Being the son of a retired math teacher, I suppose that, naturally, 3.14 – or “Pi Day” – should be a day of mathematical celebration for me. Though I was a decent math student in school and my day job is a good 95% involved with numbers and math, thankfully I don’t have to deal with the ubiquitous pi all that much. Plus, you know me all too well: I choose, instead, to celebrate “Pi(e) Day” by savoring something sweet and homemade, involving a delicious filling tucked between two buttery, flaky crusts. While I missed actually having my pie on Pi(e) Day this year, plans were quickly set in motion to make this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings treat, Lemon Shaker Pie from Baked Elements, the Friday after! I honestly think pie should be enjoyed every day, so really, what does it matter?
I personally adore making pie. Next to ice cream, it’s probably my favorite dessert to put together. I don’t find it daunting in the least – it’s actually very relaxing and therapeutic to me… yes, even putting together a potentially troublesome dough and rolling it out for the pie pan. I don’t say that to sound smug – I realize it can seem challenging to even the most polished of bakers.
In my experience, many folks find the crust the most challenging part, but here’s the thing: practice truly makes perfect, and once you find a good pie crust recipe, stick with it. Follow the recipe, keep your ingredients cool and don’t overwork the gluten in the dough. Keep the dough light. Make it your own. Use it every single time you put together a pie. After a while, you can whip that pie crust recipe up in your sleep. I can attest that Baked’s all-butter pie crust is indeed a good one. I used it, as suggested, for this recipe, but only because – after last week’s vegetable shortening-laden recipe – I figured I would skip my great aunt’s tried-and true-pie crust recipe which does, indeed, contain shortening, but is the BEST pie crust ever (and yep, I’m keepin’ it to myself!).
I also adore lemons – if they didn’t give me such troublesome acid indigestion from eating too many lemon-laden treats, I would eat them all the time (I know, TMI… sorry!). The guys at Baked promised that this particular pie is a glorious venture for the lemon lover, so I was happy to dive right in and see how this pie turned out.
I’ll start out by saying that the very first step may discourage you. Indeed, if you like lemons, you will find this pie to be a little bit of a labor of love with a wonderful payoff at the end. First off, plan well in advance, as you need to thinly slice 2 lemons and let them macerate in sugar for 48 hours. The process of letting them sit in a bowl on your counter and macerate isn’t the troubling issue – if you’ve ever attempted cutting lemons on a mandoline, you know that’s the agonizing step I’m referring to! Baked recommends chilling the lemon beforehand to help it slice better, but I still ended up with rather ragged, torn strips of lemon rather than beautiful, thinly-cut rounds. I suspect this may have largely been due to the annoying little lemon seeds that stuck in the mandoline blade as I was slicing the lemons, causing the lemon as a whole to almost skitter across the blade and slice unevenly. Add to this the fact that mandolines terrify me. I am way too accident-prone to have my fingers near open, sharp blades like that.
Once the lemons are sliced, you will add all of them to 2 cups of sugar, which quickly becomes thick and syrupy… don’t panic if your sugar doesn’t remain ‘dry’, as I did at first. Baked also suggests that, prior to tossing the lemon slices in the sugar, a quick blanching of the slices removes some of the lemon’s bitterness and chewiness from the rind/pith. I plunged my lemon slices into the boiling water to blanch them, only to open my freezer and discover we were out of ice to make an ice bath to complete the blanching. Again – I stress the importance of being duly prepared ahead of time (something I am often really, really bad at). I ended up tossing the slices into a bowl of cold water, which quickly turned warm… kind of defeating the whole point of the blanching. Ah well. Onward.
After the 48 hours of sugared lemon ‘bathing’, the next interesting step was removing the lemon slices/strands piece by piece from the lemony syrup and layering them on the unbaked, bottom crust of the pie. It’s a messy, sticky, somewhat meticulous process which you can probably skip, and just mix the whole lot – slices and all – together with the eggs, butter, cornstarch, salt, flour, and the syrupy lemon sugar for the filling. Pour all of this into the pie crust, and it will bake up into a delectably tart lemon curd-like filling beneath a golden crust sparkling with a scattering of crunchy raw sugar.
After baking my Lemon Shaker Pie, I let it cool completely before popping it for an overnight in the refrigerator. As noted in the recipe, this is really a pie that benefits from being eaten cold, as it slices and serves up beautifully and cleanly when chilled, and the cold also seems to complement the piquancy and tartness of the lemon filling.
How best to describe the taste of this very unique pie? I would say it’s similar to a lemon meringue pie, but it really isn’t (mostly because it’s just missing that pillowy meringue, obviously). Thankfully, it wasn’t as overtly tart or acidic as I imagined it would be, but it is definitely a LEMON-spotlighted pie through and through, and lemon fanatics, like yours truly, can rejoice. Think of it perhaps as a lemon bar baked up in a pie; that’s possibly the most apt description I can come up with! I loved it, though my true verdict is still out on the chewy lemon slices. The texture is a touch distracting at first. You will amazed that you are actually eating whole lemon pieces, but if you sneak a quick nibble of one of the slices after macerating them in sugar for two whole days, you will be amazed at how remarkably candy-like they are. They reminded me a lot of jellied fruit slices you might find in an old-time drugstore. Suggested pairings for this pie include a good cup of black coffee, or mounds of fresh whipped cream to cut the sweet/tartness, but I opted to eat a piece on its own. And boy, is it good. It satisfies my lemon craving two-fold, and the bright citrusy taste has me hoping fervently that – please, dear God, please – spring will be just waiting around the corner!
Lemon pie lovers, take on the belated Pi(e) Day challenge and bake up this unique pie today by following this link… I promise you will enjoy it:
Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!
Next week: Chocolate Peanut Butter Fondue (Heads up that I may be skipping this one… It’s nothing too fancy, though I’m sure it’s delicious. Pretty much a chocolate peanut butter ganache. However, I don’t usually make something like a fondue unless I am having a party and next weekend, I don’t have plans for one!)