New Years Day, 2011

lemon pie

I’m not at all a New Years person. I was trying to think about a memorable New Years that I’ve had and I actually can’t recall a one. Oh wait, I take that back. I do remember one New Years in college that involved a bathtub and a really bad taxi ride. But that’s another story altogether. I’m also not the kind of person who has any desire to get all anxious about making plans, really good plans, better plans than any year before. It just seems like a lot of work.

I had a boss once who would ride her bike up this great peak in Boulder, CO and spend the day alone. Just hanging and thinking and setting intentions for the year ahead. This is much more my style than expensive prix fixe meals or hotel parties. So while I didn’t ride up any major peaks today, I did bake a pie. A simple lemon pie — so simple, in fact, that the Shakers used to make this very same recipe well over a hundred years ago.  It’s bright in citrus flavor with a rich, buttery crust that will make you smile. You do want to use Meyer lemons if you can get your hands on them. They’re not at all bitter and make for a truly magical pie.  You deserve no less on New Years Day.

So I’ll leave you with a quote today from a novel I finished recently by Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin. While I realize you may not have any context for the quote, I think it says a lot about perspective and how to look forward in this upcoming year. When it comes right down to it–dreams and love and high, high aspirations aside– we all just do our best. That’s all there really is, yes?

“We stumble on … bring a little noise into the silence, find in others the ongoing of ourselves. It is almost enough. The world spins. We stumble on. It is almost enough.”

Shaker Lemon Pie

Shaker Lemon Pie

  • Yield: One nine inch pie
  • Prep time: 30 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins

While you can count the ingredients for the filling on one hand,  this pie does take a little planning as you should let your lemons macerate (hang out in sugar) for 24 hours if possible (if not, at least 4 hours; this isn’t accounted for in the timing breakdown above). To get a really incredible pie without a hint of bitterness, you want to slice your lemons as thin as possible. I use a mandolin and set it on the thinnest setting possible. You could very well use a sharp knife, too — just go for drapy, almost see-through slices. As for the crust, I love using vinegar in my pie dough–it prevents the formation of gluten (which makes for tough pastry) and helps to create a light, flaky pie.

Filling adapted from: The Joy of Cooking: All About Pies & Tarts

Ingredients

Flaky Butter Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup ice water (don't let ice cubes get into dough!)

Lemon Filling

2 Meyer lemons
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), melted

Instructions

Prepare your lemons very first thing as they need to sit for 4-24 hours (I recommend the latter). Grate the zest from your two lemons into a glass or stainless-steel bowl. Slice the lemons paper-thin, removing the seeds as you go. Put in bowl along with the zest and add sugar. Quickly toss, cover, and let sit at room temperature.

Make the dough: Whisk together the flour, salt and sugar. In a food processor or by hand with a pastry cutter, blend the cold cubed butter into the flour mixture until it’s the size of small peas. Don’t obsess about the chunks being the same size. Uneven is good with crust. Work relatively quickly so the butter doesn’t warm. Combine the ice water and vinegar and add slowly in a thin drizzle, mixing during/after each addition. Many factors affect the moisture of pie dough, so you may find you’ll use less water or you may need a little more. Your dough is ready when it just barely begins to clump together and should have some dry bits remaining. Dump dough out onto a clean surface and split in half. Quickly form into 2 chubby disks and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. You may also make the dough ahead — it’s good for 3 days in the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to make the pie, take the dough out of the refrigerator and roll one half into a 13-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie pan. Trim any overhanging to 3/4 inch all around. Roll the other half into a 12-inch round for the top crust and lay on aluminum foil or parchment. Refrigerate both while making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs until frothy. Then whisk in butter and flour until mixture is even. If you have clumps from your flour, pour the mixture through a sieve. Stir the lemon mixture into the egg mixture. Pour the filling into the bottom crust. Brush the overhanging bottom crust with cold water, cover with top crust and trim and flute the edges. Cut steam vents in the top crust. If top crust is sloping a bit and it seems like there’s not enough filling, don’t worry–the filling rises and the top crust comes right along with it.

Bake the pie for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 F and bake until top crust is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 20-30 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. The pie can be stored in the refrigerator for up to days, but let it warm to room temperature before serving.

