Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pie For You

The world of TV chefs has gone absolutely bonkers over lemon zest these days. Watch any cooking show and the host will be enthusiastically shredding lemon zest into everything. What’s even more irritating is that they always accompany it with the dire warning: “Be sure not to include the white pith! It’s bitter.”

Well, what if you happen to like a bit of bitterness?

I do.

I’d love to host a cooking show and say, “Don’t be afraid to include some of the white pith for a little acerbic note in this dish.” And then we could watch TV chefs across the nation as they run screaming in horror through the streets.

I’d love that.

Well, I can’t be a TV chef but I can pass along this recipe for one of my favorite pies that happens to use whole lemons -- including the white pith that is held in such disdain these days.

This recipe is from the Shakers who are near and dear to my heart. For several years, I corresponded with the last surviving Shaker community in Maine and even batted around the possibility of joining the Protestant monastic sect. (Hell, I still might if I can’t get a decent date.)

Shaker Lemon Pie epitomizes the frugality of the early Shakers. I can just picture Eldress Prudence Stickney as she lamented the wastefulness of throwing all those lovely lemon rinds away. So, she creatively employed years of Shaker resourcefulness (Shaker motto: Hands to Work; Hearts to God) and came up with this delicious pie.

This treat is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you enjoy the pucker of lemons, then it’s for you. The filling is sort of a cross between lemon curd and lemon marmalade.

Also, it’s really easy to make. I gave this recipe to my Aunt Jo and it became one of her husband’s favorites.

Well, until she recently divorced him. Now he gets no more pie.

Shaker Lemon Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

2 large lemons
2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
4 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 egg white

Coarse sugar, for sprinkling
Dough for one double-crust pie

Thoroughly wash lemons, then dry with paper towel. Slice the lemons as thinly as possible; remove and discard seeds. Add slices to a bowl and toss with sugar and salt. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Roll out half the dough 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface, fit it into a 9-inch (1-quart) pie plate, and trim the edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang.

Mix the macerated lemon-sugar mixture with eggs, melted butter and flour until combined well. Pour in to prepared pie shell.

Roll out the remaining dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface, drape it over the filling, and trim it, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust, pressing the edge to seal it, and crimp the edge decoratively.
Beat one egg white until frothy and brush over pie crust, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cut slits in the crust with a sharp knife, forming steam vents, and bake the pie in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350F and bake the pie for 20 to 25 minutes more, or until the crust is golden. Let the pie cool on a rack and serve it warm at room temperature.

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