Monday, March 14, 2016

Pie Day 2016

It's that time again when all will celebrate in an orgy of pie consumption for Pie (or Pi since it's 3.14) Day. Houston Chowhounds does a pie and soup party every year, which I've hosted the past several years. By having some hearty soups to go along with the pie, you don't have as bad of an insulin crash. This time around we enjoyed a chili from Robb Walsh's chili book, a champagne-cheese-onion soup, a Jacque Pepin pea soup (using pureed chicken cracklins and was quite popular). Piewise we had a Martha Stewart banana cream pie with graham cracker crust (the filling had great flavor but the crust didn't hold together), a French silk pie, a German chocolate pie, an apple pie with bourbon soaked raisins, and a Shaker lemon pie. I'll share the Shaker lemon pie recipe with you.

Shaker worship involved a dance of men and women in separate lines in circles
The Shakers are one of those early 20th century cults populated by deliberately celibate people (therefore, they were only sustainable as a culture when there was a large influx of new members). Like Quakerism (which also arose in Pennsylvania) they did a lot of good works and accepted orphans and victims of domestic violence into their community before there were social services for such people.
 For a great documentary about the Shakers I recommend Ken Burn's "The Shakers", available at your local library

The Shakers were known for being hard-working and masters of simplifying design. Shaker furniture design has continued to be popular long after all but the last few Shakers have died.
Shakers were known for their furniture making and simplicity of form

The chairs were designed to hang on a rail along the wall
One of the other items they are remembered for is their lemon pie. Unlike most lemon pies that only incorporate the juice of the fruit, this pie is what I would call a lemon marmalade chess pie because it uses the entire fruit - rind, pulp, and juice - demonstrating that economy of use. While the main Shaker pie you typically hear about is the lemon, they also made a Shaker sugar cream pie, Shaker cider pie, Shaker coconut pie, and Shaker cranberry pie.

Shaker lemon pie
2 lemons, preferably Meyer lemons*
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
4 large eggs
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Blanch the lemons by submerging in boiling water for 30 seconds. Rinse in cold water until cool. Trim and discard the ends of the lemons. Cut in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise on a mandolin as thin as possible. Discard any seeds. Place sugar and salt in a nonreactive bowl. Add lemon slices and juice at room temperature and allow to macerate for 8 hrs or 1 hr at room temperature and overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 425F. Beat the eggs. Add the melted butter and flour and stir to combine. Add the egg mixture to the macerating lemons and mix well to disperse the lemon slices. Prepare a single pie crust (1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/3 cup lard or shortening, 3 Tbsp cold water, and a pinch of salt is my basic recipe that I cut together with a pastry blender). Roll the pie dough until it is 1/8 inch thick for a 9-inch pie plate. Center over the plate and fold the edges up and crimp as you want (see my post on pie crimps for ideas). Place the filling into the crust and bake for 25 min at 425F. Then reduce the heat to 350F for another 25 minutes until lightly browned. You can brush the surface with cream and/or sugar at this time to create a caramelized surface.

*My initial attempt with this pie had a runnier filling than desired. This pie tends to solidify more overnight in the refrigerator so starting two days in advance may be best. Also grocery store lemons tend to be smaller than homegrown ones like mine, so choose smaller ones if you have a lemon tree.

Some other lemon recipes I found on Smitten Kitchen that might be targets of my Meyer lemon supply

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