Did I mention that I have the best (if slightly self-serving) group of friends ever in the whole Universe?
This was my birthday present. (Thank you, friends!) Having it makes me unafraid of pastry dough for the first time ever, and being unafraid of pastry dough makes it necessary for me to stock lemon curd.
If you've never had lemon curd, it's a bit like a tart citrus version of apple butter -- or like a creamy marmalade minus the bits of rind. It plays with sour-sweet flavors, has a pudding-smooth texture, and is terrific as a spread on toast, waffles, pancakes, muffins, or other breakfast/brunch baked goods -- or it can be used as a filling or glaze for cakes, cupcakes, or dessert pastry. I love tart flavors and generally prefer less sweet desserts, so I think it should be used in all of the above pretty much all the time.
I made a batch of lemon curd a couple weeks ago, meaning to spread a layer of it atop the crust and beneath the fruit (i.e., mascerated mangoes and fresh blackberries) in a pastry based on smitten kitchen's simplest apple tart.* In my pastry-assembling excitement I completely forgot to put the lemon curd in, but I melted 2 tablespoons of lemon curd plus 1 tablespoon of butter to brush over the crust & filling instead of just butter, which worked wonderfully. It was so successful, in fact, that I also forgot to take any pictures of it. I fail as a food pr0nographer.
Adapted from Haalo of Cook [Almost] Anything at Least Once, who got it from Stephanie Alexander.
Makes ~12 oz. of lemon curd
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup (150 grams) white granulated sugar, the finer-grained the better (but plain ol' sugar is okay too)
5 tbsp butter (70 grams)
7 tbsp lemon juice (~3.4 oz., or 100 mls, or ~3 lemons' worth)
Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and blend on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has lightened to a cream color.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, then add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Stir a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid into the yolk & sugar mixture to temper it, then add the yolks & sugar to the saucepan. Whisk constantly until the mixture just reaches a boil (~10 minutes or so, depending on how hot your stove runs), at which point the lemon curd will thicken sort of drastically and separate a bit, turning a brighter yellow underneath a layer of cream/foam.
If you happen to have the equipment and wherewithal to sterilize and seal jars, you could jar the lemon curd and store it at room temperature for up to 3 months until opened, at which point it should be kept in the fridge (for up to 4 weeks). If, like me, you're better with Tupperware than boiled glass, just seal it up and pop it straight into the fridge. It'll need to sit awhile to set to its proper, jellylike firmness.
I plan to experiment with making all sorts of other fruit curds using this recipe by simply swapping out the juice and adjusting the sugar content -- if you happen to try making any other flavors, let me know how it goes!
*Simpleish Mango & Blackberry Tart
Adapted from Deb of smitten kitchen, who got it from Alice Waters.
Follow Deb's excellent instructions on making and refrigerating the tart's crust. In addition to that, you'll need:
4 large red/green mangoes (or ~8 smaller yellow [champagne] mangoes)
1/3 cup white granulated sugar (I'd try less, maybe 1/4 cup, with the yellow mangoes)
At least a half-pint of blackberries (or your other berry of choice)
~4 tbsp prepared lemon curd (optional)
2 tbsp butter (or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp lemon curd)
2 tbsp turbinado/raw granulated sugar (optional but very pretty -- white sugar would work fine too)
While the crust is chilling, cut your mangoes into cubes, and stir your sugar into the cubes. Let the cubes sit for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally to redistribute the mango in the syrup. This is called masceration, and it'll help break down the stringiness of the mango and work some of the moisture out of fruit so that you don't wind up with an overly soggy pastry crust.
Once the mango is mascerating, rinse and dry a pint of blackberries. You could also use blueberries, or slice some strawberries into vertical quarters -- use whatever's ripe and sweet and readily available. (You may end up only using a half-pint, so if you're on a budget you could buy less berries -- I just like having extra around to make up for inevitable berry loss due to over-ripeness and snacking.)
When the pastry dough is chilled and the mangoes are mascerated, get out two clean bowls. Use one to drain the mango syrup into (through a fine mesh sieve if you've got a big one, or through a pasta strainer or even a slotted spoon in a pinch) and the second to hold the drained mango pieces. Butter and flour an ~9-inch tart or pie pan (with a removable bottom, preferably), and roll the dough out to ~4 inches in diameter larger than your pan. (I always get lazy when I'm rolling dough out, but you want to roll it enough so it'll come up over the sides of the pan by at least an inch.) Drape the dough into the pan, gently tucking it down into the corners of the pan and letting the edges hang over the sides. Get your oven heating to 400 F.
If you've made a batch of lemon curd, try spreading maybe 4 tablespoons across the crust with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Arrange the mango pieces evenly in the crust -- it's okay if you don't have quite enough to fill it. (If you didn't use the lemon curd, you could use a couple tablespoons of the mango syrup to help fill in any gaps.) Spangle the tart with the berries, then fold the loose edges of the crust over the filling. It doesn't need to look perfect -- rustic and tasty is what you're going for with this thing.
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter (or 1 tablespoon each of butter and lemon curd) and spread it over the edges of the crust and the top of the fruit with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the crust if you wanna make it extra pretty.
Pop the tart in the oven for 30 minutes, coming back to rotate it every 10 minutes to ensure even browning. Mango and berries don't need all that long to bake, so really you're just looking for the filling to be bubbly and the crust to reach a nice, rich golden brown. Once it's out, let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve -- whip cream wouldn't go awry with it, but I think it stands really well on its own. If you happen to have any left over, wrap it loosely and refrigerate it. It should keep for 2 to 3 days.