Saturday, March 16, 2013

Baked Sunday Mornings: Lemon Shaker Pie

OK.......we are pie people at our house.  (#2 Son is baking chicken pot pie for St. Paddy’s day.  I don’t know what that has to do with this fun day except that he wants to make it.  It will be an alternative to my more traditional Irish meal.  This year our dinner guests will have a few choices, one being his meat and vegetable pie.) I’ve collected every type of pie recipe I’ve ever come across and I can honestly say I’ve come close to trying them all.  I have a few shelves in my library that are dedicated to pie baking books.  We almost always have a pie or two in the kitchen waiting for hungry eaters. Right now, for example, I have blueberry and coconut cream pies in addition to my just baked lemon pie. It’s part of our fun.  But I’ve never heard of and therefore never before tried Lemon Shaker Pie.  Reading through the recipe created no excitement for this pie addict.  I decided to skip this week.  But then I just couldn’t skip it.  It is pie...I had to try it.

So I got online and read everything I could find (within an hour) about this type of pie.  The reviews are mixed.  Some said that Lemon Shaker Pie is the best lemon pie ever; much better than lemon meringue pie, for example.  Others said it was bitter and nasty and was thrown out. A few suggested that this pie is delicious if the insides are pureed and that otherwise one should expect stringy lemon pieces that are quite chewy. Some advised that it is bitter, only very thin slices would be enjoyed and only enjoyed by “adult” palates.  I read that this pie has a very strong flavor. 

The other issue is that it takes 48 hours to prepare the thin blanched lemon slices in sugar which takes away bitterness and some of the chewy texture.   I also read that the "test kitchen" has a quicker version, but most reviewers agreed that theirs in not "real" Shaker lemon pie. 
Most agreed that Meyer lemons are the way to go.

I grow Meyer lemons.  They are not like “regular” lemons.  They are a cross between a lemon and a Mandarin orange.  They are much sweeter and a different texture than the usual lemons.  I wanted to try this recipe in its pure form, just to try it out.

Then I read that a Shaker lemon pie baker should be careful to cut several steam slits into the top crust as adequate venting is very important for this pie.  I also read that some bakers did not add a top crust.   (The filling tends to clog up the vent holes.)

The big plus for me is that I love many Amish and Shaker pies.  These people were my initial catalyst in my pie baking hobby.   With that in mind, Hubby picked 2 lovely lemons for me which I sliced just in time to give the 48 hours necessary before my post would be due.

Then I decided to be smart.  I would make a top crust with lots of cutouts instead of vents, usually a very pretty crust.  Not a good idea.  The unbaked filling is very liquidy causing my top dough, which was not as sturdy as a plain crust, to sag down into the liquid.  My prebaked pie was one of the ugliest pies I’ve ever baked.  I wanted to start over, 48 hours were gone and I was making only one of these mixed review pies.  So I’m stuck with an ugly pie.  But bless my Son #2 who came into the kitchen as I was pulling my finished very ugly pie out of the oven and he commented that it looked quite good.  He was even serious.  Thank you, son!

After cooling, I gave my lemon pie the anticipated taste test.  My pie slice came out with several stringy lemon slices wanting to tag along.  Hummm.  I should have chopped up my lemon slices a bit...not pureed them, but chopped smaller pieces would be a good idea.  My piece is chewy.  Not repulsive, but not like other fruit pies I bake.  A few bites have bitterness which is not nasty, but probably not for kids.  And my first bite was a piece of powerful pie.  I needed a drink of water to get it down.   The flavor is like a strong lemon meringue pie but the texture is chewy with stringy piece.  The lemon slices did not all stay round and lovely; most were broken and became long strings of lemon such as we are not used to eating.

Except for the top crust which I cut out differently, I followed the recipe as written.  (I also took the time for the blanching step.) Even though I love our citrus and enjoy using it in my baking, I can’t say I will bake this variety again.  It was interesting to try, but I have a great lemon meringue pie recipe that I find much more exciting and will stick with that for now.

I'm wondering how all your pies turned out???   Hope you had better luck than I.   Just for fun I also baked a batch of "Baked" brownies to go with my green mint chocolate chip ice cream...another one of our alternative choices for those who DO want something more traditional.

Happy St. Pat's Day to you all...hope you all have fun with something green!


  1. I have to agree with your son #2....your pie does look quite good. And the filling looks lovely and lemony. I decided against making this pie, as I was buttered out after two weekends of making croissants. The thought of pastry again was too much for me. But it does look like a good pie.

  2. I think your pie looks absolutely beautiful! The filling did end up clogging the slits I had cut as vents on my pie, but it didn't seem to have any ill effect on the baking of the pie. I also blended my lemons to help smooth out the filling texture. I can't decide how this compares against lemon meringue pie, since they are just so different!

  3. We liked this pie but, as you mentioned, it does have a strong flavor. I think your pie looks great. In fact, I thought of you when I was putting this together as this is only the 2nd time I've made a pie with 2 crusts! I know you are an old pro, so I wondered what kind of advice you would give me.

    I agree with you - it is always fun to try a new recipe and learn something new, but I doubt we will make this one again.

    How fun that your son is making dinner for you!

  4. I think your pie looks really good!! Mine is in the oven right now so I have tasted it yet...but I have a sneaking suspicion I will like it.

  5. I agree with the others...your pie looks great. But from your description, I think I'll stick to lemon meringue :)

  6. Simply a fabulous looking pie, Kris!! Lemon Meringue is a favorite treat in our house…I love anything with lemon! Not sure I would make this one after reading your review, however it is pretty! I bet your Meyer lemons would have been a great asset to this pie!

  7. Your pie looks awesome, but after reading your blog I think I am glad I made the angel food cake! ;)

  8. Kris, is is a pie that I have been wanting to bake for the longest time. It sounds so very intriguing but we certainly do not have any Meyer Lemons around here and I think this might be too owerpowering to bake with regular lemons...but your pie has such a perfect color and the filling looks so wonderfully lemony, that I would absolutely love to have a taste! You are right about the Amish and Shaker pies, I adore some of their recipes for pies - one of my kids had to write a paper about the Amish for school last week and I gave him my Amisk pie book to show around in class - it was fun!

    Have a great Wednesday!