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Lemon (or Lime) Curd Is Better Without Sugar—Seriously

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The inspiration for Honey Lemon Curd came from (blogger and friend) Letty Flatt’s recipe for the same. I loved the idea of exchanging honey for sugar in a recipe where I knew that the honey would be a welcome flavor—in addition to being the sweetener. I decided a make-over of my own lemon curd recipe was in order.

Unlike most, I make lemon curd in one pot over direct heat—a method perfected in my own pastry shop decades ago, where we made lemon curd in gallon-sized batches. I also make lemon curd with whole eggs or a combination of whole eggs and yolks instead of the classic yolks-only recipe, because it produces a tangier lemon flavor. And I strain my curd at the end to remove the grated zest and any stray bits of cooked egg white.

Or enjoy it on plain ole' toast.
Or enjoy it on plain ole' toast. Photo by Bobbi Lin

The first thing I did was substitute 2/3 cups honey for the 1/2 cup sugar in my recipe—this is based on simple math (honey is about 18% water). Imagining that the switch from sugar to honey might make the curd less tangy than I like it, I used the zest of two lemons (as Letty does) instead of just one. This turned out to be a good call. Otherwise, I stuck to my original curd.

The first taste of warm curd (I can never wait!) was good, but not quite as good as I’d hoped for. The lemon flavor was tad flat and the honey (which had been delicious right out of the jar) tasted dull. Flavorful sweeteners (like honey)—so delicious in their own right—can mute the flavors of other ingredients in a recipe and end up tasting dull themselves! So: what to do about my honey lemon curd?

Lemon Curd Cake

Lemon Curd Cake by Ali Slagle

Lemon Curd Rolls

Lemon Curd Rolls by Erin McDowell

When flavors need to be brightened, the usual solution is to add sugar, acid and/or salt. Like it or not, one thing must be said about refined white sugar: its perfectly neutral flavor makes other flavors pop. But I didn’t want to use sugar, and lemon curd doesn’t need more acid. So I divided the batch in half and added the tiniest bit of salt to one portion. The addition was transformative. Just a little salt—it works out to 1/16 teaspoon (just measure 1/8th teaspoon and use half of it)—for the whole batch brightened the lemon and brought the honey flavor back to life.

I love this newer version. Try it with lemons or limes.

Honey Lemon (or Lime) Curd

Honey Lemon (or Lime) Curd

Alice Medrich Alice Medrich
Makes 1 1/2 cups
  • 3-4 medium lemons or 6-7 limes
  • 3 large eggs or 1 large egg plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup (225 grams) honey
  • 1/16 teaspoon salt (I use fine sea salt)
  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter
Go to Recipe

How do you enjoy lemon or lime curd? Let us know in the comments!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Bake, DIY Food