A Secret Weapon for Silky Custard: Vitamix Blender

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in: Cooking

Lemon curd in a pastry shell

Late winter is usually a somber time in the garden. But in Southern California, it’s citrus season — bringing a combination of riotous color and flavor intensity that cannot be matched any other time of the year. Whether it’s the heady fragrance of smooth-skinned Meyer lemons or the ruby red intensity of Moro blood oranges, citrus gives winter something to celebrate.

Winter is also a season that has had my heart since I began growing olives and pressing a new crop into olio nuovo, that very special first-of-the-season extra virgin olive oil that smacks of fresh fruit, green grass and tart, bitter artichoke. I was smitten from the first drizzle on a grilled slice of rustic bread. And ever since, I’ve been scheming to use extra virgin olive oil at every opportunity.

While a simple emulsion of freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice with olio nuovo is divine on salad, I went in search of decadent and found it with the help of my new BFF in the kitchen, a Vitamix blender. Pressing one button and waiting six minutes results in a custard that is pure silk — whether the final outcome is slightly chilled and mounded into an awaiting tart shell or lightly frozen and scooped onto a pool of raspberry coulis.

I’ve made plenty of custards in my day, laboriously stirring egg yolks and sugar over a double boiler, ever watchful of impending lumps while adding juice and butter.

Lemon curd ingredients

Lemon curd ingredients, and the Vitamix blender. Credit: Caroline J. Beck

But the Vitamix rocked my little world, and I embarked on a grand and glorious tour of possibilities. The first stop was this Meyer lemon olive oil custard  — or curd, as some would call it.

The key to the recipe is to use any blender whose blades can generate enough friction heat to gently cook the mixture quickly. The thermometer reading when I completed the cycle topped off at 170 F, plenty of heat to fully cook the eggs and plenty of speed to whisk the ingredients together in a remarkably smooth finish.

But the best benefit of this blender technique might be that the controlled low temperature and fast processing time could preserve the key health benefits of extra virgin olive oil. I went straight to the best source in California to confirm my suspicions.

“Exposure to light, oxygen and excessive heat deteriorates the natural antioxidants of extra virgin olive oil and removes some of its healthy benefits,” says Selina Wang, research director of the UC Davis Olive Center. “Using the freshest oil and keeping the cooking temperature and time to a minimum help to preserve the polyphenols and antioxidants without the risk of oxidation, which breaks down olive oil’s nutrients and flavor.”

Lemon curd

The finished lemon curd. Credit: Caroline J. Beck

As for its taste, I shared my lemon curd with Zester Daily co-founders Corie Brown and Chris Fager when I joined them for lunch, smuggling a purse-sized cooler into a swanky restaurant. They both agreed it topped the mark for creamy and lemony, but it was the mysterious hint of a different kind of tartness, an herb-like, grassy lemon verbena flavor, that finally gave away this custard’s secret ingredient.

6-Minute Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Custard

Makes 6 servings

This versatile custard can be served warm in a cocktail glass as a satin finish to a special dinner, chilled in a tart shell with a garnish of fresh fruit and whipped cream, or frozen and scooped like gelato. Just let it rest for 10 minutes before serving to reach optimum consistency.

Ingredients

3 whole eggs, room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup Meyer lemon juice, strained

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lemon zest

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, preferably fresh olio nuovo

Directions

1. Place all ingredients but the olive oil in a high-speed blender (must be capable of generating frictional heat above 160 F).

2. Turn the blender on to its highest setting and process for 4 minutes.

3. While continuing to run on high speed, pour in the olive oil and blend for an additional 90 to 105 seconds until you can see the custard firming up on the sides.

Notes

This recipe was created using the Vitamix Professionial Series 750, using its “hot soup” programmed cycle. It can be replicated by setting the blender at its top speed and running for a total process time of 5 minutes 45 seconds.

The custard can be refrigerated for up to three days or frozen for longer storage. When defrosted, it will return to the same creamy consistency as when fresh.

Top photo: Lemon curd in a pastry shell. Credit: Caroline J. Beck


Zester Daily contributor Caroline J. Beck is a freelance food and wine writer and a strategic adviser to specialty food startups. Her articles and columns have appeared in such publications as the Santa Ynez Valley Journal, Michigan BLUE -- Michigan's Lakestyle Magazine, and The Olive Oil Source, the world's top-ranked olive oil-related website, where she has served as editor since 2007. Beck's website, www.carolinejbeck.com, provides common sense advice for enthusiastic entrepreneurs looking to succeed in the specialty foods business.

