Continuing with the Small Batch recipes theme, I present my recipe for EASY Small Batch Lemon Curd! It's super creamy and simple to make in one pot with fresh lemon juice and zest. This recipe is a scaled down version of the Zesty Lemon Curd in my debut cookbook "Scientifically Sweet: A Scientific & Delicious Approach to Artisanal Baking".
INGREDIENTS FOR SMALL BATCH LEMON CURD
- Butter - the key to a delicious silky lemon curd is a bit of butter at the end to make it smooth and glossy. It also helps it set up with a nice thick texture.
- Lemon Juice - I only ever make lemon curd with freshly squeezed lemon juice (not bottled). It provides the tangy flavour and the acidity also helps to set the egg proteins.
- Lemon zest - most of the lemon flavour really comes from the yellow zest on the outside of the lemon. That is where the flavourful oils live.
- Salt - salt is important in any recipe, and it helps balance the sweetness as well as enhance the lemon taste.
- Egg - Egg provide majority of the structure for the curd and is absolutely important. Egg proteins set into a protein network to create a soft gel-like texture.
- Sugar - a bit of sugar sweetens the curd to balance the acidity and also plays a major role in creating a silky texture that prevents the egg proteins from coagulating too firmly.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS
This recipe is the easiest you will come by because you literally place everything in a bowl and stir over simmering water until it is thick!
- STEP 1). Place sugar in a saucepan with lemon zest and rub it together until fragrant.
- STEP 2). Whisk in egg until smooth.
- STEP 3). Whisk in lemon juice.
- STEP 4). Add butter and stir over medium-low heat until mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- STEP 5). Pour the curd into a clean bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface and refrigerate until set.
EXPERT TIPS FOR SMALL BATCH LEMON CURD
- Cook over gentle heat. Overcooking will cause proteins to bond too tightly, squeezing water out from between them and giving them a rubbery, lumpy texture. For insurance, indirect heat via steam is used to moderate the cooking temperature since boiling water cannot exceed 100°C. This recipe uses whole eggs to add firmness for a thick, spoonable texture, while the extra yolk adds creaminess and tenderness.
- Rub the sugar together with the lemon zest. Why? The yellow part of lemon skin contains essential oils (the same ones used to make citrus fragrances in perfumes and lemon-scented soaps) and when you rub sugar against them, it releases these oils. The oils coat the flat surfaces of the sugar crystals and make the curd taste extra lemony - a technique that's know as "plating" in the food industry. Sugar also acts as an abrasive to help break down the zest so that there aren’t large stringy pieces of it that would distract from the silky smooth texture of this curd.
- Strain the curd. Pass the hot curd through a sieve for the smoothest texture.
- Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface before chilling to prevent a skin from forming.
What is lemon curd?
Lemon curd is a type of stirred custard made from a cooked, thickened egg mixture. In the presence of heat and acid, egg proteins begin to bond to one another, transforming the liquid mixture into a smooth thick mass. In order to do this, gentle cooking is necessary to minimize the possibility of curdling.
How does lemon curd set?
The acid from lemon juice helps to transform the ultimate structure of proteins (a process called denaturation) which unravels their natural folded structure so that their side chains are exposed to react with the surrounding environment. When this happens, the proteins begin to form bonds with each other, or coagulate, in a gentle way to form a continuous network of proteins with water held between them. This is what creates the thick and silky texture of citrus curd.
What happens if I over-cook lemon curd?
If you over-heat the lemon curd, the egg proteins can coagulate and you will see little bits of cooked egg. You can try to strain the curd to remove the bits of egg, but it will affect the overall consistency. I would recommend trying again!
For an extra rich and extra yellow curd, add 1 extra egg yolk to this recipe. It will provide a firmer set and thicker consistency with richer mouthfeel - you decide!
In the video, I make a double batch. To make the small batch, you follow the same steps using the recipe below. If you also want to make a double batch, simply double each of the ingredients and follow the same method.
If you love small batch baking, check out these recipes!The BEST Small Batch Chocolate Fudge BrowniesSmall Batch Chewy Chocolate Chip CookiesSmall Batch Chewy Double Chocolate Chip CookiesEasy Small Batch Lemon CurdThe BEST Flourless Small Batch Brownie Cookies (Gluten-Free)Small Batch Tahini Swirl Chocolate Fudge Sheet CakeMarble Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese FrostingSmall Batch Double Chocolate Banana Muffins
Small Batch Lemon Curd
- 3 tablespoon 42g granulated sugar
- zest of one lemon
- 1 large egg
- 3 tablespoon 45ml lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon 28g salted butter, cut in small pieces
- Combine sugar and lemon in a bowl and use the back of a spoon or your fingertips to rub the zest into the sugar. This will coat the sugar crystals with fragrant oils from the lemon peel, adding a whole new dimension of intense lemon flavour to this curd.
- Combine egg, extra egg yolk (if using), lemon sugar and lemon juice in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk until smooth. Add butter and set the bowl over a pot with ½-inch of simmering (or use a double boiler). Whisk gently over the for 5-7 minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (using a spatula prevents the incorporation of many tiny air bubbles that whisking would otherwise cause). You can also do this directly over the flame as I do in the video, but be careful to only use low heat, stir constantly and be patient. If the mixture heats too fast, then it can curdle.
- Immediately pour the hot curd through a sieve and into a small jar or glass storage container, place a piece of plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Once chilled, cover it tightly and keep refrigerated. This curd will last for about a week in the refrigerator.