curd | dip/salsa/spread | filling | french | fruit | ice cream | lemon | quick & easy | recipe | traditional with a twist | vanilla

‘Vanille français’ sounds nice, ‘curd’ does not.

July 8, 2011

It really doesn’t. It sounds gross. Curd. Go on, say it. Curd. It rhymes with ‘turd’ for Christ’s sakes! What kind of name is that for something as smooth, delicious and lovely as this?

‘This’ being David Lebovitz‘s “improved” lemon curd. For those of you not in-the-know about fruit curd, here’s a little Wikipedia to help you out:

Fruit curd is a dessert spread and topping usually made with lemon, lime,[1] orange or raspberry.[2] The basic ingredients are beaten egg yolks, sugar, fruit juice and zest which are gently cooked together until thick and then allowed to cool, forming a soft, smooth, intensely-flavored spread. Some recipes also include egg whites and/or butter.[3]

In late 19th and early 20th century England, home-made lemon curd was traditionally served with bread or scones at afternoon tea as an alternative to jam, and as a filling for cakes, small pastries and tarts.[4] Homemade lemon curd was usually made in relatively small amounts as it did not keep as well as jam. In more modern times larger quantities are feasible because of the use of refrigeration. Commercially manufactured curds often contain additional preservatives and thickening agents.[5]

Modern commercially made curds are still a popular spread for bread, scones, toast or muffins. They can also be used as a flavoring for desserts or yogurt. Lemon-meringue pie, made with lemon curd and topped with meringue, has been a favorite dessert in Britain and the United States since the nineteenth century.[4]

Curds are different from pie fillings or custards in that they contain a higher proportion of juice and zest, which gives them a more intense flavor.[6] Also, curds containing butter have a smoother and creamier texture than both pie fillings and custards; both contain little or no butter and use cornstarch or flour for thickening. Additionally, unlike custards, curds are not usually eaten on their own.

This recipe is actually a Meyer lemon curd, but by adapting the amount of sugar you can use regular lemons (as I did). I really had no idea that Meyer lemons were that different from regular lemons until I did a little reading on it. Apparently, they’re native to China & are thought to be a cross between a mandarin orange + lemon, and are milder & sweeter than regular lemons, Eureka for example. Meyer lemons were actually banned in the U.S. for a while! DISEASED REBEL LEMONS! Sounds like a punk rock band.

By the mid 1940s the Meyer lemon had become widely grown in California. However, at that time it was discovered that a majority of the Meyer lemon trees being cloned were symptomless carriers of the Citrus tristeza virus, a virus which had killed millions of citrus trees all over the world and rendered other millions useless for production.[5] After this finding, most of the Meyer lemon trees in the United States were destroyed to save other citrus trees.

A virus-free selection was found in the 1950s by Don Dillon of the California company Four Winds Growers,[6] and was later certified and released in 1975 by the University of California as the ‘Improved Meyer lemon’ — Citrus × meyeri ‘Improved’.[7][8]

Crazy the shit you find out just by looking up recipes. Anyway, this post is going to be pretty huge, because it’s really two recipes in one. See, with this lemon curd, I made a French vanilla ice cream. Or, ‘vanille français.’ Why? Because a) it was a request by my mother for her birthday on the 5th and b) I had seen during my numerous searches on this big, beautiful interwebs that some people mixed their lemon curds with frozen yogurt or ice cream, and it sounded good. Although lemon curd is also great on toast, scones, crumpets, or as a filling in cakes or cupcakes.

The curd cooking away…

LEMON CURD (from David Lebovitz)

Makes 1 cup


  • ½ cup freshly-squeezed Meyer or regular lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup sugar (or ½ cup, if using regular lemons)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed


  1. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl, and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, eggs, and salt.
  3. Add the butter cubes and set the pan over low heat, whisking constantly until the butter is melted. Increase the heat and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and just begins to become jelly-like. It’s done when you lift the whisk and the mixture holds its shape when it falls back into the saucepan from the whisk.
  4. Immediately press the curd through the strainer. Once strained, store the lemon curd in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to one week.

Some people like a little zest in their curd, feel free to add a teaspoon or so of it if you do. David says it makes a cup, but I actually got 1 ¼ cups myself. My lemons were pretty big though, and I didn’t want to waste any juice so I just squeezed it all out. Haha. That entire sentence sounds dirty. Anyway, I’m sure this could be doubled or tripled easily if you want to use it to fill a cake, etc.

Alright, well that ends the fruit curd portion of our program. So now, on to the ice cream! Vanilla ice cream has always been my favorite, just like vanilla cupcakes have always been my favorite. Some may find that boring, but really, when you’re as awesome as I am, you can’t have too much other stuff going on, you have to let the awesome-ness speak for itself. Vanilla is always the perfect backdrop or companion for everything. But have you ever wondered what the difference was between vanilla & French vanilla?

While today’s ice cream enthusiasts may view vanilla as a bland or generic offering, it used to be considered a very exotic flavor indeed. Because it became such a popular choice for consumers, vanilla became the standard bearer of the ice cream family, closely followed by chocolate and strawberry. The complex flavors created by the vanilla bean, a member of the orchid family, were never intended to become a generic base, however.

