Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Shaker Lemon Pie for Pi Day

Baking has a lot to do with math - proportions, quantities of ingredients, precision all come in handy for optimal results.  I seem to end up using extra math in my baking.  I'm always reducing a recipe, or increasing it, and I have to multiply or divide ingredient quantities.  Or I am using a different type and/or shape of pan and have to calculate areas or volumes.  This kind of math is oddly satisfying to me, although I know that it gives most bakers headaches.

But once a year - on March 14 - all bakers get to have FUN with math: it's Pi Day (3/14, get it?) and we can all just bake a pie to celebrate and forget about the actual math if we want!

For this year's big pie holiday, I decided to make a recipe that intrigued me: Shaker Lemon Pie.  The distinguishing feature of this pie is that it is made with the entire lemon, rind and all. I had read a lot of recipes for the Shaker Lemon Pie, and many of them stresses what a great pie the Meyer lemons made (and what a tart pie the regular lemons made). Whole Foods was fresh out of Meyer lemons the day I stopped in so I had to make do with regular lemon in my pie.  After all, most of the recipes - and I daresay the Shakers themselves - use regular lemons.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  As Deb Smitten explains in her Shaker Lemon Pie post, most recipes for this pie are nearly identical: 2 lemons, 2 cups of sugar, 4 eggs. A variation is to add melted butter and flour, and the recipe I used, from Molly O'Neill's One Big Table, followed this variation.  It it similar to the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, but doesn't require zesting the lemon before slicing it, and uses one tablespoon less of both the butter and the flour.  Also, the recipe I used calls for an initial oven temperature of 450.

-  My favorite part of this Shaker pie version is that it calls for a lattice top crust.  It looks so pretty and I like how the crust ends up being variable in thickness, with some parts crisper and other softer.

-  For this pie, the lemon is sliced very very thin, and I did this step by hand because my cheapo mandoline doesn't actually slice super thin. My lemon slices macerated in sugar on the countertop for about 8 hours before I put the pie together and bakes it.

-  I made a mini pie in 7 pie shell. For the crust I used half a recipe of the Cook's Illustrated Foolproof Pie Dough, which I posted here.  This time the dough was on the sticky side, which was controllable as long as I refrigerated the dough at every step. Making the lattice top, while not difficult per se, got a little tricky as the dough warmed.

-  I also made half recipe of the filling

the verdict:

This recipe was a runaway hit at our house.  My daughter JDE said it was her new favorite pie recipe, and this is coming from a girl who is a serious fan of pie.  Indeed the pie combined flaky dough with dense lemon intensity.  If you like lemon desserts, I'd highly recommend this pie - but don't wait until Pi Day rolls around again to bake it!

My previous Pi Day pies:
2011 Buttermilk Pie
2010 German Apple Pie


Jessica said...

The lattice top on your pie looks so perfect -- it should be in a bakery window! The rave reviews on this pie are pretty amazing. Shaker Lemon Pie has always scared me because of the whole slices of lemon but I might have to try it now.

Di said...

That looks wonderful, Nancy! I love lemon. I made my first lattice-topped pie this past summer, and really need to do it more often. I never seem to have my act together enough to celebrate Pi day, which is sad, since I love kitchen math. =)

Wendy (pinkstripes) said...

I agree with the others. The lattice top looks amazing! I'm glad it was a success, whole lemons and all. I'll have to try it one day!

Unknown said...

Your lattice is stunning Nancy! I love lemon desserts, but the idea of a whole lemon always makes me a little nervous because I'm not a fan of really tart things. I'm bookmarking this one for sure, and someday I'll get the courage to try it :)

Katie said...

I've never celebrated Pi Day before, but this pie seems like a fantastic way to celebrate. I can also never find Meyer lemons when I need them, but I'm not sure if they make that big of a difference.

Anonymous said...

meyer lemons are sweeter with smaller peel

Kayte said...

I made this when I was making all the pies that month last year and it was delicious! Yours looks beautiful. Oh, and thank you for doing all the math for all of us when we are cooking, it is much appreciated!