Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Shaker Lemon Pi(e)

I've been putting this off, mainly because I lacked an insightful or funny introduction.  Don't worry, I still haven't thought of one, but that's all right.  Even being homebound on the snow day (they've all been on Mondays - very convenient) did not give inspiration for this (even though I wrote pages elsewhere).  So, this post is just about pie.  In honor of Pi Day (of course), I made a Lemon Shaker Pie.

It is a perfect pie for winter, when citrus is abundant and cheap, and the ingredients are probably already in your pantry, so you don't have to wander out into the worst of all weathers, the Wintery Mix.

This particular recipe comes from both Tartine and Smitten Kitchen (who got it from Saveur, I believe - let's see how long we can make this chain), and was apparently a recipe originally created by the Shakers, who were apparently rather innovative bakers.  This lemon pie is a testament to their frugality: you use the entire lemon (excepting seeds and stem) in the filling, which becomes a lightly custardy lemon marmalade that just sings with bright lemon flavor.  I recommend small slices, and something creamy beside it, to balance the flavor - vanilla or crème fraîche ice cream, perhaps?

Lemon Shaker Pie
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Tartine
2 large (1/2 lb) lemons (Meyers are lovely, but any relatively thin-skinned lemon will do)
2 cups (14 oz) sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs

Egg Wash:
1 large egg yolk
1 Tbsp heavy cream

1 tsp salt
2/3 water, very cold
3 cups + 2 Tbsp (1 lb) AP flour
1 cup + 5 Tbsp (10 1/2 oz) unsalted butter

Twenty-four hours (this is Important, you cannot skip this) before you want to bake this, prepare the lemons.  Zest the lemons into a non-reactive bowl.  Cut the lemons in half, and trim the ends, down to where the fruit starts.  Lay the lemons on their flat surfaces, and slice them as thin as you possibly can - paper thin - discarding any seeds you come across.  If the lemons are cold, they'll be easier to slice.  Add the lemons to the bowl with the zest, and add the sugar.  Toss so that the lemons and sugar are fairly evenly distributed, then cover the bowl and let sit for 24 hours.

In the meantime, prepare the tart dough.  Mix the flour and the salt in a mixing bowl, and cut the butter into large-ish pieces into the flour.  Using a pastry knife or two forks or whatever your preferred tools are, cut the butter with the flour until the butter is the size of large peas.  Drizzle the water into the bowl and toss with a fork until the dough comes together into a shaggy mass.  Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide it into two pieces.  The idea is to work the dough as little as possible, and to keep the butter pieces as large as possible.  That being said, form the dough into two disks, about 1 inch thick, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

The next day, discard any seeds that may have floated to the surface of the lemon-sugar mixture.  Beat the eggs with the 1/4 tsp salt, then add the egg mix to the lemons and sugar, mixing well.

Roll out the dough into two 12-inch wide, about 1/8-inch thick disks, and use one disk to line a 9-inch tart pan, trimming to leave about 1/2-inch of overhang.  Pour the filling into the shell, and cover with the second disk.  Trim and crimp the edges.  Mix the egg yolk and the cream, and brush over the surface.  If you like, you can sprinkle some coarse sugar over the top.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes while the oven preheats to 350F.  Just before baking, cut a few slits (or if you're me, 'pi') into the top to allow air to vent.  Bake 40 minutes to 1 hour (Tartine says 40min, mine took much longer) until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling through the slits.  If the pie is getting too brown too quickly, you can cover it with foil.

Let cool, and enjoy!

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