There are several variations on the standard vanilla flavor, including a particularly rich and creamy variety called French vanilla. While both traditional vanilla and French vanilla ice creams can still be used as a base for milkshakes and other dessert treats, there are a few differences between them. Traditional vanilla flavor is derived from the seeds of a vanilla bean pod, or at least a synthetic chemical equivalent called vanillin. French vanilla is more of an egg custard before freezing, and contains egg yolks for a richer consistency.

Traditional vanilla ice cream is also likely to contain small flecks of vanilla beans, but French vanilla is often strained to remove these flecks. Because of the egg yolks, French vanilla ice cream also appears to be a deeper shade of yellow than traditional vanilla ice cream. French vanilla ice cream is often viewed as creamier in texture than many standard vanilla ice cream brands, which may be a result of starting with a custard base instead of cream.



The term French vanilla is often used to designate preparations that have a strong vanilla aroma, and contain vanilla grains. The name originates from the French style of making ice cream custard base with vanilla pods, cream, and egg yolks. Inclusion of vanilla varietals from any of the former or current French dependencies noted for their exports may in fact be a part of the flavoring, though it may often be coincidental. Alternatively, French vanilla is taken to refer to a vanilla-custard flavor.[19] Syrup labeled as French vanilla may include custard, caramel or butterscotch flavors in addition to vanilla.



Well that settles that, huh? Ya learn somethin’ new everyday. The reason for that particular little culinary history lesson is that I’m sharing today a recipe for French vanilla ice cream. It does not have the little black vanilla seeds in it, true to form, and it is indeed quite an off-white color.  This recipe is from the little booklet that came with my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, so the directions given are for that particular brand. The thing is, it requires an ice cream maker. If you don’t have the KitchenAid one & you have another brand/model, that’s totally fine, just mix the ingredients together either with a hand mixer or another stand mixer, refrigerate for the 8 hours +, and then just freeze according to the directions of your ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker- buy one. But be forewarned: you’ll make a lot of new “best friends.” Anyway, I mixed mine for 30 minutes in the freezer bowl and then froze it for a while (couple of hours) since it wasn’t firm enough for me. It was like soft-serve consistency, which is nice, and I won’t lie… I ate more than I should’ve while it was soft. But I like it better firmer, and it was pretty hot & humid, so it melted fast anyway.

There’s Lola, mixin’ it up…



  • 2 ½ cups half-and-half
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt


  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat half-and-half until very hot but not boiling, stirring often. Remove from heat, set aside.
  2. Place egg yolks and sugar in a mixer bowl. Attach bowl and wire whip to mixer. Turn to speed 2 and mix about 30 seconds, or until well blended and slightly thickened. Continuing on speed 2, very gradually add half-and-half and mix until blended. Return half-and-half mixture to the medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until small bubbles form around edge and mixture is steamy, stirring constantly. Do not boil.
  3. Transfer half-and-half mixture into large bowl; stir in whipping cream, vanilla and salt. Cover and chill thoroughly, at least 8 hours.
  4. Assemble and engage freeze bowl, dasher and drive assembly as directed. Turn to STIR (speed 1). Using a container with a spout, pour mixture into freeze bowl. Continue on STIR for 15-20 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved. Immediately transfer to serving dishes for soft-serve or freeze in an airtight container until firm. Prepare yourself for the deliciousness.
Served with lemon curd, blackberries & raspberries

Okay… this is the most amazing ice cream I ever had. The absolute best French vanilla ice cream EVER. I must stress the pure vanilla extract here. Usually, I don’t make a fuss because in a cupcake, especially chocolate or other flavor, it’s not really that big of a deal. But in this, you really need a good, true, real vanilla flavor. For a vanilla lemon curd ice cream, just spoon some of the curd (or all of it, depending how much you made/like) into the ice cream maker a few minutes before it’s ready. If you want streaks of it throughout, add it much closer to the end, just so there are ripples of lemon curd in it. If you want it mixed in completely, add it about 5-10 minutes to the end. The curd is also excellent served on top of the ice cream and then topped with fresh blackberries or raspberries, like I did above. The blackberries & raspberries were huge & beautiful… and also buy one, get one free, so you better believe I bought those babies. Vanilla ice cream is so easy to build on, you can top it with anything, or add anything. Add crushed cookies, fruit, jam, chocolate chips, brownie pieces, broken waffle cones, etc. Top it with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, butterscotch sauce, whatever! An Italian restaurant me & Jay go to serves their French vanilla ice cream in a parfait glass with two delicious, soft almond cookies. Amazing. You could even freeze it until it’s really firm, then sandwich it between two chocolate chip cookies to make a homemade Chipwich!

I know, there are like 10 egg yolks and 2 extra eggs in these recipes combined. A whole dozen. But, like the coconut cupcakes that take 5 eggs, it’s so worth it. And you can freeze the whites and use them to make meringue later on! Or, use the whites to make meringue, use the curd to fill little pie shells or tart shells (even store-bought ones), then top them with the meringue- and you have mini lemon meringue pies! So cute.

And that, children, concludes the most epic Cupcake Rehab post ever, a.k.a. the post of the century. After writing all of this up, I will now go and collapse on the floor and cradle my newly Carpal Tunnel ridden-wrists.

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