It’s happening again this year. Beautiful cranberries have emerged at the markets, and they’re calling to me with their signature tartness and never-ending dessert potential. Over time, I’ve repeatedly given into this lure, adding cranberries to numerous recipes and even using holiday cranberry sauce in some of my best-loved cookies. But it didn’t take long before I began craving cranberries in a creamy form — one I could incorporate into an array of desserts and menus.
“Curd” is a rather ugly abbreviation for “custard” — but since it denotes a specific type of custard and is well known for its luscious lemon variety, I’ve adopted it into both my vocabulary and my baking repertoire. I think of curd as, essentially, an indulgent and versatile dessert condiment.
And as a condiment, fabulous flavor is of utmost importance — so after much testing and experimenting, I decided upon my most cranberry-packed creation of this recipe. Its tartness and vibrant hue are an unmistakable capture of the berries within, and its decadent creaminess and hints of vanilla and salt offer a perfect balance that will make you want to spread it on nearly everything.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
• 2 cups 100% cranberry juice (not from concentrate; no sugar added)
• 1 cup (about 3.75 ounces) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
• 4 large eggs
• 4 large egg yolks
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3/4 cup packed powdered sugar*
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
In a small saucepan, bring the cranberry juice to a steady simmer. Let simmer until juice has reduced to 1 cup, 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, mince the cranberries or slice them in half. Set aside.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan about halfway with water; bring to a simmer over medium heat. In a large non-reactive heatproof bowl (one that fits over the top of the saucepan without its bottom touching the water), whisk together the eggs, yolks, salt and vanilla until smooth. Sift the powdered sugar over the mixture and whisk well. Don’t worry if there are some lumps of sugar — they will disappear as you whisk and heat the custard. Fold in the minced berries and reduced juice. Stir until incorporated.
Set the bowl over the pot of simmering water, and whisk constantly, letting the sliced cranberries smash. Custard will become frothy as it thickens. Continue cooking and whisking until it holds a trail when a whisk is dragged through it, 15-18 minutes. Turn off the heat, carefully remove the bowl from saucepan, and let custard sit for 1-2 minutes, giving it a few occasional stirs as it just begins to cool. Add half the butter, whisking it until it has melted. Repeat with remaining butter.
Place a medium-mesh sieve over a non-reactive heatproof container, and carefully use a spatula to push the warm custard through. Cover the surface of the strained custard with wax paper or plastic wrap, and let cool to lukewarm or room temperature. Add a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until well-chilled, at least several hours. Use within a week and store in the refrigerator.
Rich, bright and flavorful, cranberry curd offers the added bonus of being incredibly versatile: it can be a cookie dip, a spread for scones, or a scrumptious filling between cake layers. Layer it in a trifle or drizzle it over ice cream; spread it on toast, pancakes or waffles. You might even serve it as a decadent alternative to cranberry sauce at a holiday table. Whatever you do, get ready for a burst of cranberry deliciousness in a vibrant and velvety form.
*Powdered sugar’s added corn starch and ultra-fine grain are relied upon in this recipe for texture and consistency. For best results, do not substitute with another type of sugar.
Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this recipe first appeared.