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Meyer lemon season is upon us. A Meyer lemon is a hybrid of a lemon and a Mandarin orange or a sweet orange (Wikipedia entry). They were originally imported from China in the early 1900's and were given the name Meyer lemon after agricultural explorer Fred Meyer, an employee of the USDA who first introduced the plant to the US. Today, most Meyer lemons are grown in California and peak season is November, December, and January.
Nick and I were walking through the grocery store a few weeks ago and came upon these beauties. We threw a couple in the cart with no particular plan for them except that they would become something delicious - and you can see by the title that they fulfilled their prophecy.
The finished product looked something like this. The gelato was super smooth and had a great balance of tartness, sweetness, and creaminess.
I was sitting around the house waiting for a repairman to come and remembered that we had put the ice cream bowl in the freezer a few days ago, so why not make some ice cream? I could have done something productive, like say go to the gym or clean the bathroom, but no, ice cream sounded so much better. Once I determined that I was going to turn the lemons into ice cream I decided that I would start by making a lemon curd.
I immediately went to my copy of
Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
hoping to find a lemon curd recipe, and I did. If you don't already own this book and you enjoy baking, I would highly recommend it. It is a wealth of techniques and recipes and is constantly inspiring me to bake. I am not going to post Dorie's exact recipe but the ingredients are pictured below (butter, sugar, Meyer lemon juice, whole egg and egg yolks). For those of you who do own this book, the recipe is on page 462.
Note the Straus butter, which you can read more about in this post.
This curd is really very easy. I prepped all my ingredients, including cleaning my lemons before I zested them (the zest will be used later). I don't always remember to do this and I feel like it may get overlooked by some who mainly juice their citrus. You can also see that there are quite a few egg yolks in this recipe, and I did save the whites and freeze them in individual servings for later use. More about this here.
I dumped all the ingredients in a sauce pot (no double boiler) and turned the heat on medium low.
Dorie's recipe says to stir constantly with a spatula. Dorie, really? I should have known to use a whisk, especially since this pot was getting direct heat, but I wasn't really thinking until this began to happen:
Oops I quickly strained my mixture and returned the liquid to the pot sans cooked eggs and pulp. After seeing how much pulp was in the mixture, next time I will strain the lemon juice before adding it.
No harm no foul, as you can see. It was fine and I continued to whisk until it thickened nicely, about 4-6 minutes. It is really important to whisk constantly as the eggs can curdle quickly.
You will know it has thickened enough when you run your finger down the spatula and the curd does not run into the void you created. Remember that the curd will thicken significantly as it cools, so trust the test.
Once it is at the desired thickness, take it off the heat immediately, pour it into a bowl and press some plastic wrap against the curd to create an airtight seal. I used a glass bowl here, however, it is probably better to use a metal bowl as it will not hold the heat as much and therefore will cool faster.
Cool this to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator if you are not going to use it immediately. This curd will keep in the fridge in an air tight container for up to 2 months and can be used in this form for so many delicious treats. Make a lemon tart, spread it on a cookie or loaf cake, or just eat it with a spoon if you are so inclined.
While I was waiting for the curd to cool, I researched how I was going to turn the curd into gelato, or ice cream, or frozen custard. Whatever lingo works for you. I don't know if this would technically be considered gelato, because I did add heavy cream and I read that authentic gelato is made with whole milk. However, I am crowning this a gelato based on the texture.
Anyway, I read a few recipes and some message board posts that involved adding various amounts of heavy cream, milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. I consolidated what I read into this:
1 Cup Heavy Cream
12 Oz Lemon Curd (this is the yield of the Dorie Greenspan recipe)
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice or Limoncello
Zest of 1 Meyer Lemon (which I zested earlier before I juiced my lemons for the curd)
I decided on these ingredients in these amounts mainly because it seemed simple and did not require me to go to the grocery store again. I based it on this interesting recipe from the BBC which I liked because it called for the amount of curd that I had. Oddly though, this recipe included the highly technical instruction of whisking the cream until "floppy", whatever that means. I assumed the intention was to only whip the cream minimally since other recipes I read did not call for whipping the cream at all. Anyone who can enlighten me on this technique of "flopping" cream - I'm listening.
I used Limoncello because we had some in the house from Nick's homemade Limoncello experiment. Really, you just need a small amount of liquid to loosen the curd up a bit.
I added the Limoncello and zest to the curd and whisked until combined. I whipped the heavy cream until it just started to thicken (I stopped when I thought the cream looked "floppy") and then added the curd mixture to the cream and whisked until combined.
The final result should look like this:
If you are using a mixer, make sure that you scrape the stuff on the whisk attachment back into the bowl so you do not throw away all the zesty goodness that gets stuck in the wires. I then chilled this mixture in the fridge for a few hours - at least 2.
I added the chilled mixture to the ice cream machine bowl and let it mix for about 20-25 minutes. Then I put it into a container and froze it in the freezer overnight. It definitely needs a good freeze to set up, so don't plan on eating this the same day.
Presto. The gelato was soft and creamy and it began to melt almost as soon as it hit the bowl, above, it is served in an almond tuile cookie. I am now thinking that it may be worthwhile to chill the ice cream bowls before serving this to help retard the melting process.