Lemon Curd

Well now, lemon curd… I first made my own in the UK for desserts such as lemon meringue pie. If you’ve read my post on Merdeka cake, then you might remember that I made my own lemon curd for the cake topping.

Now, this is not the super thick lemon curd that goes on bread like a butter spread. Because I was going to use it as an ingredient, I wanted a tangy curd that glazes over the top of the cake. Here’s how I made it.

Lemon curd ingredients (makes about 400 ml):

  • Juice and fine zest of 2 lemons (that is roughly 125 ml of juice)
  • 50 g of granulated sugar (you can adjust this amount according to your taste)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 90 g unsalted butter (cubed)
  • a pinch of salt

Method:

  • Boil some water in a large pan. Have a bowl sit on top of the pan, but not touching the water. You’re making a bain Marie (double boiler) here. You can just make the curd directly in the pan over the stove, but chances of making scrambled eggs and lemon are pretty high.
  • In the bowl, mix the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and sugar. So the mixture should be something like this:

  • Now, keep stirring to make sure the mixture is heated evenly and prevent any of the eggs from becoming lumpy. Watch the heat from the stove. You should be cooking with the steam of the hot water only.
  • The mixture should start thickening after 5 to 10 minutes. When it is getting to a jelly-like stage, add the butter and take it off the stove. Keep stirring until all the butter has melted.

  • Stir and stir to cool the curd. The curd should look all smooth and shiny.

  • Now I recommend that you strain your curd to make sure that you got a smooth custard. Just pass it through a sieve while it is still warm. Here’s mine being strained into a sterilised jam jar.

  •  Done! Once the curd cools completely, it will be a little thicker, like mayonaise.

If you want a thick curd, you can:

  • add some egg whites instead of just the yolks. Something like two egg yolks and two whole eggs should work.
  • add more butter. 120 g maybe?
  • you can also add a bit of corn starch to thicken… but I don’t like this option.
  • Whisking the mixture instead of just mixing with a spatula. Whisking will incorporate air into the mixture, making it increase in volume, and also a lighter and thicker curd… it’s almost like making zabaglione. Sort of…

Lemon curd keeps for about two weeks in the fridge (4 to 8 degrees celcius). Storing it in a sterilised jar will help prolong its shelf life.

-M.

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DIY Vanilla Extract

In Malaysia, you will always find a lot of imitation vanilla or vanilla essence. Only some supermarkets I found sells the real deal, but the price is a little too steep.

But that isn’t the real problem though. I mean, one can get whole vanilla beans nowadays and I find it a waste to throw away the bean pod husks. Sometimes, the bean would dry out already before I could use them… so what better way than to reuse them by making my own vanilla extract?

It’s simple. Just get an empty sterilised bottle and stuff it with vanilla pods (leftovers or fresh ones, up to you.) Then add vodka slowly to submerge the beans. I use Imperia vodka because I find that it doesn’t have a strong smell that you sometimes get from cheaper vodka such as Smirnoff. You can use rum too, but rum definitely has a smell. Close the bottle cap tightly and leave it. Couple months later and there you have it, your very own vanilla extract.

Here’s my vial of (half used) vanilla extract that had been steeped for 5 months. I’ve used two leftover seed pods (I scraped the seeds for some baking goodness) in this 50 ml bottle. The pods I got them on a trip to Bali, so it only costed me 5 USD for 24 beans! Cheap, no?

-M.

Making Almond Butter from Scratch: The Quest For Almond Butter in Malaysia!

Ever since I was a kid, I have always had a love affair with peanut butter. In fact, I think I ended up with a reputation of being addicted to stuff in my family. Thickly spread peanut butter on bread with jam and a cup of milo… mmm… oh my, how did the PB&J end up swimming in the milo? Oh well…

Of course, the worst part of growing up was discovering that my beloved creamy Skippy peanut butter contains hydrogenated oils which weren’t exactly good for me. Being a health conscious adult is sometimes a curse -_-;;

So with some healthy-eating prodding from sugarmama, I pondered on what to do… Leave peanut butter for something else? The problem with being in Malaysia is that the selection one gets is rather limited. For the longest time all the choices we had here were Skippy, Goobers or that horrible sugary peanut concoction that is Lady’s Choice (No offense, but the majority of Malaysian people tend to have a sweet tooth, I don’t, and unfortunately the peanut butter makers cater to them).

Anyway, while trying to decide who to partner with my favourite apple/rosehip jam, a trip to California happened. And it was there when I strayed from my love of many many years for some other nut butter whom I fell in love with on first taste.

You see, I walked into a local Trader Joe’s where I met and became acquainted with Almond Butter.

The good news was: almond butter is healthier than peanut butter providing the makers don’t mess around too much with it. The bad news? Long-distance relationships don’t tend to turn out well.

So once I had left California, I had a new dilemma: How to get ahold of almond butter in Malaysia.

