Homemade lemon curd and fruit are an easy way to fill puff pastry tart shells on the fly. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Homemade lemon curd and fruit are an easy way to fill puff pastry tart shells on the fly. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: When life gives you puff pastry … make lemon curd

By my own necessity I have become resourceful, adaptable and a creative problem-solver.

Let me tell you a story about the day I wrote my first article.

I had been agonizing for weeks over which dish and message I would present as my introduction to you all and, at the last possible minute, I finally decided on my voulevant.

I have the annoying tendency to procrastinate in basically every facet of my life. Regardless of how important the task, or even my own genuine desire and intention to complete the task, I will inevitably wait until the deadline is imminent to even begin. Such is my nature, and has always been, despite my lifelong and sincere efforts to correct it.

On this particular day, my procrastination resulted in special trip to the grocery store to get puff pastry. I was in a hurry and blindly grabbed a familiar-looking box (what I thought was standard sheets) but, hours later, and to my great dismay, I discovered I had purchased a box of puff pastry tart shells instead.

This realization sent me stomping and cursing right back to my car. Those puff pastry shells have been sitting in my freezer in the months since that day, mocking me every time I open the door, silently laughing at my ridiculousness.

Over the long weekend, my best friend in the universe came down from Palmer with her children and fiance for a visit, and I decided (at the last minute, again) that a fitting end to my torment at the puff pastry’s smugness would be to make something sweet for our guests. When I scrounged for ingredients I found butter, eggs, sugar and lemons … everything I needed to make lemon curd.

Ingredients:

6 egg yolks

1 cup sugar

½ cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter — cut into small pieces and chilled

Directions:

Whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, lemon juice and zest.

Set over a double boiler on medium-low heat.

Gently and continuously whisk the mixture as it cooks. Keep the heat low and don’t let it get too hot or your curd will taste like scrambled eggs. The curd is cooked when it reaches 170 degrees F.

Take off the heat and slowly add your chilled butter, one small piece at a time, whisking constantly.

Pour into a container (or tart shells), cover with plastic wrap, pressing down so the plastic is touching the curd (this will prevent a nasty skin) and allow to cool completely in the fridge before garnishing and/or serving.

I decorated our fruit tarts with more scavenged ingredients: some red currants, raspberries, and service berries from Grandma’s garden, and some lovely edible flowers off my Chinese broccoli plants which, also due to my general ineptitude, have bolted into oblivion.

My “irresponsible” nature causes me a lot of stress and grief but dealing with the consequences my own proclivities has forced me to exercise and tone some other universally useful muscles.

By my own necessity I have become resourceful, adaptable and a creative problem-solver. I form connections and see patterns where others can’t, and I am conditioned to automatically make contingency plans for every situation. I function in my own way, and usually succeed despite it, so when your brain gives you tart shells just make some lemon curd and pretend it was your plan all along. If you present it with confidence, no one will know.

Tressa Dale is a U.S. Navy veteran and culinary and pastry school graduate from Anchorage. She currently lives in Nikiski with her husband, 1-year-old son and two black cats.

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