Easy Lemon Curd

You’re getting kind of a half-assed post this week.

This  was supposed to be about an intensely delicious-sounding lemon coffee cake with lemon curd and lemon crumble.

Sadly, in execution, the whole affair was a flop.  It was heavy, the crumble didn’t brown properly and tasted (at least I thought) like raw flour.

I’m going to continue tinkering with the recipe.  Because really, if I can get it to work, this combo could change the world.

What couldn’t wait was the insanely easy recipe for lemon curd included in the recipe.  I’ve spent my share of time with lemon curd and while not difficult from a technical standpoint, it does take time, patience and some wrist muscles.

This recipe?  In the microwave.  I was skeptical at first.  At our house, the microwave generally only gets used to heat those little bags of brown rice from Trader Joes.  I never actually cook anything in it.  But this, I had to try.

The result was gorgeous.  Shiny, lemony and not a lump to be found.  I’m a little nervous about having a lemon curd recipe so easily at my fingertips.  In my book, lemon curd is nearly as dangerous as Nutella.

Quick Lemon Curd

Southern Living


  • 6 lemons
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs


  1.  Wash, dry and zest the lemons (you should get about 2 TBS zest).
  2. Cut and squeeze lemons to equal 1 C juice.
  3. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended.
  4. Gradually add lemon juice to butter mixture, beating at low speed.  Stir-in zest.  Mixture may look curdled.  That’s okay.
  5. Transfer to a medium microwave-safe bowl.
  6. Microwave at high for 5 minutes, stirring at 1-minute intervals.
  7. Microwave 1-2 more minutes, stirring at 30 second intervals until mixture thickens, coats the back of a spoon and starts to mound slightly when stirred.
  8. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on warm curd (to prevent a skin) and chill 4 hours, or until firm.
  9. Store in an airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  10. Beat-in eggs one-at-a-time until just blended.



Any excuse

While gathering inspiration for ways to rid my house of Nutella, I came across an absolutely lovely blog called The Cake Merchant. Oboist by profession, baker by passion, this author’s gorgeous photography and creative verve for desserts quickly pulled me in.

Of course, out of all the fancy and colorful creations she highlighted, the brown sugar and cinnamon shortbread caught my eye first.  As you know, I’m always looking for excuses to make shortbread and sable cookies.  And, reading the ingredients for a brown sugar and cinnamon variety had be wondering, “why did I think of that?”

Simple and elegant, what sets these cookies apart is a sprinkling of turbinado sugar that has been doused in cinnamon.

Like cinnamon toast, only a smidge more refined.

While the smell of cinnamon rising from the kitchen on a May morning felt a little bit anachronistic,  these would be a happy treat on a cool fall afternoon with a cup of tea.

 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Shortbread

adapted from The Cake Merchant


  • 1/4 C turbinado sugar
  • 1 TBS ground cinnamon
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted temp, at room temp but still cool to the touch
  • 1/2 C packed golden or light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt


  1. In a small bowl, combine turbinado sugar and first tablespoon of cinnamon.  Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift in flour then whisk-in salt and cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. Using a standing or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add-in flour, mixing until just combined.
  5. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface and work slightly until dough comes together.
  6. Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log (I like to use the cardboard round from paper-towels, split length-wise to help hold shape).  Wrap tightly in plastic and either refrigerate for an hour or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Slice logs into 1/3-1/2 inch rounds (depending on desired thickness).  Please on cookie sheet and sprinkle with turbinado and cinnamon mixture.  Press down just slightly so as not to change the shape of the dough, but help the sugar stay in place (you could also brush the cookies with an egg-wash first, then sprinkle the sugar if you didn’t want to press the sugar into the dough).
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes if using from fridge, add-one 3 minutes or so if from frozen.  The cookies should be golden brown on top but not around the edges.
  10. Cool on wire racks.  These will freeze well if tightly wrapped.

