Tag Archives: Shaker Lemon Pie

Shaker Lemon Pie

One of my all time favorite kitchen tools. Microplanes were originally used in woodworking, but some clever person figured out they make light work in the kitchen.

I mentioned in my last post that I was making two lemon pies this week. The one reserved for Thanksgiving day dinner is the Shaker Lemon Pie. I was disappointed in how mine ended up looking this year, though it still tasted terrific.

While using a microplane to zest the lemons isn’t necessary, it is a lot faster and easier than the old fashioned graters out there. (If you only have the old-fashioned boxy style, put a piece of waxed paper over the top and work the grating bits through–removing the waxed paper with the last bits of lemon will save you a lot of scraping effort.)

The scariest tool in our kitchen. It does, however, do the trick.

The Mandolin slicer is the perfect tool for getting paper-thin slices of lemon. Before I purchased the mandolin last year, I used a sharp knife which works just as well if slower. So, if you don’t have a mandolin, just take your time and go for the thinnest possible slices you can. Remove all the seeds from the lemon slices as you work.

Thinly sliced lemons are really important.

The lemons and grated rind sit in sugar. Various recipes call for different lengths of time, but I let mine sit for more than twenty-four hours. I think anything more than eight hours is likely to be just fine, but anything under eight might get you chewier lemon pieces inside the pie. The longer they have to macerate in the sugar and lemon juice, the more likely they are to be tender.

The lemons, sugar and zest mixed together.

The lemons, sugar and zest after 24 hours.

The completed filling waiting for the top crust.

I made a standard white flour pie crust for this. I often use whole wheat pastry flour to make crusts these days, but I didn’t think the lemon would hold up all that well to the whole wheat. People can get a little prickly when you start talking about making pie crusts. There are the die-hard butter enthusiasts, the shortening crowd and the mixed-fat folk. I went to a pie making class a number of years ago, and the person teaching it gave us a mini-chemistry lesson. I came away with a crust recipe that is very simple. For each crust use 1 and 1/4 cup flour, one stick butter, one tablespoon sugar, 1/4 tsp., and ice water. The technique is to cut the cold fat into the dry ingredients and add water until you have a dough. The idea is to make the dough wetter than you think it needs to be so that when you roll it out, the extra flour from the rolling pin won’t make the crust overly dry and brittle. I also learned that a pastry cloth is my best friend when rolling out a crust. (Frankly, I also like the store-bought already rolled, just stick it on the counter for a while and use it kind of pie crusts. They save time and clean-up for a quick and easy pie. I think the best is actually the one in the red box…Pillsbury maybe?…but it uses LARD. Given the fact that a good majority of our friends do not eat lard, I choose to not use it most of the time.)

I also thought it would ‘be fun’ to make a lattice crust. Turns out that the filling of the lemon pie is rather liquid–unlike an apple or cherry pie–and the crust kept dunking down into the filling. When I complained about the finished product to my other pie making friend, he suggested I use the “make the lattice on waxed paper and freeze it method.” Now that I know that is a possibility, I’ll try that next time, but it never occurred to me. Making a lattice crust on top of the pie is the only way I’d ever heard of, so I learned something new yesterday.

Cutting the top crust for a lattice.

Turns out that my lattice ended up half-drowned in the filling this year.

In spite of a quarter of the top crust disappearing into the pie, it still tasted tart and lemony, the way a lemon pie should. Yes, it’s a pucker-up kind of lemon, not a sweet-cloying kind of lemon.

Shaker Lemon Pie

2 large lemons, preferably Meyers (I didn’t have Meyers, and used three smaller regular lemons)
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Grate the zest off the lemons first. Slice paper-thin. Add sugar to lemons and zest and put in non-reactive bowl, preferably glass. Stir every once in a while and allow to macerate for 24 hours. Make your crust, mix the eggs until frothy, add melted butter, salt and flour then add the lemon and sugar mixture. Pour into the crust. Cover with top crust of choice. The easiest will be a flat top with simple vents across the top. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30. (Give or take, watch the pie and make sure it is done–a knife inserted into the center will come out clean when it is done.)

A thin slice ready to enjoy.


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Pie, Pie, and More Pie

We celebrate Thanksgiving with my in-laws and one set of very close friends. We’ve been doing this same general family grouping for the last ten to fifteen years, and there are some slight modification depending on whose parents are visiting. My mom used to come up every year until she died, and her absence has been sorely felt each year since.

On Monday, I had just about the same conversation I have had every year. I begin with the question, “Are you bringing your usual?” To which the answer is a “yes” with a brief listing of the side dishes that are being made. I cook the turkey, a white-bread dressing and mashed potatoes. This list doesn’t change, and, in fact, hold just enough interest to get me to the real point of the discussion. “And what kind of pie are you going to make?”

This last is the crucial part of the entire conversation and points to what Thanksgiving is really all about. Yeah, we cook the turkey, and it’s yummy and all that, but it’s the pie, people. The pie. So, our friends are making apple, cherry and ‘something else.’ I’m making pecan and called dibs on ‘something lemon.’ My mother-in-law will be making pumpkin, mince, shoe-fly and ‘moji’ pie. (This last one is probably not spelled right, but I’ll let her comment on that herself. I think it is derived from PA Dutch for candy pie, or something like that.)

Then, I took the lemon question to the family. Lemon sponge, Lemon Meringue, or Shaker? Meringue was quickly defeated by both husband and son. We were left with everyone wanting both the other two. Normally, this would not be a problem, but I like as little overlap in the pie selection as possible. You’ll note that I did not say ten pies for ten people would be too much. This is an entirely different sort of criteria.

Most people have never heard of lemon sponge pie. I know I hadn’t until I married into a pie-crazed family and started looking up various recipes to widen my own pie-making repertoire. It’s like a lemon cream pie with a thin layer of lemon sponge cake on top. It’s an understated pie, and it’s not particularly beautiful–as you can see by the picture at the top. But, it is simply heaven in the mouth. (If you like lemon.) It’s not as intense as a shaker pie, but sweeter and creamier.

Given that lemon sponge is less forgiving on a second day, I decided to compromise and make a lemon sponge for dessert last night and start the Shaker for Thanksgiving. It takes 24 hours to let the lemons soak in sugar, and the pie itself is just as tasty two or three days out. Next blog, I’ll put up a step-by-step for making a Shaker lemon pie because it’s just so yummy it needs to be shared.

The lemon sponge pie we had last night might possibly be the best one I have ever made. It was extra creamy and delicious on the bottom. My kids each had two slices, and there were no leftovers.

Lemon Sponge Pie
1 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp. butter
3 eggs, separated at room temp
1/2 tsp salt
juice and grated rind of one lemon (large, or 2 small)
1 1/2 cups hot water or milk (I used 3/4 C soy creamer and 3/4 soy milk)
one unbaked pie shell

Cream butter and sugar. Add yolks and beat well. Add flour, salt, lemon juice and rind. Add hot water/milk. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into unbaked shell and bake at 325 for 45-50 minutes. Should be brown on top and will still look a little wobbly. Set to cool at room temp and serve when cool.

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