Shaker lemon pie is a very old fashioned type of pie – so old fashioned that it goes way beyond retro and isn’t likely to be found in your average diner, unlike the far more common lemon meringue pie. Shaker lemon pie has an unusual filling that is made up of lemons. Sliced paper-thin, the lemons go into the pie rind and all (minus the seeds), along with some sugar to sweeten things up and eggs to hold everything together.
I decided to try making this type of pie for a couple of reasons. First, it is pretty unique and I was very curious as to how the pith and peel of the lemons would work into the pie. Second, I had – some of you might be able to guess at this part – a bunch of meyer lemons sitting in my kitchen and was sure that the extra-sweet lemons would really work well in this type of dessert. The pith of the lemon is the white part between the flesh of the fruit and the rind. It is the most bitter part of the fruit, which is why most recipes either call for the zest or the flesh alone. Meyer lemons tend not to have as much pith as other types of lemons on average, which is another reason that they make such a good choice for this recipe.
To put the pie together, you need a double crust pie dough prepped (recipe is below) before you mix the filling. I used a very sharp chefs knife to slice up my lemons, but if you have a mandolin this would be an excellent application for it. That said, you shouldn’t worry about the thickness of the slices too much; just try to get them as thin as you can manage and pick out the seeds as you go. I used two whole lemons and one lemon with the pith and peel removed just to bulk up the fruit. My lemons were very large for meyer lemons, so you may want to use 4 average size ones (a good tip is to compare their size to that of “regular” lemons in the store and try to match the number of meyer lemons to the size of 3 regular ones).
The overall effect of the pie filling is somewhere between marmalade and lemon curd, with tender but slightly bitter pieces of rind mixed in with a sweet and gooey lemon curd-like filling. If you like marmalade, you’ll probably love it. If you don’t like either marmalade or lemon curd, this may not be your cup of tea. I really liked the way that the soft and tart filling contrasted with the tender, flaky crust and found the whole pie to be really well balanced, even if it wasn’t as sweet as a lemon meringue type of pie.
Meyer Lemon Shaker Lemon Pie
1 recipe double-crust pie dough (below)
3 large meyer lemons (or 4 medium)
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 450F.
Working with a very sharp chefs knife, very thinly slice 2 of the meyer lemons, peel and all. Remove peel and pith from third lemon and thinly slice that as well. Remove all seeds as you work and try to preserve the juice as much as possible. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Stir sugar, salt and eggs into the bowl of lemon slices. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Roll out 1/2 of chilled pie crust into a circle large enough to fill a 9 or 10 inch pie plate (I used a deep dish plate). Carefully transfer pie crust into plate and press gently into place.
Fill pie plate with lemon mixture.
Roll out top crust and lay on top of the pie filling. Crimp edges, sealing tightly. Brush the top of the pie with a bit of water or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut 4 or 5 vents into the top crust with a sharp knife.
Bake at 450F for 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door, lower temperature to 375F and bake for an additional 20 minutes (if using a deep-dish pie dish, add an extra 5 minutes to the baking time). When the crust is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center of the pie – preferably through one of the vents – comes out clean, the pie is done.
Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
All Butter Double Pie Crust
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into several pieces
6-8 tbsp ice water
Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.
Add in butter and pulse until mixture is coarse and sandy and no chunks of butter larger than a big pea remain.
Add water and pulse several more times to wet the dough. Gather into two balls with your hands, wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.