This made-in-minutes microwave lemon curd is a total game-changer
When I was growing up in Germany and Greece, satiny lemon curd was never on our table. In fact, I had not even heard of it before moving to the States. But it did not take long to find myself gushing over images of this smooth, spreadable custard in cookbooks and magazines. Its vivid color and glistening shine were tantalizing: I absolutely had to try it.
I was not yet an adventurous food writer when I spent what felt like forever stirring and monitoring the rich butter-and-egg mixture on the stove. Using a double boiler, with no food thermometer on hand, I had many questions: Was it done yet? How would I know? Will I get the gentle heat just right? Or will I go too far and scramble the eggs, destroying the sublime treat?
Though my first lemon curd did turn out lovely, all that fretting made me never want to try again. Given its richness, with all the butter, sugar and egg yolks, lemon curd was something I did not miss much either — until this winter, when beautiful organic Meyer lemons arrived at my grocer.
I also had happened to flip through Heidi Gibson’s “Muffins & Biscuits” book (Chronicle, 2017), which includes a curd recipe done in the microwave. Seriously, I wondered? How could such a finicky custard be prepared in the heat of an appliance that can cook things so unevenly?
Well, I am no longer skeptical. And a quick internet search revealed a bounty of microwave curd recipes.
I have since learned that you can cook just about any citrus curd in the microwave in mere minutes. It is so easy and effortless, chances are you will never buy a jar again. Best of all, you won’t be stuck with leftover egg whites because you can use whole eggs to make it. More win-win.
Soon, I was on a citrus-curd binge. Having been raised by a Greek mom, I first reduced the butter and incrementally increased the amount of olive oil. Before long, my citrus curd was made entirely with olive oil, and it worked well, to my surprise. I had assumed the spread would not hold up or achieve the right consistency. But as I learned from Cook’s Illustrated, this curd is not firmed up by the butter hardening as it cools. Instead, it is mainly the coagulation of egg proteins that are responsible for the stable yet quivering spread.
Henceforth, I felt emboldened to tinker. I omitted the refined white sugar and switched to a mild honey. Lo and behold, this, too, proved to be an improvement. Using honey seems to yield a finer, more fragrant curd, and it mellows the citrus’s acidity. To me, the olive oil is responsible for a brighter taste overall. Cook’s Illustrated explains that the dairy proteins in butter bind to flavor compounds in lemons, muting their tang.
My basic recipe for a super-easy citrus curd in the microwave uses aromatic Meyer lemons, which are rounder and sweeter than the common Eureka lemons. I learned to love the Meyers’ delicate scent when I lived in the Bay Area, where the fruit was so abundant people would hand it to you in huge bags. No one has done that yet in the frigid Boston area where I now live.
I have included two flavor variations: a tart lemon curd that is puckery in the best of ways, and a pleasing orange curd. Each batch makes about ¾ cup. I find that this relatively small amount allows you to whip up a batch often with whatever citrus you have on hand.
Spread your homemade curd on a slice of toast or in a breakfast croissant; spoon it into yogurt and on dark chocolate ice cream. The latter is a terrific combo. Citrus curd freezes well, which means you can have it on hand long after Meyer lemon season is over.
Recipe: Meyer Lemon and Olive Oil Curd
Speck is a veteran journalist and the author of “Simply Ancient Grains” (Ten Speed Press, 2015).