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A perfect tart lemon curd is one of those foods I can never get enough of. Like salted caramel, it’s a dangerous thing to have around – if I know either are in the fridge, I’ll probably (definitely) be sneaking spoonfuls straight from the jar.
I have, in fact, been known to make a larger-than-necessary quantity of lemon curd just so I don’t eat the whole lot before I can use it for the cake, tart or gift I’d planned on. You hopefully have more restraint than me, in which case you won’t need a double batch, but this method for steamed lemon curd is so incredibly easy that you might find yourself wanting to make it every time you have a few lemons to spare.
I discovered this method thanks to Kim, an appliance demonstrator from Sydney who I met at a conference a while back. She, in turn, got it from her colleague Bridget, and I am eternally grateful to both of them (my waistline, not so much). It makes so much sense, and when I shared the basic principle on the Steam and Bake Facebook page a few months ago it caused a bit of excitement, so I figure it’s time to bring it to the rest of you.
Why steam lemon curd instead of using a double boiler?
There’s nothing wrong with the old double boiler method for lemon curd, where you whisk the juice, sugar and eggs in a bowl set over simmering water, before slowly beating in cold butter to create a glossy, thick emulsion. It’s arm-breaking work, though, because you have to whisk constantly for a long time to achieve perfectly smooth curd. If you don’t whisk carefully enough, or the mixture gets too hot, it’ll curdle, and no one wants curdled curd, right?
This method, where you’re going to whisk everything together at the start and pop the bowl into your steam oven set at a low temperature, is pretty much foolproof, and there’s a lot less stirring or whisking going on. Why? Because the relatively low heat is going to set the eggs in your lemon curd at exactly the right temperature to thicken the mixture without overcooking it. You stir the curd once during cooking and once at the end, to even out the temperature of the mixture and smooth it out, but apart from that it’s hands off while the steam oven does its work.
What can you use lemon curd for?
For the uninitiated, lemon curd makes for a brilliant layer or sponge cake filling and an easy cheat’s lemon tart when dolloped into sweet shortcrust pastry shells. It can be swirled through partially-thawed vanilla ice cream and refrozen for a lemon-swirled ice cream dessert, or spooned over the top of a pavlova with softly whipped cream and a handful or two of berries. And it makes a gorgeous food gift when put into a pretty jar tied with a ribbon (I like to gift it with a little stack of shortbread cookies, which are lovely dipped into the curd as an indulgent dessert).
If you don’t want to get all fancy turning it into dessert, lemon curd is great spread onto toast or, you know, you could forget the toast and just eat it from the jar.
Happy steam oven cooking, see you here again soon.
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Steamed Lemon Curd
- 3.5 oz butter melted
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 lemons large, to give 2/3 cup/150ml juice plus the zest; you may need extra lemons for the juice quantity
- 2 eggs large
- 2 egg yolks
- Put all the ingredients into a heatproof bowl. I like a Pyrex one because I can see everything that’s going on. I don’t usually recommend glass for steaming because it conducts heat poorly around the food, but it’s going to be in there for a while so it’ll get up to temperature fine. Whisk to combine well, but don’t worry if the melted butter seems to settle on top when you stop whisking. It’ll sort itself out later.
- Put bowl into your steam oven and set to 175°F/80°C, steam setting (full steam/100% humidity). There’s no need to cover the bowl. Steam the curd for 15 minutes, then stir well and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until thickened to your liking. The curd will noticeably thicken when the overall temperature reaches about 170°F/76°C, and continue to do so up to the oven’s temperature of 175°F/80°C.
- When the curd is done, pass it through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl or jug, before storing in a well-covered container or lidded jar in the refrigerator (if it’s not well-covered it will pick up ‘fridge smell’ very easily).
- These quantities make a very sharp lemon curd, which I love. If you’d prefer yours to sit more on the sweet end of the scale, reduce the lemon juice down to half a cup.
- You can increase the quantities of this recipe without much trouble at all. I’ve gone up to a quadruple batch and the only difference was that it took about 10 extra minutes in the oven.
- I’ve given directions below to strain the curd after cooking. If you’re not bothered by the possibility of a tiny fleck of cooked egg white or bits of zest in your finished curd, you don’t have to bother, though I really prefer the smoothness of the strained version.
- Cooked lemon curd will keep, covered in the refrigerator, for about a week. I’m told it freezes well, though it has never once lasted long enough for me to test that out. If you freeze it, you’ll want to give your curd a good stir after thawing.
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If you’re after more sweet combi steam recipes, the Desserts and Cakes and Baking index pages have plenty. For the ultimate in easy-to-make food gifts, which I always find are in high demand at this time of year, try the 12-minute brownies.