Lemon curd fan—and Associate Garden Editor—Lauren Dunec Hoang whipped up a plate-lickingly delicious dessert to savor at the end of the picnic.
One of my college housemates and I had a deal. For every pie that was baked in the kitchen of our DC apartment (and trust me, there were plenty), we'd share a slice or two, and she'd get the crust and I'd get the fruit filling. We now live across the country from each other, but I still have a sweet spot for pie, and I always feel a bit guilty when I leave the crust behind on my plate.
Why this recipe? When the Sunset Cookbook Club selected The Picnic for this month's book, I knew this crust-less dessert would be right up my alley. Citrus filling and lavender cream in a jar? This dessert was meant for filling-lovers—essentially offering permission to indulge in lemon curd by the spoonful.
What was it like to make it? It's easy to make, but you'll need a little bit of patience with all the stirring. I appreciated the short list of ingredients (eggs, sugar, lemons, butter, cream, and lavender) and the excuse to pick a bunch of Meyer lemons from our backyard tree. I doubled the ingredients to make a larger batch of curd—to eat straight out of the container later or stir into Greek yogurt for breakfast.
I whisked the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in the pan of a double boiler and set it over simmering water. Next, I began stirring. It's amazing how slowly 10 minutes can go by when you're standing over the stove, hoping the curd will come together. No matter how many times I make lemon curd, I still have that moment when I wonder whether it will actually thicken.
I passed the recommended 10-minute cooking time mark, and the lemon curd was still fairly runny—probably because I had doubled the batch. But then, voilà! After about 15 minutes, the curd really started to thicken and cling to the whisk and the sides of the pan. I gently stirred in the slices of butter and removed the pan from the heat.
The rest was easy. Once the curd had cooled, I spooned it into small jars and placed them in the fridge to chill. I added a bit of dried lavender to heavy cream, let it infuse for a couple of hours, strained it, and whipped the cream. The last step: topping a few of the jars with dollops of cream and flower petals for a taste test.
How did it turn out? It was pretty darn delicious. The curd was smooth and flavorful, with a nice, sharp flavor from the lemon zest. The soft cloud of not-too-sweet cream provided a perfect foil for the richness of the lemon curd. The hint of lavender in the whipped cream and the fresh flower garnish (I used rose and lavender petals) make this dessert perfect for spring.
Will I make it again? Definitely. This will be my go-to recipe for lemon curd. One critique: The lavender in the whipped cream was really subtle. Next time, I might let it steep in the cream overnight.
Would I bring it to a picnic? Yes. These little jars of lemony goodness will be sure to charm the hats off other picnickers. In fact, they did, at our own picnic here at Sunset. As our home editor, Joanna Linberg, was scraping the sides of the jar to get every last dollop, she admitted, "I wish I had a giraffe tongue to make sure none of this goes to waste."
Given the time it takes spoon the curd into the jars, let the jars chill, and then spoon the whipped cream on top, this dish may be bit fussy for more spontaneous gatherings. But if you don't mind putting the time in to do it up right, these lemon lavender cream pots are well worth the effort.
LEMON LAVENDER CREAM POTS from The PicnicServes 4 to 6
"Besides being the cutest thing since Bernese mountain dog puppies," write the authors of The Picnic, "these jars of buttery lemon curd are the ideal size for a single dessert portion, and they travel like a pro. When you arrive, top the lemon pots with freshly whipped lavender-infused cream and a flower petal."
3 large eggs, at room temperature3 large egg yolks, at room temperature2/3 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 2 large lemons)1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cubed3 fresh lavender buds or 1/4 teaspoon dried lavender1/3 cup heavy cream4 to 6 small rose petals or other edible flowers (optional)
In the Basket:Whipped creamQuenelle spoonsEdible flowers
- Fill a medium saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
- Whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, the 2/3 cup sugar, and the zest in a large metal bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice. Place the bowl over the simmering water and cook, whisking constantly but slowly until mixture thickens to the consistency of sour cream, about 10 minutes. [My tip: If you use an instant thermometer, you'll know it's done when the temperature reaches 160 degrees F].
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Strain the lemon curd through a fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Ladle it into 4-ounce glass canning jars with lids, distributing evenly and leaving at least ½-in. headspace. Tap each jar gently on the counter to distribute the curd evenly and smooth the tops. Wipe the rims clean, seal the jars, and refrigerate until the lemon curd is thickened and completely cold, about 4 hours. The lemon pots can be made up to 3 days before the picnic. [Another little tip: Transport the jars to the picnic in the carton they came in, if you've kept it.]
- Meanwhile, add the lavender to the cream and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours to infuse. Strain and discard the lavender and refrigerate the cream until needed.
- Just before leaving for the picnic, pour the cold lavender-infused cream and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in a large metal bowl and whisk briskly until soft peaks form (when the whisk is drawn from the cream, a peak forms and curls over). Put the softly whipped cream into a sealable container to transport to the picnic.
- To serve, use two small spoons to make oval-shaped dollops (quenelles) of whipped cream and place one atop each lemon pot. Garnish with flowers, if using.
Excerpted from The Picnic by Marnie Hanel, Andrea Slonecker, and Jen Stevenson (Artisan Books). Copyright (c) 2015.