That which should never enter my house rides again

I blame Costco.  After a near five year reprieve from membership at the warehouse mecca, TD and found ourselves wandering its (too busy for a Friday night) aisles.  Wandering the aisles at Costco is never a good idea.  I can’t remember what we went in for but am fairly certain the case of beer, apple chips, baby naans and two huge containers of Nutella were not on the original list.

There are only two things that I don’t trust myself to casually keep on hand.  The first is Cheez-Its.The second, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is Nutella.  Late on the night of the Costco trip I could hear the chocolate-hazelnut spread calling to me from the garage in little Italian voices accompanied by an accordian.  I swear.

Something needed to be done with the Nutella…before I was done with it.

Cue the cupcakes.  I started with a great basic vanilla and buttermilk cupcake recipe from Sunset Magazine.  The recipe is simple and the resulting cupcakes have enough integrity (structurally speaking) to take on an inch or two of frosting.

Starting with my go-to buttercream recipe, I added a generous blob of Nutella.  And then I added some more for good measure.

After a quick roll in chocolate jimmies, I had, what I thought was a pretty good misdirection for the serious error in judgement that was the purchase of Nutella.  As a bonus, the cupcake recipe makes exactly 12 little cakes.  So, I didn’t even have an excuse to try one since my carrying container holds one dozen and my own sense of social propriety didn’t want to explain what happened to the missing one.

Malted Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream Frosting

cake adapted from Sunset Magazine

For the Cake


  • 6 TBS  unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 TSP vanilla
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C malted milk powder
  • 2/3 C buttermilk at room temp.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line pan with 12 cupcake wrappers.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, malted milk powder and salt into a medium bowl, set aside.
  3. In a bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and all the sugar until well blended.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on high speed until well blended.
  5. With mixer on low speed, beat about a third of the flour mixture into butter mixture, then about a third of the buttermilk. Repeat to beat in remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating in thirds. When all the flour is incorporated, beat mixture on medium speed just until well blended.
  6. Fill paper-lined or buttered muffin cups (1/3-cup capacity) about three-fourths full with batter (about 1/4 cup in each).
  7. Bake in a 350° oven until tops spring back when lightly touched in the center, 20 to 25 minutes.
  8. Cool on racks 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely.

For the frosting


  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 C plus 2 TBS sugar (superfine)
  • pinch of salt
  • 12 ounces (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 tsp cold espresso (optional)
  • 3/4 C Nutella


  1. In the heat-proof bowl of a stand-mixer, combine egg-whites, sugar and salt.  Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk constantly by hand until the mixture is warm to the touch and the sugar has dissolved.  The temp on an instant-read thermometer should read between 150-160 F.
  2. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Starting on low speed, and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, beat until the mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool (you can tell by touching the side of the bowl).  Process will take about 10 minutes.
  3. With mixer on medium-speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at-a-time, mixing well between each addition.  At some point the frosting will start to look curdled.  Don’t worry, just keep on going.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment.  Add-in espresso and Nutella mixing on low until everything is combined.
  5. Generously frost cupcakes.



Perfect for your Pik-a-nic Basquete

See what I did there?  No?  You will.

My mom came out to visit (and escape the interminable Montana winter) in late March.  We had lots of adventures and general shenanigans.  As someone who gets up even earlier than I do (an impossible feat according to TD), she spent some quality time perusing my little cookbook collection.

One of the recipes she pulled was for a gateau Basque out of Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table.  Sadly, this was during our “oven transition” and so my mom had to wait until her return to the Big Sky to try out this cookie-cake-pie recipe.

“You’ve got to make this” she said some weeks later.

“Sure mom, okay” was my reply and then, like most negligent children, I immediately forgot.

“Did you try out the sour cherry tart?” was her question the next time we spoke.

“Err…uhm…just waiting for the new oven to be installed,”  my excuse.

And so it came to pass that after a batch of French macarons and some chocolate chip cookies for TD, gateau Basque was the third item baked in the oven.

