Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A Taste of Yellow - Lemon Curd Shortbread

I am one of those people who does not have a favorite color. I’ve owned two cars in my life; one was cobalt blue, the other is silver. If you look in my closet, you will see a kaleidoscope of hues without any law or order to them, except, of course, the predominance of black, not as a favorite, but as a prerequisite uniform for working in New York City. Call me indecisive or greedy, but I pretty much like all colors for one quality or feeling or another. I’ve taken any number of pop quizzes on color in magazines and online, and the anything-but-pop L├╝scher Color Test, which puts so much exacting analytic gravitas on your choices that you need to check in with a psychiatrist to figure out what it all means. Then you have the study of color theory, that behemoth science of light spectrum that takes you to task for using the “wrong” colors together as if your whole world will explode if you do.

If pushed very hard, I would have to select but one color that seems to rally above all others. This color’s merit is particularly powerful as it literally shines and coaxes the dismal, grey landscape of waning winter days into the next season. Spring offers pinks, whites and purples, both restrained and riotous, but it is yellow, always yellow, that chases the clouds from the sky and reminds us, after months of dormancy, of life’s essence, warmth, cheer and light.

Bundled, blooming forsythia wait for new homes at a nursery.

When Easter proved to be wind whipped and weeping with showers, a lemon curd cheesecake saved the day. It was a given that I would return to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s incomparable lemon curd recipe with a yellow so dramatically saturated, one suspects artifice dropped from a tiny plastic bottle. The world is full of metals, clays, and gems that are ground into pigments for a painter’s palette, but there is other natural artistry at work every time an egg is cracked, its golden yolk spilling nourishment, sunshine, light and hope on the canvas of our days.

Lemon Curd Shortbread - Adapted from The Ultimate Lemon Butter Bar Recipe



10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups white all-purpose flour


Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream butter with the sugars until light and fluffy. Add all the flour to butter and mix quickly with fingers until dough compacts into very large, loose crumbs with all the flour absorbed. Do not be concerned that the dough does not form a ball. Empty dough into an 8 inch by 8 inch metal baking pan that has been lined with aluminum foil (do not grease the foil) long enough to extend beyond pan from one side to the opposite. This will serve as the handles to easily lift the shortbread from the pan after it has cooled and is ready to cut. Lightly and evenly press and pat dough into pan. Prick dough all over with a fork. Bake on center rack of oven for 35 minutes or until dough is biscuit golden but not browned.

Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Pour and smooth lemon curd (recipe follows) on top of shortbread, returning it to oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow pan to cool completely before transferring pan to refrigerator, chilling a minimum of ½ hour before carefully lifting shortbread from pan to a cutting board, keeping foil intact. Carefully cut shortbread into squares with a long knife. The lemon curd will cut clean since it has had time to set. Dust squares with powdered sugar (optional).

Serves 8 generously.

Lemon Curd


1/3 cup strained fresh lemon juice
4 egg yolks
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


While shortbread is baking, beat the egg yolks and sugar in a non-reactive medium saucepan. Add lemon juice and butter. Over low-medium heat cook the mixture, continuously stirring. It will slowly thicken and become more yellow and opaque as it cooks. It must not be allowed to boil. If the saucepan steams, remove from heat and continue to stir until temperature lowers. Curd is done when a wooden spoon swiped in the mixture is thickly colored yellow. Remove from heat and quickly pour contents through a large strainer into a non-reactive bowl, pressing the solids then discarding them. Stir in lemon zest.

This post is my submission to Barbara, of Winos and Foodies, who is hosting A Taste of Yellow - LIVESTRONG, a food blog event honoring and remembering those whose lives have been affected by cancer.


  1. Susan thank you for your entry. I've made shortbread and I've made lemon curd - but I've never put the two together. These are perfect.

  2. Lemon curd. I sincerely believe that lemon curd is as perfect a food as food gets. Fat, zing, and sugar all in one bite: it doesn't get better.

    Thanks for reminding us all of the alchemy of a few perfect ingredients.

  3. Wow! I love lemon bars--and those look scrumptious! My moutn is watering (seriously).

  4. The reflected light on the top of the slices is lovely Susan. There's great fun to be had with yellow - so inviting, so warming.

    It's an interesting food-blogging event this one. Am just imagining sinking my teeth into the sweet/tart lemon curd and meeting crisp shortbread. Delicious.

  5. Thanks, Barbara. I'm happy to participate. I didn't think the recipe would work, that the shortbread would be soggy regardless of the hype, but was I wrong. I look forward to your round-up.

  6. Christina - I completely agree. The only reason the jarred stuff is so insipid is that they skimp on the lemon and the egg; there's not enough zing or color vitality.

    Sher - They WERE mouth-watering. I have to take some over to my parents, lest we eat too many! As a lemon fan myself, I used a full 1/3 cup lemon juice, just a tad more than Beranbaum's recipe, to punch up the tang.

    Lucy - I'm so glad you like the shine shot. It really caught my eye, too. Resistance is futile.

    Thank you all for your kind remarks!

  7. My husband is a lemon curd fanatic, and a new baker -- I'm going to send him this recipe in the hope that he makes some for me! Beautiful photos, by the way.

  8. Thank you, Lydia. I think your husband, as a new baker, will embrace this recipe even though it does have several steps. I've made the lemon curd several times now, so it's second nature -- fast and by rote.

  9. Such an exquisite dessert made with such simple ingredients and such a simple preparation. I love it.

  10. Thanks, Cynthia. Lemon curd has got to be one of my top sweet favorites now that I'm making it myself.

  11. Everybody loves lemon and these look like they would be a for sure winner!

  12. They look fantastic! I love such flavorful treats!