Baked Sunday Mornings: Lemon Shaker Pie

I was ready to thrown in the towel on pies from Baked. Every pie I've made from a Baked recipe (Sawdust Pie, Peaches and Dream Pie, Buttermilk Pie, Blackberry Pie) had the exact same problem -- an undercooked bottom crust. And mind you, other bakers in Baked Sunday Mornings didn't have the same problem; this particular idiosyncratic and systematic failure seemed to be mine alone. But after my most recent disastrous pie, I received some really good suggestions about how to address the soggy crust problem. So I figured that this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe, the Lemon Shaker Pie, was my chance for redemption.

I had never heard of Lemon Shaker Pie, but I recently made an upside-down cake using whole lemons that was quite delicious, so I was excited about using whole lemons in this pie. You have to start this pie a few days in advance, in order to have enough time to make the sugared lemons. Basically, you freeze lemons, slice them very thin (I used my very sharp Global knife instead of a mandoline), and macerate them in sugar for two days. Most of the sugar dissolves into a clear syrup, although there were still some undissolved grains in the mixture.

To make the pie filling, the recipe instructs you to separate the lemons from the lemon sugar, and to spread the lemons out over the bottom crust. (The crust for this pie is the exact same "Classic Pie Dough" recipe that I've used for all of the Baked pies. While it's always given me a soggy bottom crust, the dough is very easy to handle and it rolls out effortlessly.) Then you're supposed to pour over a mixture of the lemon sugar, eggs, flour, cornstarch, salt, and melted butter.

I diverged from the recipe a bit. First, over two days of macerating and occasional stirring, not only did most of the sugar dissolve into a syrup, but the lemons had taken a beating; some of the peels had become separated from the flesh. So I decided not to take the laborious step of removing the lemons from the sugar/syrup. Second, I had perused some other Shaker lemon pie recipes online, and I noticed that several of the commenters to this Saveur recipe referenced the idea of running the macerated lemons through a blender or food processor to reduce the bitterness of the pie filling and avoid a stringy texture. That sounded like a great idea, so I used an immersion blender to smooth out the macerated lemon mixture. Third, given that I'm paranoid about having a soggy bottom crust, I put the macerated lemon mixture in a fine-mesh sieve to drain out some of the sugar syrup before mixing it with the eggs and other ingredients, so that the finished filling would be less liquid-y.

I poured the filling into the bottom crust, added the top crust, and chilled the pie for a few hours before baking (the recipe says to chill for one hour, but something came up and I wasn't able to get to it right away). I cut a few vents, brushed the top crust with egg wash, and sprinkled on some coarse sugar. This recipe has you start baking the pie at a very hot temperature (425 degrees) for 20 minutes, and then lower the temperature to 350 degrees for the remainder of the baking time; I know that this technique is supposed to help ensure that the bottom crust is thoroughly cooked.

But I wasn't taking any chances on a soggy crust. I also used a Pyrex pie pan (instead of my usual metal pie pans), and I preheated the oven for about an hour with my FibraMent baking stone in it. The FibraMent lives on the bottom rack of the oven all of the time, but I wanted to make sure that the stone was thoroughly hot, and then I placed the pie pan on top of the stone for the duration of baking. I was a bit concerned about the Pyrex pan suffering from thermal shock if I transferred it directly from the refrigerator onto a hot stone, so I did place the pie pan on a thin baking sheet before I placed it into the stone. But I figured that I had this soggy crust problem conquered.

So after all of my efforts, what did I get? I got a beautiful pie, with a nicely browned top crust, and a completely uncooked bottom crust. Sigh. I am apparently completely incapable of getting these pies to come out correctly.

That said, after I cooled the pie and chilled it, I was still eager to cut into it to see how the filling came out. The filling was firm and held its shape. It's difficult to describe -- it was not custardy, because it had lots of texture from the blended lemon peel. It was quite delicious. I was surprised that it was not bitter at all, but sweetly lemony and mild, with some tartness from the lemon peel. And the top pie crust that was cooked through was also very good, especially with the nice crunchy layer of coarse sugar.

Because the filling was cohesive, it was easy enough to simply slice off the bottom crust from a piece of a pie and enjoy the remainder. Given my horrible track record with pies, I am happy to see that this is the only pie recipe in Baked Elements -- but this is one pie that I might actually make again. The unusual and delightful filling is worth the soggy crust heartache. And hopefully one of these days I will actually get the crust right!

Recipe: "Lemon Shaker Pie" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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Louise said…
Glad you liked the pie, but sorry to hear about the crust. I concur with your wanting to avoid thermal shock to the Pyrex pie plate, but I think you should have skipped the baking stone and baking sheet totally and put the pie plate on the lower rack directly. I'll ask the metallurgist in my house what he thinks happened with the heating dynamics.
Louise said…
Or, stick with your metal pie pan so that you can put it on your baking stone without incident. :-)
Glad it was delicious. I also don't have a lot of luck with pie crusts. I find they are one of those things that take lots of practice. But it would be nice to master them one day!
Kris' Kitchen said…
You were so smart to puree your filling...this is my biggest complaint for this pie...stringy, chewy pieces. May I suggest that your bottom crust would have baked better without a tray and Pyrex is designed to go from cold to hot OK...sometimes I freeze my uncooked pies and bake them in Pyrex right from the freezer. Also you can see into these glass pans and can see when your bottom crust is done. If it is not browned a bit...leave your pie in longer. Sometimes you'll need an extra 10 or 15 minutes. Sometimes you'll need to tent your pie top with foil so the top doesn't brown too much. And make sure your pie sits below the half-way point in your oven. Your pie is beautiful and I enjoyed your post. You are on track to make your next pie absolutely perfect!
Anonymous said…
Your pie looks great! I'm still baking mine and I'm a bit concerned about the texture...I wish I would have pureed the filling like you had!
Anonymous said…
GREAT idea to puree the filling a bit - and honestly I think your pie - including the bottom crust - looks perfect! I hate when I get soggy bottom crusts too. So frustrating. Kris (above) has some excellent tips about baking it a little longer, etc. You can do it! And don't get too discouraged - again, I think this looks lovely. Nice job and don't give up on pie yet! :-)
Chelly said…
I blended my filling also....I just felt like I couldn't get the lemons sliced thin enough. Mine is still in the oven...I hope it turns out half as nice as yours! It looks wonderful!
Susan said…
Despite your frustration, your pie looks great! I've got to hand it to you for sticking with it! Perhaps Mark will share his personal super secret recipe with you...
Anonymous said…
Looks very delicious! The color of the filling is beautiful! I usually bake my pies on the very bottom of my oven... I bake most stuff down there because I've found that my cakes rise more at high altitude. :)