September 18, 2013
Sweets/Baked Goods

Magic Number Lemon Curd

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This is my favourite lemon curd recipe. It is luscious and very tangy. In fact, it is way less sweet than standard recipes. When preparing lemon curd, remember that the magic number is one: For every 1 egg yolk, you need 1 tbsp (15 mL) each of sugar, lemon juice and butter. Plus you add 1 tbsp (15 mL) of zest and 1 pinch of salt to the mixture. More kitchen tips: Luscious Lemon Curd.

       Tangy spoonful of homemade lemon curd. Credit: Susan Sampson


1/4 cup (60 mL) lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup (60 mL) granulated sugar (1-3/4 oz/50 g)
Pinch salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter (2 oz/60 g), cut in 8 pieces, softened

Place fine-mesh sieve over medium bowl. In bottom of double-boiler pan, bring 1 inch (2.5 cm) water to boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low.

In top of double-boiler, whisk together juice, zest, sugar and salt. Add yolks. Whisk to combine.

Place over simmering water. Stir often, then constantly with whisk 7 to 10 minutes, until thickened and opaque, but do not boil. Look for signs of doneness: Temperature should reach 170F (76C). Curd should be thick but pourable. It should coat back of spoon and running your finger through it should leave a clear trail.

Remove from heat. Whisk in butter quickly, until melted.

Push curd through prepared sieve. Discard solids in sieve. Whisk curd a few times, until perfectly smooth. Transfer to storage tub. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or preferably overnight, until cold and set.

Makes 3/4 cup (175 mL).

  • For sweeter curd, increase both sugar and butter to 1/3 cup (75 mL).
  • You can double or triple the recipe.

Is It Done? Temperature should reach 170F (76C) and go no higher than 180F (82C). Sweep a spatula across the bottom of the pan. It should leave a clear trail, but the trail should quickly disappear. Take the curd off the heat at that point. (Don’t worry if your warm curd seems a bit loose. The consistency should be like hollandaise, not pudding. It will thicken as it cools.) Continuing to cook the curd will make it thick, pasty and even grainy. If the spatula leaves a clear, wide trail that holds its shape, the curd is overcooked. Signs of doneness take precedence over timing, as double-boiling setups vary. For instance, if you use a metal bowl set over a pan, the curd will thicken much faster.

Oh No: The curd should not become frothy. Use the whisk to stir the curd, not beat it.

Make-Ahead: Store the curd up to 1 week in the fridge or 1 month in the freezer.


Magic Number Lime Curd
Use lime juice and zest instead of lemon.

Magic Number Orange Curd
Use 3 tbsp (45 mL) fresh orange juice and 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice (to brighten it). Switch to orange zest.

Lemon/Lime Mousse Curd
Beat egg yolks and sugar with electric hand mixer 2 to 3 minutes, until pale, smooth and fluffy, before whisking in lemon/lime juice, zest and salt. Then carry on cooking over simmering water.