Confessions of a lemon fanatic
by Chef Deb Traylor
I am a lemon fanatic. F.A.N.A.T.I.C.!! I have 938 lemon recipe pins on a Pinterest board that’s labeled ‘I am a lemon fanatic!’ I may be slightly obsessed.
If I’m completely honest, and I am always completely honest when it comes to food, I will walk across hot coals for anything tart and lemony and I don’t think I’m alone in this. There’s just something about a lemon’s color, aroma and flavor that makes me happy. I am completely enamored with the tart brightness of any lemon dessert that doesn’t have too much sugar.
I love lemons as much as other women love chocolate. In fact, I recently had a friend make the comment “I’ve never met a woman who does not love chocolate!” and my reply was, “You’ve just met one.” 😉
Lemons are my chocolate. My weakness. My ‘go to’ for balance in all recipes sweet and savory. If I were only allowed one seasoning item besides salt in a food challenge, I would reach for lemons.
So it’s really no surprise that we are offering you this wonderful little recipe for Shaker Lemon Pie to brighten up your cold January. This is pure sunshine between two crusts.
Created by the Shaker community, this vintage pie calls for whole lemons (peel and rind, too!) sliced paper-thin, tossed in sugar and mixed with eggs to make a filling that’s part marmalade, part lemon curd. It’s a pie that will make anyone who loves lemons very happy.
Even people usually swayed by chocolate might come to love something bright, slightly sweet and deliciously tart with a bold citrus edge. This pie hits all those marks. Lemon for the win!
Shaker Lemon Pie
- 1 recipe Basic Pie Dough, chilled (see below)
- 4 Meyer lemons, cut into paper-thin rounds (using a slicer or mandolin is advised)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 Tbsp. flour
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt)
- coarse or sanding sugar
Toss the lemon slices with the sugar until the slices are all evenly coated and let sit and macerate for two hours at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Beat the eggs and yolks together with the salt. Add flour a little at a time, making sure to avoid lumps. Add egg mixture to the lemons and mix well using a big spatula. Pour the mixture into the chilled bottom crust. Cover with the chilled top crust and trim and shape the edges, creating a seal. Cut slits in the top of the pie, then place in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Right before baking, brush the top of the pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes on the bottom rack, turning the pie after 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake until the filling puffs the crust up a bit, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely, then chill for at least one hour before serving.
- I use Meyer lemons for this pie. The skins are tender and the pith is less bitter then traditional lemons. However if you can’t find Meyers, substitute 2 large regular lemons that have been washed to remove waxy residue.
- I used a mandolin to slice the lemons (I prefer Japanese mandolins made by Benriner), but if you don’t have access to a mandolin, you can roughly chop the lemons, remove the seeds and pulse them into a rough pulp with a food processor.
Basic Pie Dough
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 2 tsp. fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled
- 1/4 cup Tbsp. non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, chilled (or 6 Tbsp. additional butter if not using shortening)
- 1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp. ice cold water
- 1 tsp. lemon juice or vinegar
Combine flour and salt in a medium bowl. Add chilled butter and shortening and toss to completely coat with flour. Using your hands or a fork, quickly smash the pieces of butter/shortening between your thumb and fingers to flatten each piece to the size of a dime. Gently stir the flour and butter to make sure you flattened most of the pieces.
Combine ice cold water and lemon juice (or vinegar), and drizzle half of the lemon water over cold flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together or turns “shaggy”. We prefer to use our hands but a fork works nicely too. Begin adding a few more tablespoons of water at a time, stirring between each addition. Once most of the water has been used (but you have a tablespoon or two remaining) use your hands to gather the shaggy strands into a ball and knead the dough two or three times. If you have dry bits remaining in the bowl, add a little additional water. (Your dough may appear wet or dry depending the climate in your area, so you will need to go slowly and adjust accordingly.)
Gather the dough in a ball, dust your counter with a tiny amount of flour, and quickly pat dough into a small flat disk. Cut dough in half and then stack one piece on top of the other, flour side down. Use the heel of your hand and press the dough down and divide in half once more. Cover both pieces with plastic wrap. Chill the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight. This dough can be made a day or two in advance. Makes enough for two 8 or 9-inch pie crusts.