How-To: The Best Shaker Lemon Pie

Food & Beverage

I noticed the other day on Twitter that my local pie shop, Mission Pie, announced that they’d made their last shaker lemon pie for the season. I’ve been a little bit addicted to it, so this was a serious blow! That sent me onto the web to find the perfect shaker lemon pie recipe, and I think I tracked it down. The Smitten Kitchen blog did the legwork for me, testing out a few recipes before settling on one from Saveur. I made a few adjustments and shazam: “The best pie I’ve ever had,” according to my dinner guests. More photos and my grandmother’s pie crust recipe after the jump.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, but I tend to like things a little more tart, so I used 1-1/4 cups of castor sugar (you can make your own by blending regular sugar so it has a finer texture, perfect for custard) and 3 small lemons instead of the 2 large ones in the recipe (only because I had small lemons!). I don’t have a mandoline, and had soft lemons, so I couldn’t slice that thinly, but it turned out to be fine. The recipe also calls for the lemons to macerate in the sugar for 24 hours, but I thought 6 was plenty.
As for the crust, I used my English grandmother’s tried and true recipe: 1 stick butter, 1 cup flour, and a pinch of salt. Use the butter straight out of the fridge and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour until it has a crumbly texture.
Then slowly add ice water, whirling the mixture around with one of the knives until it looks like this (or even a little drier):
Stop adding water, and just keeping whirling the knife around. Be patient, and the mixture will eventually come together into a ball. Cut in half, and if you have time, stick the dough in the fridge for half an hour. If not, go ahead and start rolling it out.
I use a ton of flour to keep the dough from sticking. I intentionally use slightly less flour in the dough than Grandma since I know some will be added in the rolling stage; she is so against the idea of using additional flour that she actually rolls her dough out between two sheets of plastic (being ever thrifty, she actually saves the bags from cereal boxes as they have the perfect stiffness!). But I digress.
Line your pie plate with one of the rounds of dough and fold the other into quarters and set aside until you fill the pie crust. Again, if you have the time, stick the dough in the fridge–you’ll end up with perfectly flaky crust (although you’ll need to let the folded half warm slightly to unfold and lay on top of the filling).
Next time I think I might add a bit more custard and lemons; I thought the filling was a touch sparse, although the sweetness and tartness was perfectly balanced.
The only other tip I have to add is putting some foil over the top of the pie in the oven. It bakes for almost 50 minutes to set the custard and I found my edges got a touch burned. No one complained, however. It’s that good.

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