimidated by lemon curd after reading somewhere in the blogosphere about a blogger's inability to master it even after multiple attempts. Luckily for me (or perhaps unluckily, since I now know how fast and easy it is to make), we made it in class a couple of weeks ago as part of a mini-pastry unit, so I'm feeling confident. The recipe was provided to us by Janine Sciarappa, our awesome pastry instructor. What I like about it is it's simplicity, but also how easy it is to tweak to one's palate. When I first tasted it I found it sweet for my palate--I almost had to search for the tangy lemon flavor I was expecting. When I made it again I upped the amount of lemon zest considerably and used a few teaspoons less sugar. While that was a good start, the texture of all the extra lemon zest was not appealing on my tongue, and I ended up straining it out, and then adding another few teaspoons of lemon juice after it cooked. Ultimately I think the best technique is to use the recommended amount of lemon zest, and to chop it even after grating so that its texture isn't noticeable. Use less sugar, and stir in more lemon juice at the end if further adjustments are needed. Below you will find my tweaked version of the recipe, which is tangy but certainly not sour!
So what do you do with this magical stuff once you've made it to your liking? Other than eating it plain out of the pot, it is great folded in with whipped cream on top of fresh berries, as filling in a layer cake, or on top of plain or lemon cheesecake, which was the way it was originally presented to us. Pastry Chef extraordinaire David Lebowitz also suggests spreading it on crumpets (I think those are like scones?), and he ALSO had the idea of mixing it with whipped cream, but to be served alongside gingerbread--genius! Although it's not gingerbread season yet, I love love love that stuff, so I will have to get back to you on that one come fall.
Lemon Curd (Adapted from Janine Sciarappa)
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
* 4 large eggs
* 1 cup + 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* 6 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
* 2 Tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
* 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1. In a heavy bottomed non-reactive (i.e., stainless steel) saucepan, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Then whisk in the lemon juice and peel.
2. Cook the mixture over medium heat for about 5 minutes, whisking the whole time, until the mixture is nice and thick--I'd say somewhere between ranch dressing and mayonnaise, and just on the verge of boiling.
(You may say here, Macy, if I am whisking the whole time I will never know if the mixture is about to boil because I'm constantly agitating it. Good point. You can stop whisking for a few seconds now and then to assess thickness, and see if any bubbles are starting to form around the edges. But for the most part, whisk whisk whisk.)
3. When the curd has reached a good thick consistency, remove it from the heat and whisk in the butter. Taste it and if it's not tangy and lemony enough for you, stir in a few more drops of fresh lemon juice. Transfer to a small bowl or a plastic container and chill until cold, about 2 hours. To prevent a skin from forming on top of the curd, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface.
The curd will keep for about a week in the fridge, so you can make it several days ahead of time if needed. If you want a super smooth texture, you can push the curd through a mesh strainer with a rubber spatula when it's warm or cold. Sometimes the zest bugs me and sometimes it's fine--can't really explain it. But it's easy enough to get rid of it, so do that if you like.