I knew it had to be lemon curd. Usually I’m not this passionate about the sweet and tart, pudding-like dessert but with that lemon tree right outside the window (the same one of the Whiskey Sour fame) it was practically taunting me. With branches bending under the weight of the fruit and large vibrant leaves shining in the sun I swear I heard all the lemons say, “Use me, use me while you can. They don’t grow them like us in Seattle.” You’re right, lemons, they don’t but have you seen our rhubarb (it’s coming!)?

While I had the lemons and strawberries that flooded the rows of the farmers market with their floral scent, I was without a bain marie or any sort of bowl and pot situation that would make a suitable replacement. But I couldn’t let the lemons continue their taunting any longer and I already had the taste of tart curd alongside a fresh berry salad with mint and vanilla scented whipped cream. And once you get that idea inside your head there’s no telling what you would do to make it a reality. Like say, create a “bain marie” out of a frying pan and an oversized metal bowl. I did what I had to do.

Technically the bowl isn’t supposed to touch the bottom of the pan but it did. The curd survived – actually it did more than survive, it sang. I even attempted to strain it through a tiny tea strainer but I gave up and came to terms with the possibility that this batch might not be up to my usual standard of perfect, uninterrupted smoothness.

When I teach people how to cook and bake I show them the techniques I’ve learned while working in professional kitchens and cooking at home. Trying as best I can to get them as excited as I get when I see a beautiful brunoise or even layers of butter spread thin throughout a batch of puff pastry. I teach them how to make lemon curd using a legitimate bain marie. But more than that I try to teach them to be fearless in the kitchen. To be a bit of a rebel – bend the rules, try something new, to use their instincts and be resourceful. And most importantly, to not be afraid of making mistakes because they will happen. And you know what, I do a terrible job of telling you all about my mistakes. I mean they aren’t pretty and they show my insecurities so I’m not usually inclined to run here and share them but they happen, a lot and I should tell you about them because the beauty of mistakes is that if you push through the fear and doubt you’ll usually find something better than what you originally set for. Or you’ll have a soggy cake that you need to throw out but even with that you tried and learned and you’ll move on.

So if a recipe says use a bain marie and to be be sure the bowl doesn’t touch the bottom of the pan, as the recipe below says, then do it but if you don’t have a bain marie then keep on going because the lemon curd is worth it and the rules don’t mind a little stretching every now and again.


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Lemon Curd with Berries and Mint

adapted from

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted butter

Whisk the sugar, lemon juice, eggs, and yolks in medium metal bowl. Set the bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water – or just do the best you can). Whisk constantly until thickened like a warm pudding, about 10 minutes. Remove bowl from over the water. Add butter, salt and vanilla; whisk until melted and combined. At this point I like to strain the curd to make sure no little bits of cooked eggs hinder the smooth texture. It is however, an optional step. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd. Chill. Will keep, refrigerated, for one week.

I served the lemon curd with fresh berries that were tossed with just a bit of raw sugar (less refined, more coarse) and mint leaves. The whipped cream was flavored with just a touch of vanilla extract.

30 Responses to “Lemon Curd with Fresh Berries, Mint and Cream”

  1. Eva | Adventures in Cooking

    Lemon curd is the best, it can be incorporated into so many desserts or simply enjoyed with some berries and cream. Always so tasty! I love the darkness of these photos, too. Really makes the beauty of the fruits pop.

  2. Amanda

    Glad you had to deal with the burden of a lemon tree, if only for a while. I can’t believe I haven’t made any this season… Now to find myself some decent strawberries!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Amanda – We are months away from decent strawberries around here. Which is why I immediately bought them when I saw them in southern California.

  3. sundiegoeats

    I always thought food generally looked best when photographed against a light colored background and with lots of natural light but these look really great with all the black/shadows!

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Dorie – No, I use a fine mesh sieve. Any time I’m dealing with eggs as in custards, puddings and such – I’ll strain it because there’s a little bit of egg that inevitably doesn’t submit to smoothness. I think it’s a good idea but it does dirty some dishes and it is another step so I put it there but it’s not necessary.

  4. molly

    oh, ho, ho, lemon curd, yes please! i’ve been a lemon curd lover all my life, though mine was often salted by tears.

    i will not even pretend to know an inch of your knowledge, ashley, when it comes to the kitchen, and pastry in particular. i did, however, want to pass along that ever since i began giving the uncooked curd mix a quick blitz with the stick blender, a tip from elinor klivans, i have cooked mine directly on the stove, usually on a hottish medium, and have never, once, had my curd curdle. i have made at least 100 batches this way. maybe 200. maybe more. details here:—we-were-going-to-talk-trips-today-and-b.html.

    now, to find me a lemon tree…


  5. Kathryn

    Not only is this beautiful (which it is. Obviously) but I so love your words too. Sometimes I feel so stifled by the ‘proper’ way to do things in the kitchen that it deadens any creative spark. Here’s to the freedom to make mistakes and take a risk!

  6. lyann

    I am always curious what people do with their lemon curd. I make lemon curd as well, but give all but one jar away, not knowing what to eat with it.

  7. sara

    It’s been too long since curd around here. I am thinking it needs to happen for the next waffle topping. I still have some of the juicy grapefruits you gave me, and maybe could give those a spin. I find it fun to “make due” sometimes, like it’s risky or something. I usually keep it to myself because heaven forbid I admit to how often I use scissors instead of a knife to do basic kitchen tasks, but I love hearing how people get creative. Lovely dessert, miss.

  8. Lindsey

    such beautiful photos! i’ve never tried to make lemon curd, but these photos are so enticing!

  9. Agi

    Looks delicious, might make this for St.Patrick’s Day dinner with lots of mint (for the green part). Beautiful pictures!

  10. Amy

    You really captured spring in those pictures!!! Amazing work and it looks absolutely delicious!

  11. Rhea

    I am so envious that you have a lemon tree in your yard! Ever since I vacationed in Italy last summer I am lovin’ the lemons. I plan on trying your lemon curd recipe this afternoon; it looks delicious.

  12. Rhea

    I tried your lemon curd recipe. It tasted delicious prior to refrigeration, a subtle sweetness and lemony goodness. But after 4 hours in the fridge the lemon flavor grew exponentially. Is it common for the lemon’s tartness to spike once chilled? Do you have a remedy to bring back the original balance of sweet & tart?