Beth Howard's Shaker Lemon Pie Recipe

Last Saturday morning, I woke up early and headed to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. I needed to be on the corner of 3rd Street and Arizona Avenue by 9:00 a.m. if I wanted to make it to a class called "Follow That Chef." It's a series put on by The Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories. As the name entails, participants follow various chefs through the farmer's market and watch them select produce along the way for their culinary masterpieces.

Once all the ingredients have been acquired, we then follow them through the busy streets of the Santa Monica Promenade, past a vintage-looking movie theater, up two outdoor escalators, and finally, to the top floor of the Marketplace where The Gourmandise School is located.

Last Saturday's featured chef was author and pie baker, Beth Howard. Beth recently wrote a memoir called Making Piece: A memoir of love, loss, and pie. In it, she shares her story of leaving a high-stress, corporate job to go bake pies at a gourmet deli in Malibu. It was there that Beth found her true passion, and when her husband died suddenly at the age of 43, she discovered that baking pies could teach her about life and guide her through the grieving process.

Her book has several recipes in the back, but Shaker Lemon Pie isn't one of them. She shared the recipe with us in her cooking demo, and now I will share it with you. If you're a lemon fan, then you will absolutely love it!

*Important Note: You must begin making this recipe 24 hours in advance. The lemons need to marinate in sugar for a whole day so that they congeal and become candied. *

Shaker Lemon Pie Filling
2 Meyer lemons, sliced paper thin, with a Mandoline
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
3 Tbsp. flour

I am lucky enough to work at a restaurant where they let me borrow random kitchen gadgets, such as Mandoline slicers. If you are not so lucky, you can either buy a cheap one at Target, or try your luck at hand-slicing lemons as thinly as you possibly can. The reason they need to be so thin is because the skin is left on, and it can get far too bitter if the rind is in thick chunks.

Speaking of bitterness, do everything in your power to find Meyer lemons for this recipe. Meyer lemons are a hybrid lemon/orange, so they naturally have a bit more sweetness. I looked for them at several grocery stores, and finally found them at Whole Foods for an extremely reasonable price. (Well, reasonable for Whole Foods, I guess I should say. Haha.)

Once your lemons are sliced, toss them in a bowl with 2 cups of sugar and let the mixture sit out at room temperature for 24 hours.

Next, beat 4 eggs in a bowl, and add them to the lemon/sugar mixture, along with 3 Tablespoons of flour.

Beth's Pie Crust (adapted ever-so slightly)
2 1/2 - 3 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut oil (note: this is my alteration. Beth uses vegetable shortening, but coconut oil is a healthier substitution)
Dash of salt (I used around 1/4 tsp.)
Ice water (fill one cup, but use only enough to moisten dough)

Before we begin, let's just say that Beth's method of pie-making is rather unorthodox. She admits this straight away when giving demos. She's not a fan of measuring ingredients, or making a big, complicated production out of rolling out the pie dough. "Don't bother freezing it," she advises. "The pioneers didn't have freezers, yet they successfully made pies all the time." Her mentality is about having fun, forgetting rules, and letting intuition be your guide.

All that said, here are the instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, butter, salt, and coconut oil in a large bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly mix everything together. The dough should be crumbly.

Next, pour in a few dollops of ice water. Go easy at first because you can always add more if necessary. Remember that you don't want the dough to be too sticky or too dry, so keep on mixing it together with your hands -- adding more water if it's too dry, and more flour if it's too sticky-- until you find a perfect texture that is somewhere between the two.

Once you've found that perfect texture, form the dough into a ball and cut that ball in half.

Roll out half the dough on wax paper with a lightly floured surface. Also be sure to coat your rolling pin in flour to keep the dough from sticking.

As an entertaining side note, this is where things got a bit tricky for me, as I went to go roll out my pie crust, and couldn't seem to find my rolling pin. Anywhere. I searched and searched, but it was of no avail. So, I took a page from Beth's book and didn't worry about it. Instead, I garnered my spirit of innovation and found that a pint glass coated in flour can easily substitute for a rolling pin. No joke. I literally rolled out my pie crust with a pint glass, so if I could make it work under those circumstances, then you can too!

Line your pie plate with the bottom crust, and then poke holes in it with a fork. If there is a bunch of excess dough hanging off the edges, then use kitchen scissors to cut it evenly, so it hangs about 1 inch below the edges of the pie plate.

Next, add the lemon filling, and then cover with the other half of the pie crust, which has also been rolled out using the above method. You can form a pretty edge around the sides using your fingers, and then the most important part is inserting a knife in the top and carving a criss-cross, so that the pie can breathe and doesn't explode in the oven.

Lastly, Beth recommends coating the pie with an egg wash to give it a beautiful golden color. Just beat one egg in a bowl, and then dip a paint brush in the egg mix and lightly paint it along the top of the pie crust, and along the edges.
Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Then, lower the temp to 375 degrees, and continue baking for another 35-40 minutes. Allow it to cool completely, and then serve.

If you want to learn more about baking pies, or try some of Beth's other recipes, check out her blog, The World Needs More Pie.

Happy baking! And if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please post them :)