Raiding the expat supermarkets in KL (Cold Storage, Mercanto, Village Grocers) resulted in me going home empty-handed. Desperate, I tried the health food stores, but the closest thing I got to that was sesame butter. Which was kinda nice, but not what I wanted. They’re kind of like those nice guys you see in romantic comedies, whose only purpose is to present an obstacle and prevent the girl from immediately uniting with her true wuv. Once the hero comes on the scene, she’s never going to settle for him and will secretly pine away until she reaches an epiphany and all that…

Similarly, I had one too. I came to the conclusion, because there was no way I was going to go crawling back to Skippy, if I wanted Almond Butter, I was going to have make my own supply myself.

Which brings us to the topic of today’s post:

 Scouring the net will find you several different recipes for almond butter, and I deliberately picked the ones with the least additives. All I wanted in my almond butter was almonds, salt and maybe some sort of sweetener.

By the way, just so that we get this out of the way, to make almond butter, you need to have a food processor, unless you are crazy enough to want to try making it with a pestle and mortar as the Mayans (…or was it the Aztecs?) did.

Anyway… My first attempt wasn’t too bad. It tasted great, but was a grainy, drippy, oily mess. The reason? Freaking recipe said to put in sugar and a bit of sunflower oil, which I did.

Fortunately, the almond butter article over at the Fresh Loaf put me back on the right track. The truth is, the only ingredients you need to make almond butter is… roast almonds. Oh if you want to be luxurious, a bit of salt and sugar. In my case, I switched to honey.

Ok, for those of you reading this long post and wondering when I am going to get to the point of how to make almond butter from scratch, here is where you start paying attention:

What you will need:

(Edibles)

1) Roasted almonds (Obviously. You will need as much as your jar can hold in grams)

2) Salt

3) Honey or sugar.

(Non-edibles)

1) Food processor. I don’t have a full-sized food processor, so I used the chopper attachment that came with my Bosch immersion blender, which by the way, rocks!

2) Sterilised glass jar to store your almond butter (just boil to sterilise)

Your almonds can be pre-roasted. I have noticed that they will be drier and produce less oil if they are pre-roasted though. Which can be a bit of a problem in making spreadable almond butter. Oil content seems to vary from types of almond to almond. So far Californian almonds seem to have more oil than any others I’ve tried.

INSTRUCTIONS:

In theory there is nothing fancy about making almond butter. You chuck them into your food processor and blitz.

In reality, there are a whole plethora of factors that determine whether the almond butter you made is creamy or not. Or if the person making the butter gives-up it halfway because they think they failed. Anyway, let’s start:

PHASE 1: Chuck your almonds into the blender and blend. 

A word of caution about using non-industrial strength food processors. These things are liable to overheating, so monitor the temperature and don’t have them go at it for too long. I blitz for 10 -15 seconds or so before stopping to check progress. Sure my lovely Bosch has a temperature sensor that auto-powers down if the motor gets too hot, but I don’t like to depend on safety features. Failsafes can fail.

PHASE 2:

This is the point where most people who make almond butter will fail and give up, because it will seem like all that is happening is the coarse almond meal gets pushed up to the top of the processor and the blades are spinning around grinding nothing at the bottom. This is also the point where people will think of adding some oil to moisten the meal and so make the butter-making process easier. The truth is:

DO NOT ADD OIL!

It backfires on you badly later. The reason for this is almonds contain plenty of oil already, but they just haven’t seeped out of the nut fragments yet. If you add oil now, you’re going to get a oily, soppy mess later. Trust me, I made that mistake and while the butter tasted great, the soaking through the bread part was a bit off-putting. Let’s not forget the whole reason we make our own butter is to avoid adding oils!

Instead, leave the almonds to cool and the oil to take its sweet time coming out, and go do something else. For example, I went cycling.

(That’s not me BTW, I’m the one taking the picture. Oh M, recognise the backlight?)

And then I came back, showered, and went back to making almond butter. By that time the hiding oil had decided to emerge and explore, only to be met by my deadly chopper blades. MUAHAHAA!

PHASE 3:

Don’t let the almonds escape! You might need to spoon the almond fragments so they fall back into the well and cover the blades.

Oh, you can add in the honey and salt here too. A little bit goes a long way, I put in about a half teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of honey for about 400g of almonds, but it’s all according to your taste really.

And after you’ve added your salt and honey, start the processor:

There was much almondy carnage, with almond blood oil seeping everywhere and binding the previously irritatingly fluffy almond meal together, which made it much easier for my Bosch Blades of Doom to further pulverize them into a lovely almondy mess.

PHASE 4:

With the hard part over, we just keep on blending until the almond turns creamy and spreadable. Make sure to watch your processor motor so it doesn’t overheat. Pause and let it cool down if necessary.

The longer you blend, the smoother it gets, but it can get really oily if you overblend, so watch out!

When satisfied with the taste and texture, spoon out into your sterilised jar.

You can actually store the almond butter unrefrigerated for a few months, but if you’re not like me and it lasts longer than that, keep it in the fridge because we’re in Malaysia and it’s hot and humid and nut butters CAN go rancid over long periods.

Papa Salvatore enjoying the almond butter, which cost me less than RM10 to make for a 400g jar. Eat your heart out, Skippy! I’ve left you for someone better and I’m stronger on my own now and don’t need you anymoooore!

[insert more typical ‘scorned lover’ type lyrics here]

-Pinkydoodles