Have I ever mentioned that while probably the nicest lady on the planet, my mom is also the most evil?   This is a good example.  Under the pretext of encouraging baking experimentation, she bullied me into bringing this…this…temptation into my house.  Don’t let its simplicity fool you like it did me.  I got all the way to photographing this disk of sin without tasting its rich–soft–toothsome–tartness.  People find this hard to believe, but I generally am not all that interested in eating the things I make.  Baking and cooking for me is about short-term gratification in the creation and experimentation categories.

But in this case?  I was like Eve to the apple (or whatever you’d like to argue the parable referred to).  One bite.  And then another.  And, before I knew it, I’d eaten the entire wedge and found myself eyeing the remaining six (TD ate one too).  While significantly more sophisticated and elegant, there is also something about the gateau Basque that reminds me of the Hostess pies my brother and I coveted as children.   Which I think got me thinking this would be a perfect picnic dessert.  Transport it uncut and then serve up the wedges to be eaten by hand.

Original sin and evil parents aside, according to Dorie, this is the pastry in the Pays Basque region of France (and probably Spain).  There is even a museum dedicated to it (do I hear research junket?).  As if this lovely pastry isn’t enough to create drool-worthy geography, you can visit the region virtually through my talented friend Ann Mah.

While it is traditionally made with sour cherry jam (I found mine at Trader Joes) or pastry cream, I think it would be fantastic with everything from lemon curd to Nutella (which would certainly elevate this seductress from Old Testament to Dante’s Inferno).

A design note.  The top of the tart is traditionally etched with two interlocking scroll, or “S” designs.  Since Dorie said she likes a cross-hatch pattern, I tried that.  Sadly I did not make the pattern deep enough and it baked out.  I guess this means I’ll have to try again.  Darn.

Gateau Basque

Dorie Greenspan, Around My French Table


  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 TBS (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 1/4 C light brown sugar
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temp.
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4-1 C thick cherry jam (or cream anglais or lemon curd or….ohhh…Nutella)
  • 1 egg beaten w/ splash of water for glazing


  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or hand mixer), beat the butter and sugars together on medium for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the egg, beat for another 2 minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  The mixture may look curdled and that’s okay.
  4. Reduce mixer to low, add-in vanilla.  Then add-in dry ingredients in 2-3 additions mixing in between until just combined.
  5. Place a large sheet of plastic wrap, wax paper or parchment on your work surface.  Put half of the dough (it will be sticky) in the middle and shape into  a disk (get it as round and flat as possible…maybe…4-5 inches).  Repeat with second half of dough.
  6. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours (overnight is always good).
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously butter an 8X2 round cake pan.
  8. Remove rounds of dough from fridge and let them rest for a couple of minutes.  Then, roll each out into an 8 inch rounds (to avoid adding flour, I like to layer the dough between sheets of parchment and then roll).  If the dough breaks or cracks, not to worry, just piece it back together like you would pie dough.
  9. Fit one round into the bottom of the dough.  If it rides up the sides a little, this is good and will help to seal the top layer.
  10. Spoon 3/4 C of your preferred filling onto dough.  Start at the center and spread until you have about a 1-inch margin.
  11. Moisten the bare ring of dough (around the jam) with water.
  12. Add the second piece of dough, pressing around the edges to seal it.  Dorie says that no matter how tightly you press the dough, a little of the filling is bound to escape during baking.  This will give your gateau some character.
  13. Brush the top of the dough with egg wash.  Using the tines of a fork or a sharp pairing knife etch a cross-hatch pattern into the top (in the one pictured above I did not press deeply enough and the patten baked-out).
  14. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack, let cool for 5 minutes.
  15. Carefully run a blunt (dinner) knife around the edge of the cake. Turn the cake over onto the cooling rack and then quickly flip it right-side-up so that it can cool to room temp.
  16. I think this is best enjoyed within the first day or two.  While the taste isn’t compromised, the pastry looses some of its crispness the next day.