Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Recipe: Lemon and Passionfruit Cream

One of the things you learn very quickly, when you live out, is that independence is often overrated. There is no real sense of aspiration that comes from doing your own laundry. However, there are perks too, one of which is that a leisurely breakfast is suddenly a very enjoyable meal and available to you at whatever time of the day you happen to define as morning.

In fact, breakfast might be my favourite meal of the day, a fact masked, perhaps, by my failure to rise early enough anytime during my college years to squeeze in a breakfast before running wildly to class.

Fluffy eggs, ricotta hotcakes, heck, even soft boiled eggs with black sauce and kaya toast, I love them all. One of my favourite things to do, though, is collect the ingredients for breakfast food and surprise everyone in the morning. One of the absolutely necessary ingredients is lemon curd, which is also one of my favourite things to make.

I've often been asked about this recipe, it sounds very complex, perhaps because it involves a "bain-marie" (french for water bath) and blending but it is actually super easy. On this particular occasion, I decided to add some passionfruit to give the curd a more nuanced flavour.

1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (21 tablespoons; 10 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
2 passionfruits

1. Place the lemon peel, the seeds from the vanilla pod and the sugar in a bowl and rub the lemon and sugar together with your fingers to infuse the lemon oil from the peel into the sugar. How much sugar you use will determine the overall sharpness of the curd- I like my lemons tart so I use less than the prescribed amount.

2. Crack the eggs into the bowl, add the lemon juice and mix the sugar, juice, peel and egg together. Then place it over a saucepan half-filled with boiling water, as shown in the picture. Place the saucepan to simmer over a small flame on the stove and slowly cook and stir the mixture.

I like to use a glass bowl because the heat is more diffused and regulated. Metal bowls are hot to handle and cook your curd too quickly.

3. The curd will take at least 15 min to cook and thicken. Cook it slowly and stir frequently to keep the curd smooth. It is ready when your spoon or whisk leaves tracks as you stir the curd.

4. At this stage, the curd is ready for use. You can also go on to thicken the curd to lemon-passionfruit cream. If you intend to stop at this point, then you can go ahead and add the passionfruit pulp and seeds in now. The difference in stopping here, is that the curd is more liquid and sharp tasting.

5. If not, cool the lemon curd thouroughly. Then, place the curd in a blender, cut the butter up into small pieces and blend the butter into the cream. It takes about 10 min of blending but what you will see is that as the butter emulsifies the curd, it will get thicker and creamier (though still liquid).

6. Pour out the cream into a bowl, mix in the passionfruit pulp (you don't want to add it before because the seeds would get blitzed in the blender) and refrigerate. During the refrigeration, the cream will become even more firm and solid.

This lemon passionfruit cream has a multitude of uses! I've used it to fill macarons, to make lemon cream or meringue pie and to flavour buttercream for piping on cupcakes. Here, I used them in a healthy way, to complement breakfast pancakes with honeycomb and berries but the curd itself can be packaged as a present, as shown by this clever organic wrapper that Jamie Oliver has come up with.

Apologies, I just realized that we had already posted what else we made with these- the caramelized brulee tarts, so that's a bit anticlimatic but still, try this out at home!

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