What We Want: Lemon Curd
Illustration by JP Thimot
Lemons are an essential ingredient, used in every type of cookery imaginable: desserts, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, and even beverages—the list is endless. But lemons are not simply a reliable provider of acidity or tartness in a recipe. When measured against any other seasoning, they stand alone just fine, with an intense flavor and heady aroma few can resist.
Arguably, one of the most enjoyable uses of lemon is in a curd recipe, which transforms sugar, eggs, butter, and lemon juice into a luxurious spread that has a smooth and sensual texture. Some may initially find the idea of anything dubbed “curd” unappealing, but further examination reveals that anyone who has enjoyed a lemon bar, bolstered by a buttery crust and spattered with powdered sugar, or a slice of delectable lemon pie, topped with a spongy and marshmallow-like cloud of meringue, has had a lemon curd experience without even realizing it.
The process of transforming acidic fruit juice into curd hails from Europe where, just as with jam or jelly, the making of curd was employed in preserving bountiful fruit fresh from harvest. The tradition remained strong for more than a hundred years, eventually finding its way into typical British afternoon tea. Today you can find good quality curds in supermarkets that carry imported goods, but in many of the desserts that feature lemon curd—such as lemon meringue pie—the traditional lemon curd has been replaced with chemical-laden lemon-flavored gelatin filling. The process of substituting the real for the fake has taken over our food industry to a point where many consumers, particularly young ones, do not know that the relatively flavorless item they have grown up with is a rather poor imposter of what was once an amazingly delicious thing. Lemon curd-based desserts are the perfect example of this.
Handmade lemon curd lies at the heart of several tempting baked goods at Dolci Bakery, but its most unique use is in the shop’s gelato. Nearly all of the little Italian bakery’s handmade gelato flavors are noteworthy—burnt caramel with sea salt, Mexican chocolate, and classic strawberry, to name a few—but the clincher is the lemon curd.
Owner David Simpson’s careful consideration of his trademark gelato’s overall quality and texture is obvious with the first spoonful. When served at the proper temperature (a touch warmer than you might think), Dolci’s gelato is soft and luxurious, a swoon-worthy experience. The lemon curd flavor is particularly good, a palate-pleasing combination of both tart and sweet. Its pale, buttery yellow color is predominately imparted by the real egg yolks Simpson insists upon using. Brightly flecked with the tiniest bits of lemon zest, Dolci’s tangy lemon curd gelato is satisfying without being heavy and intensely flavorful without being cloying. It may seem like an unusual use for curd, which is known for being smooth and rich and best served at room temperature atop toast or pancakes, but despite this unusual application, Dolci’s lemon curd gelato is an excellent celebration of heavenly handmade lemon curd.
Dolci’s ownership has changed hands several times, but what remains unchanged regardless of location or ownership are Simpson’s high quality gelatos and sorbets. With a serious restaurant trade and plenty of fans, it’s no wonder the bakery is looking to return to Elmwood after a short stint on Grant Street. Look for the upcoming opening; the new plan includes a full-scale gelateria and café.
802 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo. 882-5956