Lemon Shaker Pie

March 9, 2011

This was such a flop, that I wasn't even sure if it was worth sharing. But since I'm trying to break from the belief that everything I do has to be perfect, I'm looking at this as a form of therapy. The pie was a disaster. And I went into it with such high expectations. What's not to like about whole lemon slices stuffed inside a pâte brisée (all butter) crust? But honestly, it was a huge failure. The flavour was so bitter, it almost made me wonder why I love lemons so much. As a lemon head, that's very hard for me to say, it's like telling a close-friend that the dress they're wearing is too tight (something I'd chicken out in saying at the last minute anyway.)

I can't place all the blame on the recipe, or the lemons. The directions say to use a mandolin for slicing the lemons thin...paper thin. I don't have a mandolin. The recipe also says that a sharp knife can also be used to slice the lemons. Apparently I don't have any of those either. I discovered this as I was trying to cut the poor lemons evenly without all their life juice getting squashed out. It didn't work. The slices were way, way, way too thick...and I knew this as I was preparing the crust, and as I slide the superficial pie into the oven. For some reason I thought that the oven fairy would magically make everything ok, and the lemon slices would be perfectly edible. No such luck.

The results were terrible, just terrible. The thick slices were so hard, I could barely cut a clean slice. And the taste was just what one would imagine eating a lemon peel would be like. Because I couldn't stand the idea of wasting a pâte brisée crust, I did end up scraping out the chunks of lemon, leaving only the smooth, lemon curd-like filling. It was good, ugly, but good. However, after one piece, I knew I couldn't serve it to anyone. For a while, I toyed with the idea of throwing on stretchy grey sweatpants and just eating the crust straight out of the pan while watching recorded episodes of 30 Rock. I did all of that, except I tossed the pie and replaced it with a mojito.

Please don't let this deter you from trying the recipe. I'm sure if I had used a mandolin, this would have been close to being one of my favourite lemon-themed recipes. If anyone wants to have a go at this, and make it the right way, please let me know how it turns out!

Lemon Filling (adapted from Saveur)
[Note: The lemons have to sit overnight, so prepare the filling the day before you plan on serving the pie]

Ingredients2 large lemons (thoroughly washed and dried)
2 cups of sugar
1/4 teaspoon of salt
4 eggs (beaten)
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 Tablespoons of all-purpose flour

MethodGrate both lemons and place the zest into a large bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until it becomes moist and aromatic.
Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the lemons as thin as possible, discarding the seeds. [Note: I highly recommend using a mandolin. I don't have one and it was almost impossible to slice the lemons as thin as the need to be for this recipe, just by using a sharp knife. The thinner the slices, the less bitter and tough the filling will be. The slices should be paper-thin.] Add the lemon slices to the sugar mixture. Set aside.

In a separate small bowl, combine the eggs with the melted butter. Whisk to combine.

Pour the egg mixture over the lemon slices. Mix well, making sure all the slices are coated. Toss in the flour and stir until dissolved.

Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours. Every now and then, give the lemons a stir, just to be sure they're all covered.

All-Butter Pie Crust (adapted from Simply Recipes)
[note: I doubled this recipe to make a double pie crust]
1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, and some extra for rolling
8 Tbsp (that's 1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into bits [note: I cut the butter first, and froze the pieces over night]
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar (increase to 1 1/2 teaspoons if for a sweet recipe)
4 to 6 Tbsp ice water, very cold
1 egg white, beaten (to brush on the crust)
Mascavo sugar (optional)

MethodPrepare the crust: In a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar, pulse to mix. Scatter the bits of butter evenly over the dry ingredients. Pulse a few times, just so the mixture resembles coarse meal, you should have bits the size of peas, oatmeal, and everything in between. Add cold water 1 Tablespoon at a time, pulsing until mixture just begins to cling to the blade. It should hold together when pinched, if not, add a little more water(1/2 tablespoon at a time), until it just comes together. Don't over mix! You want to be able to see small pieces of butter still in the dough.

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface. Gather it together and knead gently just to incorporate any crumbs which have escaped. If you're making a double crust, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Remove one disk from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Sprinkle some flour on top of the disk. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle (about 1/8 of an inch thick). Keep flouring the surface and the dough as needed. Place the rolled-out circle into to a 9-inch pie plate, leaving about a 1/2-inch overhang around the edges. [Note: if you have enough scraps leftover, you can re roll them and cut out small shapes to place on top of the crust.]

