Introducing my deconstructed lemon tart.
Did I mention it’s 100% raw?
And this is what lemon curd looks like, using raw lemon zest & pith powders — with absolutely no eggs, no butter, no refined sugar, no cream, no cooking.
Most zesty and delicious.
So how did I get to this point? Let’s start at the very beginning.
How it all began. The inspiration for my raw, vegan lemon curd came from failed orange juice.
One day I decided to juice an aging bag of oranges by pulverising them in Mac (my Thermomix) and pressing the resultant pulp through a nutmilk bag. The pulp was too thick to press through, so I mixed it with a little water. The juice was viscous and bitter. Not wanting to admit defeat, I added honey, and then I allowed myself to get sidetracked for a few minutes before consumption.
When I tried to drink my glass of orange juice, I couldn’t — because it had jellified!
This reminded me of the high pectin content in citrus fruit and gave me the most fantastic idea, which became the mission for this blog post. I would make a lemon curd with only raw & organic ingredients. [For those of you who don’t yet know it, pectin is a highly soluble fibre that is naturally found in fruit and is used to set jam.]
My mission: to create a delicious, raw lemon curd. This meant organic ingredients, no eggs, no butter, no refined sugar, and no heat (above 45°C). Impossible, you say? I don’t even know what that word means!
Step 1: research it, part 1. I researched lemons and their properties. Did you know:
- aside from being high in fibre, the pith of the lemon is a good source of vitamin C?
- the lemon oil in lemon zest (limonene) has anti-cancer properties?
- the pith of the lemon holds most of the pectin content?
Step 2: prepare for it. I have been separating lemons into their zest (dehydrated then powdered), pith (dehydrated then powdered) and juice for a while now. Without really having a formula in mind, I still felt the need for more. So I made more. Lots more.
This is a glimpse of my workspace during the production process:
Step 3: research it, part 2. I researched traditional curd recipes to give myself a decent benchmark, and I discovered the same basic ingredients featured (eggs, sugar, butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, sometimes cream) in varying quantities.
In the end, I used the following recipes as comparatives:
I used these comparatives to get a sense of the fat : sugar : zestiness ratios, and I relied on my memory of fresh lemon curd to compare the look and mouthfeel.
Step 4: create it. So I conducted a few foodly experiments over the course of a couple of lazy 40°C afternoons.
I developed three different recipes that looked reasonable on paper, based on varying degrees of pith and kuzu.
I had decided that kuzu [= wild Japanese arrowroot] would be a good option for partial jellification after spying this Cooking with Dog video. And then, on experimenting with a little kuzu myself, I discovered that it would only gel after exposure to heat above 80°C, and not when brought into contact with an acid. This discounted it for my raw experiments, however its interesting properties and health benefits (especially for circulation and digestion) mean that I may use it for another purpose in the near future.
Now I’d like to tell you a little story about the three curds:
- Option 1 was too fatty. It involved cacao butter and coconut oil as the fats, and I found that the cacao butter was too strong a flavour for my curd;
- Option 2 was too…meh. It used the right ingredients in the wrong quantity; and
- Option 3 tasted just right. We ate it all up.
On refrigeration, the preferred option was very clear; Option 3 was the only one that didn’t chill beyond stirability. The other two developed a hard layer across the top that could not be reincorporated until the overall mixture warmed.
Only after all of my dehydration efforts did I stop to think that dehydrating the key ingredients may deactivate the pectin by changing its structure too greatly via dehydration & pulverisation. [Are there any food technologists out there who can enlighten me?]
This led to Option 4: three lemons blended in my Thermomix with some water and agave syrup. It tasted too bitter and didn’t set. Such a shame.
Step 5: use it. The verdict? I came up with a great curd substitute but, for someone who had something of a lemon curd addiction in her early teens [thanks to a certain friend’s mum & her famous lemon curd cake!], it did not have the same comfort factor that I remembered.
Option 3 was definitely the stand-out [closely followed by Option 1, as judged by two discerning adults and a 2-year old] — lots of zing, a decent texture and just enough sweetness — so I am sharing this recipe with you today.
Recipe #112: Lemon curdlike. Aka “I can’t believe it’s not lemon curd!”.
You will need:
► 65g coconut oil
► 100g lemon juice
► 1 tsp dehydrated lemon zest powder (= ~4 tsp fresh zest)
► 10 tsp dehydrated lemon pith powder
► 125g agave syrup
► 1 small pinch Himalayan crystal salt, pounded until fine [I used my mortar & pestle for this]
► ½ vanilla pod, seeds removed and used elsewhere, cut into pieces
Non Thermomix method:
1. If the coconut oil is solid, warm it over a double-boiler until it is liquid.
2. Whisk all ingredients until combined really well.
Thermomix method: Whiz all ingredients at 37°C and speed 2 for 2 minutes.
Then, for both methods:
1. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.
2. Strain the mixture into a bowl through a fine chinois, pressing it through the mesh with a spatula and discarding the pieces of vanilla pod and whatever is leftover.
3. Chill for at least 2 hours, by placing the bowl of curd into a cold water bath, which is then placed in the fridge.
Serve in a generous smear on fresh bread, or pipe into raw almond petit four cases for a little class.
Or sprinkle with coconut chips & nutmeg over a “sand” of almond meal & coconut sugar if you like the look of my deconstructed lemon tart [by the way, it happens to be delicious!].
Addenda of 6 January 2011:
(1) I added a few more words to make it really clear that there is no cooking involved.
(2) Note that I powdered my Himalayan crystal salt in my mortar & pestle before using. No one wants to discover an undissolved salt crystal in their lemon tart!