Or rather, citrus cream, since it is unusually high in butter content than the more sour, traditional recipes out there. Also, it’s based on Pierre Hermé’s (who else!?) lemon cream recipe that I adore so much and love maybe even more than ice cream.
It’s creamy, as you might expect from the butter, but also surprisingly light – texture wise, obviously, decadence is often accompanied by a high calorie count, but hey. This is probably due to the way the butter is incorporated: emulsified in its solid form, instead of melting it with the rest of the ingredients.
It’s perfect for a simple elegant lemon tart, which is what Hermé originally had in mind, and sets beautifully in an almond crust. I made a small batch of it this time to go into a white coconut cake for my mum’s impending birthday, just one whole egg plus a yolk, but you can multiply up to 4 times the amount.
Cultured butter was on sale today, even cheaper than the regular kind, so of course I grabbed some to try baking with for the first time. My first impression was that it smelled like margarine, which I have an aversion to. However, as I tasted it, I found it a little tangy, as you might expect, with a more complex aftertaste. I don’t think it made a noticeable difference in the cake, but certainly well went with the citrusy theme in this curd and helped lift the flavours.
If you don’t feel like storing extra egg whites, feel free to use Hermé’s original recipe (which I’ll also include), which only uses whole eggs and has always turned out incredibly for me. I’m enriching mine with yolks today as I happen to have some left over from the white coconut cake.
[Insert your fav citrus fruit] curd (makes 4 cups)
165g granulated sugar
zest of 2/3 citrus fruits, ~ 2 tbsp
4 eggs + 4 yolks
180g fresh citrus juice
226g unsalted butter
Pierre Hermé’s lemon cream
finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
180g fresh lemon juice
298g unsalted butter
The method is the same for both recipes.
First make sure the butter is at room temperature and in 1 tbsp chunks, for easier incorporation later on. Place some water in a pot, about a knuckle deep is fine, and bring to a simmer.
In the meantime, in a bowl larger than the pot that doesn’t touch the water when you place it on top, rub the sugar and zest with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Whisk in the eggs (and yolks), followed by juice. It’s okay to have pips and pulp in the mixture at this stage, it’ll all be strained out later anyway.
Place the bowl on top of the pot of simmering water and start whisking slowly to avoid making sweet citrusy scrambled eggs. You may want to wear gloves or hold the bowl through a towel on the other hand, as the bowl heats up. Once in a while check that the water beneath doesn’t exceed a simmer, add more water if you need to to avoid burning the pot.
Keep whisking slowly until the mixture comes to 82°C/180°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it’s possible to do this by looking at the texture. But if it’s your first time or want to ensure food safety (at least 60°C is needed to eliminate harmful bacteria), it’s handy to check the exact temperatures. The mixture at this point will have considerably thickened so that when you coat a spatula and run a finger down it, there will be an open channel.
Also, if you’re whisking as vigorously as I was, you’ll notice the bubbles go from quite big to fine and foamy, then start to leave tracks as the mixture thickens. The whole cooking process takes about 10 minutes.
Once the mixture is at 82°C/180°F, strain into a clean bowl and put cling film directly on the surface to cool to 60°C/140°F, or about 10 minutes. When it’s slightly cooled, remove the cling film and blend in the butter a few pieces at a time. Hermé recommends a blender to maximise aeration, but an electric mixer is okay too. Beat for 3 more minutes after all the butter has been mixed in to achieve that airy mouth feel.
It now needs a minimum of 4 hours in the fridge to reach its final custardy consistency. Cover with cling film on the surface so it doesn’t form a skin, and to stop condensation forming which could drip down and change the consistency.
When you’re ready to make a lemon tart, or fill a cake, or do some face-painting, give it a little whisk before using.