Shaker Lemon

Company came this weekend. And thank god, too. They demolished the pie.

Given my baking background, the Shaker Lemon pie was an oddball. Lemon Meringue was the go to lemon pie. And what I know of the Shaker Lemon pie would fit in a pip. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero. Not. Much. Until Wikipedia reassured me it actually is from the Shakers, I even doubted the name. The Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill offers an excellent history of this frugal pie. Sure, I'd heard of it, maybe in Paul Zarsyski's "The Heaveyweight Champion Pie-eatin' Cowboy of The West." But I've never seen it, tasted it, and definitely never made it. The closest was this bitter, bitter failure of a orange tart at culinary school. Imagine peeling a beautiful orange, tossing the fruit, and chewing the rind. Yeah. No, thank you. I honestly have my doubts.

What's the plan? First, Meyer lemons. No way I'm trying this with run of the mill lemon. Second, a mandolin. Third, I'm macerating-the-F outta those lemons. I went with my usual pastry dough and Kate McDermott’s Shaker Lemon pie from her Art of the Pie. (What are you even doing reading this? Go buy her book and save yourself the next 48 weeks. She wrote the pie book I could only dream of writing.)

Friday morning, I ran the Meyers through a mandolin. The recipe called for 2-3, but the lemons were small, so I did all six. Two cups of sugar went on top, some quick stirs, and into the fridge till Saturday.

For the actually assembly, I realized I need practice. More practice relaxing dough into pans. More practice trimming them (or a different method, like using the pan as a template). The regular “place the dough in the pan, trim to 1/2” or 1” of the edge just doesn’t work for me. And practice making lattice tops. (Never mind that this probably wasn’t the best pie for a lattice.)

After prepping the shell, I added the eggs and salt, folded in the lemons, put it all together and into the oven it went! The bake went well. No complaints.

And no complaints from the guests! They killed the pie. Everyone had a slice Saturday night. Everyone took a large slice home Sunday. They loved the balance of tart, sweet, and bitter. Whip cream or vanilla ice cream was all it needed. When Meyer lemons are in season and guests are headed our way, I'll break this out. It's easy and different but still approachable. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t care for it, but I don’t handle bitter well.)

Ingredients

Pastry

  • Dough for a Double Crust 9" Pie

Filling

  • 2-4 Thin Skinned Lemons (Meyer Lemons work well)
  • 2c Sugar
  • 4 Eggs
  • Salt

Directions

  1. 6-24 hours before baking, slice the lemons—rinds and all—with a mandoline or sharp knife. Make them as thin as possible. If you like, remove the seeds.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and lemon slices. Cover and let sit in your fridge till you're ready to bake.
  3. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 450˚F.
  4. Roll out the bottom dough, line the pie plate, trim.
  5. Whisk the eggs and salt, fold in the lemon mixture. Pour into your bottom shell.
  6. Roll out and place the top dough. Seal to the bottom and cut vents.
  7. Brush with eggwash (optional).
  8. Bake 15 minutes and reduce heat to 375˚F. Bake another 20-25 minutes till a knife comes out clean.
  9. Cool and eat! (It's good anywhere between slightly warm to chilled.)