This dessert is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the faint of arm, either. The lemon curd has an assertive flavor and it must be whisked constantly as it cooks. What you get, though, is a light creamy dessert (light in texture, of course, not in fat) that is as delightfully bright in color as it is in taste.
The curd is more lemony than a lemon drop and therefore the Chantilly cream is the perfect topping. The cool sweet cream mitigates the tartness of the lemon and kind of aerates the curd, making it a little lighter on the tongue. After a rich entrée like the pasta rollatini smothered in meat sauce we made last week, this dessert is as welcome as a sunny, 70-degree day in the middle of February.
- 9 lemons
- 1 ½ cups butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- equipment: non-reactive pot (stainless steel) and electric mixer
So why must we be concerned about the pot? We don’t have to be…unless you want to serve green curd. Mmmm, doesn’t that sound appetizing? The problem is more scientific than culinary: cooked eggs produce hydrogen sulfides, which apparently don't play nice with aluminum. After that, it gets really complicated -- it takes years of study in a dark room with a microscope analyzing how the sulfides and the protocarbons repel the quarks and the widgets...
Just don't do it.
The other prerequisite is that the butter be at room temperature. If it’s too cold, the curd may turn out lumpy. Mmmm, green lumpy curd. Sounds like a dessert the Grinch would love.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Then add each egg one-by-one while continuing to beat the mixture. Make sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Add the egg yolks in the same fashion. Now add the juice of 9 lemons in ½ cup intervals until it too is well incorporated. OK, you’re done with the mixer until we make the cream. Lick the beaters – because you know you can’t resist – and toss them into the sink.
Pour the curd into our color-friendly pot and place over medium-high heat. Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and prove that all those personal training sessions at the gym were worth the time, pain and money. Whisk the curd continuously so the eggs don’t turn into scrambled eggs and the bottom doesn’t burn. You’re going to be whisking for a while. It might even be a good idea to have a substitute whisker. Get your husband, wife or a buddy to stand by and tag them in when your forearm needs a rest.
You can stop whisking when the curd is thick enough that it clings to a spatula. When it is, take the curd off the heat, let it cool and keep it in the fridge. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the curd – right against the surface of it – to prevent a skin from forming.
Grand Marnier Chantilly Cream
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier (approximate)
"Chantilly lace, what a pretty face, and a pony tail a' hangin' down. That wiggle in the walk, and a giggle in the talk, makes the world go round…"
Sorry. That’s Nicole singing. She can’t shake the song out of her head.
Chantilly cream sounds fancy but it’s simply sweetened whipped cream. This one is spiked with a little Grand Marnier for a little something extra in the background. You can use any kind of orange liqueur you like – I recently used Santa Teresa Rhum Orange Liqueur because I had it on hand. The flavor should only be a suggestion in the cream, not an announcement.
Clean off the beaters and get the mixer back out. We’re going to beat the first three ingredients until soft peaks form, about two minutes. Continue beating and add the powdered sugar, about one minute. Then add the liqueur until it is incorporated. Now refrigerate the cream.
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
- 2 teaspoons zest
This sauce is not necessary to the dessert and if you’re pressed for time you can omit it. But it’s a beautiful touch. It looks a little like thin caramel and adds yet another dimension of sweetened citrus to the dish.
Put all three ingredients in a small saute pan over medium high heat. Swirl the mixture around until the sugar dissolves and the alcohol evaporates. If you know how to flambé, now’s the time to do it. (Make sure your guests are gathered round the kitchen so they don’t miss your rock star moment.) If you don’t know how to flambé, leave a comment for me below and I’ll write a post on the technique.
The sauce is ready when it thickens a bit and the alcoholic bite is gone. If you’ve made zest curls (see photo) instead of grating the zest, reserve these for garnish.
I like to serve the curd in martini glasses but you can use any dish. Clear glass is best so you can see the layers of color. Place the curd in the dish first, then crown it with the Chantilly cream. Spoon a bit of sauce over the top and sprinkle with the zest. Enjoy.
-- Chef J. Fortune