So…whisper sweet nothings

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner and bleak winter nights abounding, there has to be something to put a spring in your step. That something is a ‘sweet something’. Not just any sweet, but one with sizzle – the intense flavour of citrus – designed to perk up your taste buds, and put a smile on your face.

Lemon curd is an essential recipe, a foundation for many seductive variations which all receive rave reviews. Here they are for your enjoyment: sweet nothings.

Lemon Curd
The name ‘lemon curd’ is not at all inspiring. Given the numerous ways it can be used, and the sighs of delight when it or any of its variations are consumed, I think ‘lemon dream’ would be more appropriate.
Lemon curd can be used as a filling for tartlet shells, spread as a filling on cakes or jelly rolls or even as a topping on piping hot, just-made scones.

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp (15 mL)    grated lemon rind

Whisk together sugar, eggs, lemon juice and grated lemon rind until smooth in a stainless steel saucepan, then heat over medium-high heat, whisking frequently. Nothing will happen for the first two minutes, but do not move away; the sauce heats up quickly then thickens rapidly. Once this happens, it can burn. Watch it carefully. Once the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat and whisk continually for about one minute. Remove from heat. Spoon lemon curd into a mixing bowl to cool and thicken. Makes about 1 cup / 250 mL. May be kept in the refrigerator covered for up to one week, but it also freezes well for up to two months.

Lemon Semi-Freddo
This rich lemon ice-cream or semi-freddo (semi frozen ice-cream) is a delightful finish to a dinner party, especially as it is dead easy to make and can be prepared up to a week ahead covered and frozen. Serve small portions (it is rich!) in pretty demi-tasse cups or wine glasses. For best flavour, remove it from the freezer at least half hour before serving  to allow it to soften slightly.

1 recipe Lemon Curd (cooled)
1 cup (250 mL) whipping cream, whipped

In a deep bowl, whip cream on high speed until stiff peaks appear. Fold whipped cream into cooled lemon curd and spoon 1/2 cup (125 mL) portions into pretty serving dishes. Cover and freeze at least one hour before serving or up to one week ahead.

Hot Lemon Souffles
Whoever said soufflés were hard to make? They are pretty indestructible and certainly have the WOW factor (always a plus if you are the cook)

1 recipe lemon curd
4 egg whites (best at room temperature)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 cup (50 mL) sifted icing sugar
granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Prepare six or eight (1 cup/250 mL) ramekins by spraying with baking spray and sprinkling with granulated sugar. Rotate the ramekins to make sure sugar has the chance to stick to the damp surfaces; pour out any excess. Beat egg whites with 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt on high speed using electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in icing sugar until stiff, glossy peaks are produced. You should be able to put the bowl upside down and the mixture will not fall out. Lighten the lemon mixture with 1/3 of the whipped meringue then gently fold in the remaining meringue until there are no white streaks. Spoon lemon meringue mixture into the ramekins and run your finger around the edge of the ramekin to create a narrow tunnel around the outside edge. Cover and refrigerate up to two hours before baking or bake immediately for 15 minutes. Immediately remove from oven; sprinkle with sifted icing sugar and serve. If desired, serve the soufflé with a spoonful of  blueberry sauce.

Blueberry Sauce
Another simple recipe, this has a natural affinity for lemon. Serve a spoonful to top lemon curd in tarts, on the semi-freddo or to garnish the soufflé.

1 cup (250 mL) frozen wild blueberries
1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh lemon juice
2 tsp (10 mL) cornstarch

In a stainless steel saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is bubbly and thickened, about five minutes. Remove from heat. Makes 1 cup (250 mL).

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

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