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Comments

Christine
on: 2/20/13
Can't wait to try it this summer.
Elise
on: 2/20/13
Wow, those photos make it look yummy! Does this mean that I don't have to feel guilty about having dessert if it's made with fruit and olive oil??? Finally, a guilt-free dessert thanks to those polyphenols and antioxidants. I'm sold!
Linda
on: 2/20/13
Please post more recipes for the Vitamix! Your recipe is a breakthough for a new and exciting way to prepare delicious desserts. Can't wait to try it out at my next dinner party.
Cathy
on: 2/21/13
Want some ...yumm.
Caroline J. Beck
on: 2/21/13
Thanks for all the feedback. If you want to try this recipe in the summer months, you have two choices. Use regular lemons available year-round, or better yet, buy Meyer lemons while in season now. You can save them for later use by freezing the zest and storing in a plastic bag, and freezing the juice in ice cube trays. About the question of healthy dessert choices, you're right. Using extra virgin olive oil benefits you in all sorts of ways,. But be mindful that olive oil, just like other fats, is high in total calories. The best news is that a little portion of this custard will totally satisfy.
Mat
on: 2/21/13
Where can I find Olio Nuovo?
Caroline J. Beck
on: 2/21/13
Good question. You're likely to find the latest harvest Northern hemisphere "olio nuovo" in better specialty stores right now, but supplies won't last long. Naturally, I'm partial to local producers from California. If you don't have luck sourcing it in your area, you can try online. My favorite oils come from a California olive oil producer, The Olive Oil Source. During our summer months, switch to Southern hemisphere producers from Australia, New Zealand and Chile. They'll be harvesting a new crop in June. Good luck!
Sarah
on: 2/26/13
I must say, I am intrigued by your recipe. But I wonder where I got the impression that Vitamix recommends not running the high speed setting for more than 30 seconds at a time or risk burning out the motor. I thought I read that in the instruction manual. Just curious, this sounds terrific.
jamie
on: 2/26/13
I made this last week. It was as smooth as silk. However, in my vitamix I blended it on high for 15 minutes and it never firmed up the sides of the blender. Also, the olive oil taste was very apparent. Yulk.
Caroline J. Beck
on: 2/26/13
I thought it best to respond to both of the latest comments at the same time. Sarah, I found the answer to your question about the Vitamix motor in my operating manual. First, the blender is designed to protect itself from overheating with an Automatic Overload Protection that shuts off the motor. The manual further explains that the greater danger lies in running the motor on a low setting for a long time. Blending on higher speed maximizes the motor's cooling fan to avoid overheating. I used the blender's own soup setting to prepare the custard and timed it at a total of 5 minutes, 45 seconds, with no problems. Jamie, I'm sorry your first experience with the recipe left you unsatisfied. Two things may have inadvertently caused your flavor problems. First, as with any custard, the longer it cooks the more "eggy" it will become. I found in my own tests when creating this recipe that longer than 6 minutes started to build up that egg flavor which wasn't to my own liking either. The custard will be thickly pourable when hot and still cling to the sides of the blender. Second, the quality and flavor profile of the olive oil you use will have a big impact on the final flavor. I'd always suggest you smell and taste your olive oil before adding it to any recipe. Strong varietals like lecchino will definitely add an olive flavor. Other varietals like arbequina or luccal won't. Another unfortunate reality of many grocery store olive oils is that much of it is already rancid before it ever leaves the store. Similar to stale peanut oil, adding any ingredient like this is bound to result in a bad taste. I hope you'll consider trying it again with a mild olive oil that you like.
Jamie
on: 2/26/13
Thanks for the info about the olive oil. I love a strong tasting olive oil (in salad) but will buy a milder version for this dessert.
Sharon
on: 2/28/13
Sounds great! I wish I could pin this to Pinterest to find it later, but the photo link isn't taking. Thanks!
Sue Style
on: 6/18/14
Am wondering if a Vitamix would be just the thing for the elderflower semifreddo I just posted: http://zesterdaily.com/cooking/elderflower-cordial-and-semifreddo/ - seems like it would cut out that rather long and tedious beating of eggs/yolks/elderflower/wine over a pan of boiling water?

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