On Lemon Curd and Failure
Hey everyone, Jon O’Guin here. As a quick note, I have to apologize for this post. Normally, we distinguish characters on the site by assigning different effects or fonts to their editorial ‘voice’. I appear in Italics, Alan speaks through Underline, and JJ uses Bold. Joe, as readers of the Oktoberfest log may remember, decided to appear as Comic Sans, because he hates all of our eyes. Unfortunately, it turns out that Squarespace is very resistant to changing fonts on anything less than a site-wide scale, and has rendered anyone who isn't me or JJ into standard text. While Alan and I learn how to make it bend to our ineffable wills, that means that Glen’s first post for the site will use the bold voice, in order to distinguish his quips from mine. So, without further ado, the man himself:
Hi, I'm Glen, the new baking consultant for Kitchen Catastrophes, (Jon again, we’re going to make his Title “Master Baker”, so we can make masturbation jokes.) here to hand out baking advice and mouth off, and I'm all out of mouth.
My Life is a Nightmare
Today I'll be making Lemon Curd. Crucially, with a recipe I've already made before.
This second attempt went much better than the first attempt, which is to be expected, because the first attempt was something like a baking Hindenburg, a giant balloon of arrogance kept aloft only so that its horrific descent could be more poignant. I made true enemies with that first lemon curd, some of which I still have to schedule a duel with. This first failure was important, however, as the mistakes in the first made the second attempt possible. Like a house of sticks making way for a house of bricks.
Tres Cochon, THE name in reliable construction.
I'd criticize him for making a Three-Little-Pigs joke, but honestly, you gotta respect a jump to French.
The recipe starts like a pie, making a crumbly crust that you press into a parchment paper sling in an 8 inch cake dish (ok, not many cake dishes in pie recipes, but whatever). After you've compacted it, you have to stab it with a fork. This both aerates the crust, making it fluffier and works out any lingering murderous impulses you still might have from the first curd attempt, where you didn't aerate anything and it turned cracker-ish, instead of bread-ish. Anyway, you throw that sucker in a preheated 350 degree oven (did I not mention that you should have pre-heated an oven? My bad), and bake that for twenty to twenty five minutes, until the edges look golden brown.
Now you turn to the real work of the recipe. The lemons. You have to zest and juice 5-6 lemons. Let me repeat that. You have to zest. Six. Lemons. Why six? Because 5 lemons is for the weak. Zesting anything isn't actually hard work, but it takes forever. And you get so much lemon zest. It's like a cup and a half. And I hope you have a juicer thingy. Because the first time I squeezed my lemons by hand, and discovered my hand is nothing but paper cuts, waiting for the pain of lemon juice to bloom.
After you have journeyed to the land of the lemons and returned, lemon zest and juice in hand you whisk together 4 egg yolks, 4 eggs, and a cup of sugar (the white grainy kind), then you whisk in your zest ONLY 3/4 of your lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. You'll noticed I insist on only 3/4 of juice. The original recipe says 3/4 of a cup/juice from 5-6 lemons which is not the same thing. I went with my six lemon juice the first time, which was a mistake. You cut up a stick of butter at this point so it's in little tiny cubes, and set it aside to soften. You take your lemon zest mixture, you put it in a small saucepan over medium heat, set a timer for 8 minutes, and do one of those standing naps the military uses. You have to keep stirring the entire time, and I've always found that to be the worst part of any recipe. I usually listen to a good podcast right about now. And by good, I mean trashy. Did you hear what was going on with Snooky? That, by the way, is a reference so dated I just assume it's current again.
Snooky want smoosh smoosh.
After you've heated the lemon mixture into a curd like substance, you have to strain it, to get out all the lemon zest you made, but only really wanted for ten frickin' minutes. Stir in that softened butter, until the mixture is smooth, pour it into the shortbread you've presumably taken out of the oven and pop the whole thing back in for ten to fifteen minutes, take out, let cool completely, and then refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut up into little pieces and serve with powdered sugar on top.
You'll get compliments, I'm sure. At least the second time.
This would usually be where a photo a of the completed recipe would go. But as we've learned, I can't do things correctly the first time, so enjoy a picture of puppies.
Now dust with powdered sugar and bite in.
To the puppies? That sounds illegal. And certainly unappetizing.
Lemon Curd with Almond Shortbread Crust
For the crust:
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond meal (or more flour)
1/2 tsp salt
For the lemon curd:
4 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest from 5-6 lemons
3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from the lemons)
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
- Heat the oven to 350°F, rack in the middle position. Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with parchment, letting the excess parchment hang over the sides of the pan.
- Beat the butter and powdered sugar on medium-high speed until completely combined, resembling creamy frosting. (Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.)
- Add both flours and salt to the bowl. Beat on low speed just until the flour is incorporated and the mixture comes together into a dough. The dough will seem fairly crumbly, but should hold together when squished in your hand.
- Press the dough into the baking dish. Make sure the layer is as compacted as possible and in an even layer. Prick with a fork all over. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges of the shortbread turn golden-brown.
- Now, prepare the lemon curd. Whisk together the eggs, yolks, and sugar in a small (2-quart) saucepan, then whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt to form a smooth mixture. Set a small strainer over a mixing bowl and place next to the stove.
- Place the pan with the lemon mixture over medium heat. Stir, gently but continuously, until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon and registers about 155°F on an instant-read thermometer; this should take 8 to 10 minutes. Be sure to scrape the bottom and edges of the pan as you stir. If you notice the mixture starting to clump up, immediately remove the pan from heat.
- Strain the lemon curd into the bowl, removing the zest and any clumps. While the curd is still warm, stir in the butter until the butter is completely melted.
- When the shortbread crust is ready, remove it from the oven and pour the curd over top. Put the pan back in the oven and bake at 350°F until the edges of the curd are set, but the middle is still jiggly, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Cool completely on your counter, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. To slice, run a knife around the edge of the bars and then lift them onto a cutting board using the flaps of parchment paper. Use a chef's knife to cut straight down into bars; wipe the knife clean between cuts. Bars will keep refrigerated for several days.