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January food 071

It wasn’t my intention to write about lemon curd. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of my favorite fillings on the planet, but it’s hardly difficult to find boatloads of good lemon curd recipes. While we’re on the topic, can we give the prize for the most god-awful moniker to the poor lemon curd? And, really, is its other hapless name — lemon cheese — any better? I didn’t think so.

So, the reason we’re here is because my Meyer lemon and key lime connection from Scottsdale called a few days ago asking for some advice regarding a lemon curd tart she wanted to make for a sick friend. I talked her out of it and suggested she make a simple dessert I used to serve for groups. The components were the same as her tart: lemon curd and puff pastry. The construction, however, differed.

I explained that she could simply cut puff pastry into bars, then after they were baked and cooled, spread some lemon curd on top, then shower with powdered sugar. That’s it. The end. I thought.

But the conversation was getting longer than I expected, and lots of questions were coming my way. It wasn’t her fault but, rather, mine. You know how when you’re explaining something you think is simple, because you’ve done it so many times, it translates as convoluted? I realized that’s what was happening. So, I decided to turn it into a post. The recipe was straightforward, but it wasn’t without its glitches.

No trouble with the curd, which I flavored with blood oranges and just one Meyer lemon.

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Oh, and I’m all about easy, and this is the easiest curd recipe I can imagine, next to buying it, which I don’t recommend.

The problem child was the puff pastry. Look at this disaster?

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What? You didn’t know we were making saltine crackers? Well, neither did I. The holes in the pastry, which were there courtesy of Trader Joe’s, kept the dough from puffing. I love using this pastry, but I’ve only used it for tarts. The lesson to take away is that when you want your puff pastry to actually puff, then sidestep Trader Joe’s. Although, maybe not because I’ve never seen it look this flat and dull. Maybe it’s a bad batch. Weird. Happily, I had some scraps of Dufour puff pastry stashed in the freezer. Not a lot, but enough to show the difference.

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The puff pastry should be somewhat wobbly and definitely golden. It shouldn’t look like a Pop-Tart.

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Even Luke wasn’t all that impressed, and he eats bark and rocks. Dexter seems more attentive, but his palate is still a work in progress.

Blood Orange/Meyer Lemon Curd

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4 small blood oranges

1 large Meyer lemon

Zest and then juice the oranges and lemon.

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A Microplane zester (and grater) and a wood lemon juicer are my go-to tools for this process.

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Set the zest aside and strain the juice. You should have 2/3 cup juice or a bit more.

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1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

6 egg yolks, reserve whites for another use

Place all of the ingredients, except the zest and eggs, in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

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Add all of the zest from the oranges and lemon. Stir or whisk until blended.

Whisk egg yolks until smooth, then add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the hot mixture to the yolks to temper.

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Add the egg mixture to the orange/lemon mixture, and whisk slowly over low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes until the curd thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

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This process happens rather quickly, so be ready to pull the pan off of the heat as soon as you see it’s ready so that it doesn’t curdle. Don’t let it come to a boil. It’ll thicken as it sits.

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I think that the creamy salmon color makes a nice change from the predictable lemon yellow. The flavor isn’t as tart, but still packs a fragrant tang.

Pour curd into a clean glass dish and cover the surface with plastic wrap so that a skin won’t form.

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Refrigerate for a few hours until completely cool and thick. You can keep this in the fridge for a week or so. It also freezes well.

Puff Pastry

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

1 sheet puff pastry (use more if you want more)

While the pastry is chilled but not frozen, cut it into strips that measure about 1-and-1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long.

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Place the pastry on a cold cookie sheet, leaving a little space between each piece. Then place the cookie sheet and pastry into the freezer for a minute or two until the pastry is completely cold.

Take the cookie sheet immediately from the freezer and into the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes until the pastry bars are puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and place the pastry on a cooling rack.

When the curd is thick and cold, spread a little on each puff pastry bar, then, just before serving, shower with powdered sugar. If you put the sugar on too soon, the curd will just soak it up.

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These bring to mind beignets – but with a twist.

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(Printer friendly version of the recipe)

Blood Orange/Meyer Lemon Curd

4 small blood oranges

1 large Meyer lemon

Zest and then juice the oranges and lemon. Set the zest aside and strain the juice. You should have 2/3 cup juice or a bit more.

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

6 egg yolks, reserve whites for another use

Place all of the ingredients, except the zest and eggs, in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring, until butter is melted and sugar dissolved.

Add all of the zest from the oranges and lemon. Stir or whisk until blended.

Whisk egg yolks until smooth, then add about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the hot mixture to the yolks to temper. Add the egg mixture to the orange/lemon mixture, and whisk slowly over low heat for about 7 to 10 minutes until the curd thickens and coats the back of a spoon. This process happens rather quickly, so be ready to pull the pan off of the heat as soon as you see it’s ready so that it doesn’t curdle. Don’t let it come to a boil. It’ll thicken as it sits.

Pour into a clean glass dish and cover the surface with plastic wrap so that a skin won’t form. Refrigerate for a few hours until completely cool and thick. You can keep this in the fridge for a week or so. It also freezes.

Puff Pastry

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

1 sheet puff pastry (use more if you want more)

While the pastry is chilled but not frozen, cut it into strips that measure about 1-and-1/2 inches wide and 3 inches long.

Place the pastry on a cold cookie sheet, leaving a little space in between each piece. Then place the cookie sheet and pastry into the freezer for a minute or two until the pastry is completely cold.

Take the cookie sheet immediately from the freezer and into the oven. Bake for about 10 minutes until the pastry bars are puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and place the pastry on a cooling rack.

When the curd is thick and cold, spread a little on each puff pastry bar, then, just before serving, shower with powdered sugar. If you put the sugar on too soon, the curd will just soak it up.