Sunday, March 21, 2010

Heavenly Lemon Cream

So, I have a lemon "thing." I've mentioned that I really love it. Really, really. And I'm constantly telling you that I've found my new favorite lemon dessert. And I'm going to do it again. Because I LOVE this stuff. It is so fantastically creamy, silky, smooth, and luscious. It's like lemon curd, except creamy. I made it last year on a whim and have been itching for another occasion to make it. I had to make cupcakes for a church function last night and decided my cupcakes called for divine lemon frosting.

This isn't technically a frosting. It is intended as a lemon cream for a tart shell. And it's perfectly acceptable for that. This stuff is so good, it's fabulous on its own. And it's very rich. But I decided to use it to pipe on cupcakes. After refrigeration, it's sturdy enough to pipe on cupcakes and hold its shape, although they do require refrigeration. It softens considerably after being out of the fridge for awhile.

It seems like a lot of work, and there is a lot of time over a stove and a lot of steps, but once you finish, you realize it wasn't that bad and it was completely worth it. Next time you want lemon pie or lemon frosting that isn't really lemon frosting, try this stuff. It is soooo good. I found the recipe here.

Makes enough for 1 Tart for about 8 servings
Or frosts about 20 cupcakes, generously

1 cup sugar
finely grated zest from 3 lemons
4 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 4-5 lemons)
2 sticks, plus 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small chunks (that's 21 Tbsp. total, or 10.5 oz.)
1 fully baked tart shell (optional... only if you're actually making a lemon tart)

1. Begin by having a thermometer, preferably instant read, a strainer, and blender or food processor ready.

2. Bring a few inches of water to boil in a medium saucepan.

3. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a large metal bowl that can be fitted into the pan of simmering water. Before fitting the bowl over your boiling water, work the sugar and zest between your fingers, until the sugar is moist, grainy, and very aromatic. It'll turn the most beautiful shade of yellow.

4. Whisk in the eggs and lemon juice.

5. Fit your bowl into the pan of boiling water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Begin to cook your lemon mixture, stirring with a wire whisk. You want to cook the cream mixture until it reaches 180°F. As you whisk the cream over the heat--and you must keep whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling, you'll see that the cream starts out light and foamy. Then the bubbles will get bigger and as it gets closer to 180°F, it will start to thicken and the whisk will leave tracks. Have lots of patience-- depending on how much heat you're giving the cream, it can take more than 10 minutes to get to the correct temperature. (Sidenote here: using my instant read thermometer, I never reached 180°F. But I watched the time, increased my heat, and after about 15 minutes, decided that my cream was light and thick enough, that it looked right. But definitely give it at least 10 minutes and enough heat before you give up. I think I gave up around 172°F.)

6. Once you reach 180°F, pull the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of a blender (or food processor); discard the zest. Let the cream rest at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it reaches about 140°F, about 10 minutes.

7. Turn the blender to high, and with the machine going, add about 5 pieces of butter at a time. Scrape down the sides of the blender as needed while you're incorporating the butter. Once you've added all the butter, keep the machine going. Continue to beat the cream for another 3 minutes. As you continue to blend and incorporate air, the cream will take on a lighter, airy, and even more perfect texture. So don't get lazy...

8. Pour the cream into a container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to create an airtight seal and chill the cream for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Once you've chilled it, just whisk it a little to loosen it. Now you're ready to pour it into a tart shell or frost your cupcakes.

9. Lemon cream will keep in the fridge for 4 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.

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