Comments

  1. Nicole

    I love that you are starting the year off with a lemon recipe (or ending it). I just told my boyfriend yesterday that I can't wait until the holidays are over and it is just me and my lemons! I order them from California every year.
    I used to do something very similar to your boss on my birthday each year.
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who isn't crazy about going out on New Year's Eve. This year is the closest I will come as the Indigo Girls are playing here in Fairbanks tomorrow night.
    Tonight we will walk the 100 paces to our neighbors house to ring in the new year.
    Thanks for all the great posts this last year. I always look forward to them. Happy New Year!

  2. Lucinda

    I love Shaker Lemon Pie. I used to make it from a William-Sonoma recipe many years ago, but not in a long time. I think I shall try your recipe soon. Thanks for the tip on the pie dough. I have enjoyed reading your blog this year, it's about food but not.

  3. Adriana from Baking Powders

    what an awesome way to start the year! i'm planning on baking today, can't think of a better january 1st! happy new year! i hope 2011 brings you a lot of joy and success with 'marge'!

  4. Dana

    A very happy New Year to you my lovely. I so enjoyed meeting you and look forward to at least one rendez-vous in 2011. I am so excited for this new future you are creating for yourself. You should be proud. Let the Great World Spin is one of the best books I have read in the last ten years. :)

  5. katie

    Happy New Year...I'm not one for big new year's celebrations, either...I do like the idea of reflecting on the past year and thinking about the year to come (with hope).
    I've visited the Shaker village in Maine...one thing that I remember from that visit: they live a celibate life, so there are only a few of them living still (maybe four or so). So it's good you're sharing their recipe and keeping their tradition alive...!!
    I like that quote...it's good to remember we're doing the best we can and that's enough!

  6. kickpleat

    Taking it easy is more my style when it comes to ringing in the new year. And this pie looks amazing - totally my kind of pie. And thank you for the gift of perspective. We all need that. Happy 2011!

  7. olga

    Happy New Year - I love that book and I love that quote!! The pie looks absolutely wonderful...

  8. Kasey

    Happy New Year to you, Megan! I loved that book and I totally remember that quote! So simple, yet so true. To more pies! xoxo

  9. (the other) Nicole

    This is totally random but I've been wondering, what do you do with the rest of your pie? I know you probably eat a few pieces and maybe some weeks the whole pie. I live with three other people and when I baked a cake it's still hard to eat the whole thing (and it taste good, that's not the problem, just wanted to make that clear). So what do you do? Do you throw it out? Eat three slices a day? Give it to a homeless man down the street or some friends? I need the advice because some days I won't bake because I feel bad wasting food.

    1. megang

      Hi Nicole-
      Oh you're too funny. Well I hate wasting food, too. Really, really hate it. I actually gave this pie to my mom to serve at her New Years Eve party and the guests were all very, very happy. Usually I"ll have one slice (or maybe two) and bring it into work for everyone to share/take home. Happy New Year.

  10. Joanne

    That is certainly all there is. I have been toying with the idea of reading this book and now I absolutely must!

    I'm not the biggest fan of high maintenance New Years celebrations and so my friends and I sat in an apartment and talked for hours on end. It was lovely. it would have been even lovelier with this pie in tow. Just delicious.

  11. Mary

    Really enjoyed reading this piece, Megan (as usual). Thanks for the apple-cider vinegar tip. I can't wait to make this pie - going to raid a friend's Meyer lemon tree. Happy New Year!

    btw: Your Marge apple-spiced pie was incredible! Incredible!

  12. El

    I've never had a lemon pie before but it definitely looks great. I'm with you on NY Eve and do hope you had a good one!

  13. Megabite

    Just looking at this pie, I get super hungry. I totally need some winter/lemony goodness in my life.

  14. Connie

    I have been racking my brain trying to remember the name of that book that I so wanted to read...thank you!
    The lemon pie looks yummy too....been wondering what else I can make besides lemon icebox pie.

  15. Dana

    What a pie! I've been on a lemon kick all week, this is perfect!

  16. Tara

    I love Shaker Lemon pie - you're actually the second person today to remind me of it! And as Katie said, yes, the Shaker population will soon be no more. Making it all the more important to keep making these treasured recipes! Happy New Year!

  17. Dmarie

    curses, I'm trying to make fewer desserts and you post a recipe for what looks like the once-in-a-lifetime, never-regret-it lemon pie. will definitely be bookmarking this. thanks?!

