A simple dessert, humble and luscious with few and basic ingredients. Very British. Perhaps that is why it has become a family favorite and staple at family gatherings. Or perhaps it is because it is so very tasty and I happen to love making it!
The original recipe, which through many makings I've tweaked a bit, comes from the Better Than Store-Bought cookbook.
Every cook has their version, Martha Stewart, Ina Garten included. But this one I still think is the best, even with my own fiddling.
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 stick (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon rind - zest without the white stuff
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk.
My first changes here - first of all I always double the recipe from the get-go. I also add all the zest removed from as many lemons as are used. More of that later.
1. In the top of a double boiler, combine the sugar, butter, juice and zest. Stir over moderate heat until the sugar melts.
This takes a bit so in between occasional stirring, you can beat the eggs, which is step 2.
[The original recipe says to strain the eggs. I now leave that till later when I strain the whole batch at the end of the cooking. This is also the reason I add the extra zest]
3. Once the butter and sugar have melted, stir the beaten eggs into the hot mixture stirring constantly.
Cook over simmering water for 15 or 20 minutes - stirring often - until the mixture has thickened a good deal.
[I have found a whisk works best. And do stir frequently. Otherwise you get a lemony eggy concoction.]
Don't fret. It does become thicker as it cools. It only seems like you are stirring a long time.
Take from heat and strain the whole business into a jar or bowl. Let cool then refrigerate. Sealed, it keeps well in the fridge for several weeks.
I have also learned that if poured into clean jars, topped with hot lids (such as Kerr) it will seal tightly giving it a non-refrigerated shelf life.
Tip: As I always double the recipe, I use 5 whole eggs now rather than bothering with removing the whites as in the original recipe. (What do you do with one or two whites anyway other than make meringues? But that's another recipe.)
I have found that the whole eggs make the final product more delicate and lighter.
How should this delicacy be served?
It can be used as a cake filling or as a tart base.
Dear friends put it bread, toast, English muffins or crumpets.
That's the proper English way.
We generally serve it with plain or angel food cake and fresh berries. Recently, it has been discovered that Trader Joe's Triple Ginger cookies are perfect for just dipping in and eating.
But then there is also the acceptable way as little Great-grand Caity-Ru eats it - in a small bowl with a spoon. Fingers work just as well as spoons, incidentally
And of course, it should be served with large pots of good tea. Coffee if you must.
Make it and enjoy with my blessing!
When last here The Mom asked Little Lad if he wanted some ginger cookies "yes, and some of Gran-Nan's yellow stuff too. Wee Miss said "just curd for me."
Better Than Store-Bought; Helen Witty, Elizabeth Schneider Colchie; Harper & Row, Publishers