Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shaker Lemon Pie

I just got back from a whirlwind of a trip: JFK → SFO → LAX → AUS (layovers not included). During the last leg of my trip in Austin, I came across a local pie seller named Pie Fixes Everything. It’s true. Pies are sweet, simple goodness. The uncomplicated nature of pies makes them so much fun to make, and the wonderfully rustic outcome always leaves you with that cozy sense of satisfaction.
While in LA last week I decided to make the Tartine Shaker Lemon Pie for a family BBQ. It is one of my favorite recipes to date, not to mention the most photogenic.


Flaky tart dough (yields two 9 inch tart/pie shells):
1tsp Salt
2/3c. Water, very cold
3c. + 2tbsp All-purpose flour
1c + 5tbsp Unsalted butter, very cold

Pie Filling:
2 medium lemons (chilled for easier slicing)

2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

1/4 tsp salt

Egg Wash:
1 large egg yolk

1 tbsp heavy cream

Turbinado sugar for decorating
Unsweetened softly whipped cream for serving


First make the Flaky Tart Dough. From scratch. Homemade tart/pie crust is so easy, it tastes much better than store-bought, and most importantly, the final product is much more fulfilling when you’ve made it from start to finish.

In a small bowl, add the salt to the ice water and stir to dissolve. Put the flour in the food processor bowl. Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and scatter the pieces over the flour. 

Pulse briefly until the mixture forms large crumbs and some of the butter is still in pieces the size of peas. Add the water/salt mixture and pulse for several seconds until the dough begins to come together in a ball but is not completely smooth. You want some good butter chunks. 

On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough into 2 equal balls and shape each ball into a disk 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Next, on to the very best part of this recipe. Slice the [chilled] Meyer Lemons as thin as you can get them. If you have chef-like knife skills, good for you. I used my parent's Swissmar Borner Mandolin and after using it, I must have one.
 It was magical, allowing me to slice the lemons almost paper-thin. They looked like little round stained glass windows, I couldn't resist holding them up to the light. :)

Once you get past the beautiful lemon slices, remove all seeds, and put everything else in a glass bowl.

Add sugar and stir gently, then cover and set aside while you prepare the tart dough. If you are not using Meyer lemons, you'll have to macerate lemons for 3 hours or overnight to tenderize the skin.

You should get your egg wash ready before working the dough so that you have it out of the refrigerator for the least amount of time possible. Remember, the trick to a perfectly flaky crust, is the chilled butter chunks. Roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick and place into pie dishPrepare the tart dough in a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

Roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick and place into 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
 Mix the eggs and salt, then mix into the lemons, then pour into the pan.

Brush egg wash around the rim of the bottom layer of dough. 
Lay the second round on top, trim, and seal. But "don't throw away the scraps!" said my mom in panic. *

Crimp so you are sure to get it sealed.
Brush top with the egg wash, then dust with sugar.

Let rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes, then cut vents before baking.
 Place pan on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 350° for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.

My oh my, Shakers make some damn good pie.

* Apparently I missed out on a very valuable lesson when it comes to pie baking. When my mom caught me about to discard the scrap pieces of tart dough, she gasped in astonishment and proceeded to tell me about her mom's trick to get the kids to help with kitchen-clean-up after baking pies. Gram would let my mom sprinkle the dough scraps with cinnamon and sugar, then bake them up for a sweet 'n' flaky treat. It was my mom's favorite part of when my gram made pies.

They were definitely tasty enough to merit some help in the kitchen, and I'll be sure to pass the lesson on to our next generation of pie bakers.

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