  18. Delishhh

    YUM YUM! I love tarty pies. Like Rhubarb. But lemon - YUM. Ok this is on my to do list. . .and my head is spinning with all the posabilites of things you can put into the pie.

  19. Marge Bakery | Beyond [the Plate]

    [...] days, I turned up with a bag full of meyer lemons from our tree, destined to be transformed into Shaker Lemon Pies for sale at the Marin Country Mart two days [...]

Join the Discussion

Holiday Baking

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!

Read More
Nibby Chocolate Buckwheat Shortbread

Nibby Chocolate Buckwheat Shortbread

I had every intention of starting a new tradition this year and hosting a cookie swap with some of our local friends, but somehow the season really got the best of me and it just hasn't happened. But! That hasn't stopped me from getting a head start on holiday baking; I posted a photo on Instagram the other day of some of my very favorite holiday cookbooks, and asked if there was a way we could all just take the whole week off to bake instead of work. Judging from the responses, it seems I'm not the only one who thinks this would be a really great idea. But back here in reality, cookie baking is relegated to later evenings or, I hope, this weekend we'll find some time to eek in a few batches (the recipe for Sam's mom's Nutmeg Logs is up next, and I'm set on making gingerbread men to take with us down to the Bay Area). Right now on our countertop, we've got a batch of these crumbly, chocolatey, whole grain shortbread that have proven to be a big hit. The ingredient list is small and simple, the technique foolproof, and I think they're a real standout in a sea of holiday cookies.

Read More
And Just Like That

And Just Like That

Hello from the other side! I realize we haven't been back here for a few weeks, and I'm sorry for dropping into a little black hole. My cookbook deadline was Monday, so I've been a writing and editing machine, stepping away from the computer to occasionally clean the house like a crazy person or throw together a most random lunch or dinner. But somehow it all came together although there was something strangely anti-climactic about sending it off: In the days when you'd print out your manuscript and have to walk to the post office and seal it up carefully to send to the publisher, I imagine it would feel much more ceremonial and important --you could stroll out of the building and do a cartwheel. Or high-five a fellow customer on your way out. Instead, I was sitting in our dining room on an incredibly rainy, dark Monday afternoon unable to hit "send."  My sister Zoe told me to just close my eyes and do it. Sam gave me the thumbs up. So around 3 p.m. that's what I did. With the click of a button, just like that: it was finished.

Read More
Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies (Plus a Treat for You)

Soft and Chewy Ginger Cookies (Plus a Treat for You)

Strolling New York City streets during the height of fall when all the leaves are changing and golden light glints off the brownstone windows. This is what I envisioned when I bought tickets to attend my cousin's September wedding earlier this month: Sam and I would extend the trip for a good day or two so we could experience a little bit of fall in the city. We'd finally eat at Prune and have scones and coffee at Buvette, as we always do. Sam wanted to take me to Russ and Daughters, and we'd try to sneak in a new bakery or ice cream shop for good measure. Well, as some of you likely know, my thinking on the weather was premature. New York City fall had yet to descend and, instead, we ambled around the city in a mix of humidity and rain. When we returned home I found myself excited about the crisp evening air, and the fact that the tree across the street had turned a rusty shade of amber. It was time to do a little baking. 

Read More
Pear Gingerbread for Early Mornings

Pear Gingerbread for Early Mornings

We've been waking up early these days with baby Oliver. I've always been a morning person, so this isn't particularly challenging for me -- although the middle of the night feedings have proven to be really tough. There has been a lot of finessing of sleep schedules and figuring out how Sam and I can both get enough to function well the following day. And just when we think we have it down ("gosh, aren't we lucky we have a baby that sleeps?"), everything changes. When I was in the final weeks of pregnancy and would talk about how I couldn't wait for the baby to be here, all of my friends with kids would advise me to sleep as much as possible -- and now I get it. I should've napped more. I should've listened. In getting up at odd times throughout the night with Oliver, I've had the chance to occasionally see some really brilliant sunrises (although not this past week which has been a particularly dark one in Seattle); I've made up some wacky baby tunes that I'm happy no one else can hear; and I generally have a good hour in which I can put him in the sling and walk briskly around the house trying to soothe him back to sleep while also putting away a dish or two or making a quick cup of coffee. In that hour, I can usually get something productive done and this past weekend that something was pear gingerbread.

Read More