I had never heard of Shaker Lemon Pie until recently. Then, all of a sudden, I kept hearing it mentioned by pie-baking friends. Fascinated by a citrus pie that includes the pith and rinds, I resolved to try it.
A rainy late-summer evening offered me a nice opportunity. A longtime neighbor is moving away, and another neighbor and I wanted to bid her farewell and hear about her plans. The colors and flavors of this pie–bright and bittersweet–seemed a perfect way to capture the transition. We sat in her living room, empty of everything but a couch, a chair, a lamp and a little table, and shared slices of this chewy, intense pie along with glasses of red wine.
To imagine what this pie is like, think of a lemon meringue pie as the ever-cheerful, exuberant sister, and Shaker lemon as her quieter, more intellectual, bookish sibling. This is a pie that balances bitter, chewy, tart and sweet. It is substantial where lemon meringue is light; it is thoughtful where lemon meringue feels carefree.
Here is the recipe I used. I got it from Kate McDermott, who teaches pie-baking in Seattle (and in Washington, D.C., sometimes, too!) and writes the Art of the Pie blog. Identical and very-similar versions of this are easy to find in accounts of Shaker settlements in Ohio, New England and Kentucky. Deb Perelman has pictures of the lemon-macerating process, as well as her own tips and a different version of the recipe, on her terrific blog, Smitten Kitchen.
Some recipes call for chopping up the lemons after they are sliced thin; I’m going to try this next time. Also, I will take a little more seriously Kate’s instructions to use only the thinnest-skinned lemons. Mine were still a bit too chewy, despite being sliced very thinly.
- 1 recipe for double-crust pastry
- 4 Meyer lemons (or 2-3 larger, but thin-skinned, lemons), very thinly sliced
- 2 cups white sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- Tiny pinch of salt (optional, but I used it)
- Twelve to 24 hours before you want to bake the pie: Slice the lemons as thin as possible. Put them in a bowl with the 2 cups of sugar. Stir to coat and let them sit.
- When you're ready to make the pie: Preheat the oven to 450. Add the beaten eggs to the lemon mixture, and the salt, if you're using it. Mix well.
- Roll out your first disk of pie dough for the bottom crust. Line a 9-inch pie pan with it. Pour in the lemon filling.
- Roll out your second disk of pie dough for the top crust. Cut vents in the top crust. (Kate and some other pie bakers cut vents later in the process, but for me, it works best at this stage of the game.) Cover the top of the pie with the vented crust. Finish edges and crimp.
- Chill the pie for a good half-hour. Remove from fridge. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for about 25 minutes, checking the pie at the 20-minute mark.