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David Lissner
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Eat this! Whole-lemon pie, a legacy of the Shakers

Hyatt Regency Chef Alain Roby’s fresh lemon slice custard pie.

Hyatt Regency Chef Alain Roby’s fresh lemon slice custard pie.

What it is: Unlike common lemon pies, which are mixed from lemon juice with perhaps a bit of the zest, whole-lemon pie includes the peel and all. Slicing the lemons paper-thin provides a potent, appealing mix of sweet and tart flavors.

American Classics by Alain Roby

Where it comes from: This style of lemon pie is a specialty of a small religious group, The United Society of Believers, known as the “Shaking Quakers,” or “Shakers,” for their fervent worship services. The Shakers came to America from Manchester, England, in 1774, seeking religious freedom. Ascetic, celibate and dedicated to principles of work and duty, they adopted orphans, made clean-lined, beautiful furniture, and cooked simple, wholesome foods based on using all the bounty of the land.

The Shaker lemon pie recipe, which wastes none of the fruit, is one of their more enduring legacies. Indeed, there are more recipes for Shaker lemon pie today than there are Shakers. Only one tiny community still exists, at Sabbathday Lake in Maine, where a handful of adherents still practice Shaker rituals.

What to do with it: Serve cold or at room temperatures topped with whipped cream, perhaps with some hot lemon tea.

Fresh lemon slice custard pie
Chef Alain Roby, Hyatt Regency Chicago

This version of the Shaker pie recipe comes from Chef Alain Roby’s new cookbook, “Alain Roby’s American Classics: Casual and Elegant Desserts.” Roby is the longtime executive pastry chef for the Hyatt Regency Chicago in the Loop and senior corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. His lavishly illustrated book details his journey from his roots in classic French cuisine to an appreciation for American comfort food.

3 lemons
1-1/2 cups sugar
5 eggs
12 ounces pie-crust dough (recipe follows)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Additional sugar for sprinkling
Whipped cream, lemon zest and mint leaves for garnish

Slice each unpeeled lemon as thinly as possible. (slices should be paper thin and translucent). In a medium bowl, beat the sugar with 4 of the eggs until well mixed. Fold in the lemon slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll 8 ounces of the pie dough into 4 circles and place in the bottom of well-greased small tart shells. Pour the chilled lemon filling into the pie shells.

Roll 4 ounces of the pie dough into 4 circles. Cut a cross in the middle of each circle to let steam escape. Place the dough on top of the pies. Curve each angle of the rim to show the lemon filling.

Beat the remaining egg with the salt. Seal the edges of the pies and brush the tops with this mixture, and sprinkle with sugar to brown. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. 4 servings.

Pie dough

1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), chilled
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, salt and sugar together. When the butter is soft but not creamy, add the flour and water. Mix just till combined. There should still be bits of butter showing.

Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 6 weeks. Makes enough for 2 double-crust pies.

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