My grandparents were married in the 50’s, and moved around quite a bit since my Pop was in the Army. My grandma was a stay-at-home wife, and would take care of the housework and cook dinner each night. A few months ago, my mom told me during their first year of marriage, my grandma would bake a lemon pie EVERY DAY for dessert since it was Pop’s favorite.
This past Christmas, my mother-in-law gave a recipe book to my sister-in-law and I. Inside, there are a few dozen recipes written in her mother’s handwriting, her grandmother’s handwriting, or were cut from books or magazines and marked as favorites. While skimming through this book a few nights ago, I found a recipe simply titled “Lemon pie.”
The culinary freak in me immediately wondered “what kind of lemon pie? Chess? Meringue? Silk?” and launched me into a semi-obsessive state. I spent quite a few hours with my nose stuck in old cookbooks reading about lemon pies this week. To be honest, I’m not even sure what I was looking for. Maybe I was looking for different pie variations, hints at baking directions for JB’s grandmother’s lemon pie, or the quintessential crust recipe.
Though I don’t have my grandma’s lemon pie recipe (if it even existed anywhere but her head,) and this pie isn’t quite the recipe of my husband’s grandmother, I thought a lot about family while making it.
I hope you make this pie and feed it to someone you love.
I'm going to be honest- you're going to need a couple of "specialty" items for this pie. The first being a mandoline slicer. In order for you to get whisper-thin slices of your lemons, trust me, you just need it. I know I don't own a knife sharp enough to be able to slice ANYTHING as thin as I got these lemons.
The second thing(s) that you'll need (Deb from Smitten Kitchen backs me up on this) are Meyer lemons. They're milder than regular lemons, and have a thinner, more tender skin. DO IT. The Meyer lemon season is short, so go to the store RIGHT NOW. I found mine at Trader Joes. The really weird/awesome thing about this recipe is that you use THE ENTIRE LEMON (except for the seeds) which is why the more mild lemons are much more palatable.
I sliced my lemons as thin as my mandoline would let me. As you can see, not all of them are perfect slices. Meh, whatever. They're still going to be delicious. Please, PLEASE be diligent in removing seeds as you slice, and thoroughly search through your slices for lemon seeds & sliced seeds that got pushed through your mandoline. That would NOT be a good surprise when you serve your pie.
You need to macerate the lemon slices in the sugar and salt for 24 hours. Yes, you read that correctly. TWENTY FOUR HOURS. It's worth it. The result is kind of marmalade-y and heavenly.
You will also want to make your pie crust ahead of time- as few as two hours (so it has time to get nice and cold) or as many as 48. Since you're already in the kitchen slicing those lemons, why not throw it together?
I used the Baked Classic Pie Dough recipe. It's my never-fail, all-butter, delicious best friend. Recipe below.
I used to use my food processor to make all of my pie doughs, but let me tell you, dear friends, I've stopped. I now use a basic pastry blender and a little elbow grease. I find that the food processor, no matter how careful I am, tends to break my butter down too far. YOU WANT CHUNKS OF BUTTER. Trust me. When they bake, it creates heaven pockets in your dough. Those heaven pockets, in turn, create flaky crust!
Just be patient with your pie crust. Mix the butter in until it's between the size of peas and oats. Add as little water as possible to get your dough to hold together. Keep everything COLD. Don't hesitate to pop your dough-in-progress in the fridge for a few minutes if your butter starts to get soft.
I'm not sure what I expected from this pie flavor-wise. The consistency is jammy, and the flavor reminds me of marmalade or candied citrus peel. It is definitely sweet, but there is still some lingering bitterness from the rind. The thick, soft center of this pie is a good contrast to the crisp, flaky crust. I love it, and will for sure make it again.
Let's go ahead and dive right in!
Classic Pie Dough Makes two pie crusts from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook
3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon fine salt 1 Tablespoon sugar 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter 3/4 cup of ice cold water
In a large bowl, whisk together AP flour, sugar and salt. Remove butter from fridge, cut into cubes, and add to flour mixture. Using a pastry blender, work cold butter cubes into flour mixture until butter pieces are smaller than peas, but no smaller than oats.
Slowly drizzle in water, a few tablespoons at a time. Using a rubber spatula, fold water into flour and butter mixture until mixture barely starts to stick together. There should still be flour crumbles in the bottom of the bowl, but you should be able to press them into the dough with your hand. I usually do not need to use the full 3/4 cup of water to reach this consistency. If you cannot get the crumbles to hold into the dough mixture, add a small sprinkle of water until you are able to combine them.
Divide dough into two equal pieces, wrap tightly in saran wrap, and refrigerate for at least two hours (but no more than 48.) If you'd like to freeze your dough, wrap it thrice in saran wrap, and thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before use.
Shaker Lemon Pie recipe by Smitten Kitchen
2 Meyer lemons 2 cups of sugar 1/4 teaspoon salt
Wash and dry your Meyer lemons. Using a microplane, zest the lemons into a medium-sized bowl. Cut the stem end off of your lemons, but remove as little as possible when doing so. Using a mandolin slicer, slice the lemons as thinly as possible. With every few passes on the slicer, check for and remove any seeds you find.
Add the sliced lemons to the bowl with zest. Add sugar and salt. Mix well, cover tightly with saran wrap, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours.
4 eggs 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled 3 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 egg white Coarse sugar for sprinkling pie before baking
Position a baking rack in the middle of your oven. Preheat to 425 degrees.
Roll out each ball of your pie dough to 1/8" thickness, and cut into 12" round circles. BE PATIENT when rolling out pie dough. It is not a quick process, and if you take your time, your dough will not crack and will be a lovely, even thickness. Place dough circles back in fridge to cool down.
Whisk flour into cooled butter until smooth. Add to eggs, and whisk together until just combined. Add egg mixture to macerated lemons and mix well.
Place your first pie crust into the bottom of your pie plate, making sure there is an even amount of extra dough ("lip") around sides of pie plate (about 1/2 inch.) Pour lemon mixture into bottom pie crust, and top with second dough circle.
Tuck the lip from the top crust behind the lip from the bottom crust, and crease to bring together. Once you have creased the crusts together around the entire pie, you may crimp the edges decoratively.
Whisk the egg white until slightly frothy, and brush onto the top of your pie. Sprinkle with coarse sugar and cut a few vent slits into the top of the pie.
Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce heat to 350 degrees for another 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Let the pie cool and serve at room temperature (or slightly warm if you're impatient like me.)