Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lemon Curd and Citrus Cupcakes


Good friends are wonderful to have in your life - but good friends with lemon trees in their backyard are priceless.

I was lucky enough to recently be invited to dinner at the home of the lovely Ruth to enjoy an incredible meal featuring the lemons from her own tree...and I walked away with an armful of juicy, yellow fruit.  (It should be noted that the champagne and homemade guacamole were also highlights.  And I am still dreaming of the chicken with one hundred cloves of garlic.)


So, as a woman in possession of a bowl of lemons, I pondered what on earth to do with them, other than to admire how pretty they looked on my bench.

Some of you will recall my gluten-free lemon curd cheesecake, which was made with lemon curd bought on a trip to Beechworth last year. It was certainly very tasty, but didn't have a patch on the homemade lemon curd the Divine Ms CR (aka Baking Queen) brought round to my house not long ago and drizzled on some meringues. Now, the recipe the Baking Queen recommended was from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion. Voila! This was how I was going to spend my Sunday morning.

Stephanie's recipe is very straightforward - just the way a good recipe should be.  She notes that, because of the citrus juice and sugar in the recipe, there's absolutely no need to worry about curdling, so don't bother fussing with double boilers.  If my lemon curd was anything to go by, she is absolutely right.  It was so simple, in fact, that I am planning on experimenting with other citrus flavours, just to mix it up a bit in future.


The one thing I would note is that the quantities of lemon curd produced by following the below recipe weren't huge - barely enough to fill a very small jar - so if you were planning on making enough to frost-and-fill the cupcake recipe I have included, then you should make double (or even triple, if you love lemon curd) the quantity outlined below.  I had to restrain myself from sitting down with the jar and a very large spoon, so I doubt any leftovers will go to waste!

Finally, once you have a jar (or two) of lemon curd in the fridge - where they'll keep for a couple of weeks - the next question is what to serve it with.  You can certainly use it like jam, smearing it over toast for a sweet morning treat.  Another classic is to make (or buy) shortcrust tart cases, whip some cream and serve them filled with a spoonful of curd, a dab of cream and a strawberry on top.

Once I have my lemon curd ready to go, I decided some cupcakes were in order for the office morning tea.  They're always a hit, require no slicing up, are easy for colleagues to eat at the desk and require zero washing up of plates and knives.

The inspiration for the cupcakes came from Ryan Bakes, my new favourite food blog.  (The link is over there on the left...)  As Ryan did in one of her cupcake recipes, I used lemon zest and juice for the vanilla extract for flavouring, but unlike her recipe, I used duck eggs (thank you, Kylie!) and self-raising flour for convenience.   Don't worry - large chicken eggs will work just as well!

To serve, I hollowed out a small well in the centre of the cupcake and filled it with curd, using the overflow like frosting on top.  The curd's sweet-sourness cuts through the crumbly sweetness of the cake beautifully.  In the pictures in the blog, I have drizzled a tablespoon of cream over the top for presentation, but the ones I took to work just used the curd and they were absolutely a hit.

Lemon Curd

-  4 egg yolks
-  2/3 cup caster sugar (I used raw sugar which gave the curd a darker colour)
-  100ml lemon juice
-  60g unsalted butter
-  2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (I might have added the zest of an entire lemon...sorry Stephanie)


Beat the sugar and eggs together - they don't have to be creamy, just combined.  Put into a saucepan, throw in your cubed butter, lemon juice and zest.  Put on a medium-high heat and stir constantly until it starts to bubble (around 5 mins).  Take of the heat at that point - it should have begun to thicken - and allow to cool.


Transfer to sterilised jar/s (I threw mine into some boiling water while I made the curd) and pop in the fridge for up to two weeks.  See?  Incredibly simple!



Citrus Cupcakes


-  1 cup softened butter (feel free and use salted if you like, as I omit salt in the recipe)
-  2 cups white sugar
-  4 eggs (I used duck, or you can use large chicken eggs)
-  3 cups self raising flour
-  1 cup milk (I'd love to try this recipe with buttermilk instead... next time)
-  1/4 cup lemon juice
-  2 teaspoons lemon zest

First off, preheat your oven to 180 degrees celcius and line two muffin tins with your pretty cupcake papers (recipe makes 24, so you'll need two trays of 12).

Next cream the butter and sugar until it fluffs up - I use my stand mixer, but a hand held electric beater will do the trick too.  Add your eggs one at a time, and make sure they're all combined before you add the next one in.




Now add the flour in three lots, alternating with half the milk between each.  Don't set the beater too high or spend too long mixing it or else it will end up pretty tough, and not at all the light-and-fluffy we are going for.  Add in your juice and zest and mix just until combined.



Fill your patty cases - the best ones were those I filled to the half-way point.  Now, bake in the over for around 15-20 minutes and make sure they're cooked by inserting a skewer or toothpick.

Wait for them to cool (I turn mine out on wire racks), then hollow out a small hole in the centre with a teaspoon, fill with lemon curd and smear another teaspoon of lemon curd on top like frosting.  These are good to go just like this, or if you want to schmancy them up, drizzle a teaspoon of cream over the top.


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