AssemblePour the lemon mixture into the crust shell. Set aside as you roll out the second half of the dough.

Remove the second disk and again, roll it into a 12-inch circle.

Drape the dough circle over the lemon filling, and trim it so that there is about a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under the bottom crust and press them together to seal it. If desired, use a fork to make a decorative design around the edges. [Note: I did this, but it puffed out as the pie was baking.]

Brush the entire crust with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar (if using).

Cut about 4 slits in into the crust, these will serve as steam vents.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or just until the edges start to brown. Reduce the oven's temperature to 350F. and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown. [Note: You may have to cover the edges with tin foil half-way through the baking time]

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Let it rest for at least 1 hour before slicing.


  1. OMG, what a splendid pie! I am a sucker for anything lemony....



  2. It's so disappointing when something doesn't turn out the way we want and expect. I've been having my fair share lately too. I made this pie when I was a teenager, thinking it would be heavenly, and I had a total flop too. I don't think I'm ready to try again.

  3. Oh Valerie, I think it's very good and honest that you posted this. First of all, the pie is totally gorgeous aesthetically speaking. Plus, I'm sure the only problem was the lemon slice size. It sounds like a wonderful recipe if mandolin is in reach (smile)...

  4. The pie looks great ... I'm just sorry it didn't work out for you. When I saw the title, I was hoping I'd have another lemon recipe to add to my collection. I won't do that (I don't have a mandolin either), but thanks for sharing this noble effort with your readers!

  5. They recently did a Lemon Shaker Pie on Cook's Country. Recipe here: http://www.cookscountrytv.com/recipes/detail.asp?docid=12717.

    They recommend using the freezer to firm up the lemons if you are using a knife for the thin slices.

    Brava for trying, and posting, even though it didn't turn out. Pies are my number #1 thing that end up tasting okay but looking horrific.

  6. Thanks for the recipe link, Cecily! Firming up the lemons first is a great idea. :)

  7. How distressing, Valerie. :-( Your crust does look fantastic though - and I adore that perky little butterfly. :-)

  8. I'm sorry it didn't turn out quite right....but wow it looks amazing. Beautiful crust.

  9. I'm sorry that your dessert was a flop, but your crust is gorgeous!

  10. Gosh, Valerie, it sure LOOKS good! I saw a recipe recently with lemon slices on top of puff pastry with just whipped cream on top. Now I am reconsidering. Although I do have a mandolin. Wonder if it's all to do with how thin the lemons are?

  11. Barbara, I really think that slicing these as thin as possible is the key to success in this recipe. I also considered running the filling through the food processor (before adding it to the shell). If anything, that would have made it edible. :)

  12. Gosh, I'd never guess it was a flop! It looks perfect and golden...

  13. Well, despite it tasting bitter I must say it certainly is pretty. Can't tell it was "flop" by looking at it! I love your honesty in this post.

  14. It may not have turned out to your liking but it looks beautiful!!!

  15. Even though the pie didn't turn out how you liked, the crust sure was artistic. Love the butterfly on top! Sounds like a mandoline is necessary for this recipe.

    But hey, at least you got to enjoy a mojito, so that's not so bad! :)

  16. I would have been hard pressed to bring myself to throw that gorgeous pie. Having another go at it? I'm going to go look in my kitchen to see if I have a mandoline, my knife skills can be defined as non existent!

  17. really your pie look amazing!!sorry you think dont work,.you are really nice! gloria

  18. As a fellow lemon lover, I can imagine the disappointment. Sadly, I don't have a mandolin either, but I bet that would've made all the difference. Oh well, you live & you learn. :-)

  19. Valerie, I'm a little late to the game here, but I recently made this pie with the same results, even starting with paper thin lemon slices. Have you thought of zesting the lemons first and then removing as much pith as you can, either before or after macerating? I'm going to give that a try, as I won't accept defeat.

    It's funny you resorted to a mojito, as this pie led me to wonder if a mojito pie would be possible. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Hi, Andy! First of all, thank you for treading your way through the archives...not my best work, but maybe worth a revisit? :D

      I never thought of zesting the lemons first; maybe that would alleviate the bitterness. Also, a mojito pie sounds wonderful and definitely worth looking into! xoxo


Thanks for visiting, and for taking the time to read through my ramblings!
If you have a recipe comment or question, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy Baking!
♥ Valerie


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