9 Tips for Your Best-Ever Lemon Curd, According to a Professional Baker

Just keep whisking.

Lemon Curd
Photo: Jennifer Davick; Food Styling: Mary Drennen; Prop Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

If you're looking to make a show-stopping spring dessert, we have quite a few recommendations for you. We love desserts that emanate sunshine, which is why you'll find so many bright, citrusy treats on our spring tables. From Luscious Lemon Bars to Lemon-Vanilla Pound Cake with Lavender Glaze, these cheery desserts will liven up any party.

Quite a few of our favorite lemon dessert recipes get an extra-elegant boost of citrus from lemon curd. We love to layer silky lemon curd between cake layers (like in our Lemon Cheese Layer Cake) and use it as a pretty topping for our Dreamy Lemon Cheesecake; lemon curd is versatile enough to act as a filling, a topping, or even a dipping sauce.

Made primarily from sugar, lemon juice, and egg, lemon curd can be a difficult recipe to master—leaving the curd unattended on the stove even for a minute can result in a pot of scrambled eggs. This foundational pastry recipe is something every baker should master, but it requires a sound technique to execute perfectly. As a professional baker who has made many batches of lemon curd, I'm here with a few expert tips to help you along the way.

1. The More Yolks, the Richer Your Curd

Step one to making lemon curd is picking a great recipe. There are lots of recipes for lemon curd out there, most of them only differing very slightly from each other. Here are a few things to keep in mind when searching for a great lemon curd recipe.

Some recipes for lemon curd use only whole eggs; some use only egg yolks, and some use both. The more egg yolks the recipe calls for, the richer your curd will be. I like to have a good balance between whole eggs and egg yolks—this recipe for lemon curd calls for 4 eggs and 2 egg yolks, which I consider to be a good ratio.

2. Use Salted Butter

I don't like to add salt to my lemon curd, which threatens to make it slightly gritty, but I love to have some element of salt in any baked good I make. Using salted butter is a great way to get a touch of salt in there, without throwing off the balance or texture of the curd.

3. Zest or No Zest?

Most recipes for lemon curd will call for lemon zest, but the point at which the zest is incorporated may differ. If you want a curd with a silky-smooth texture, add the zest right in with the sugar, eggs, and lemon juice, then strain it out once the curd has fully thickened. If you want a curd with a bit more texture, fold in the lemon zest once the curd has finished cooking.

4. Stir, Stir, Stir

When it comes to lemon curd, just keep stirring. Since most recipes for lemon curd require heating eggs and egg yolks with lemon juice and sugar, absentmindedly leaving the curd to do its thing on the stove may result in the eggs scrambling. Keep a close watch on your lemon curd and whisk constantly. Lots of attention and agitation will pay off, resulting in a smooth, silky curd.

5. Keep the Heat Low

Don't rush the process. Keeping the heat low and whisking constantly will prevent the curd from scorching, leaving the bottom of the pan with a brown film of burnt eggs that results in dark flecks swirled throughout your curd.

6. Keep the Butter Cold

Recipes for lemon curd will typically call for you to add in butter at the very end, similar to when you're making caramel. While you might instinctively leave the butter out on the counter to be ready to go as soon as the curd has thickened, leaving your butter at room temperature could actually be sabotaging your curd.

Cold butter gives lemon curd its glossy sheen—if you let the butter soften, your curd might come out matte, without its signature luster. Cube your butter ahead of time and store it in the fridge until you're ready to incorporate it into the curd.

7. Incorporate the Butter in the Blender

When it comes to emulsifying sauces, the blender is your best friend. Instead of the constant whisking required when incorporating small bits of cold butter into the steaming-hot curd, opt for a simpler technique—pour the curd into the blender, zap it, and add the butter piece by piece. The blender emulsifies the butter into the curd quickly and easily.

8. Break Out the Strainer

Let's say that, against all your better instincts, you got pulled away from the stove for a moment while making your lemon curd. It happens to the best of us. If your curd has scorched or some chunks of egg have scrambled, don't fear. There is a way to save it.

Straining your curd through a fine-mesh sieve could be your saving grace. I put my lemon curd through a sieve every time I make a batch, even if I've executed it perfectly. Straining your lemon curd will remove any lumps that have formed, ensuring that it stays velvety and smooth.

9. Store It Properly

When storing lemon curd, you'll want to place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd (in the industry, we call this "contact wrapping"). This will prevent a film from forming on the surface of your curd as it chills.

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