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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Shaker Lemon Tart

So it's the day after. We had a very modern Christmas because three of our guests attended via skype. My cousin sat at the Christmas Eve table with us from her sweltering apartment in Argentina. We could hear the rowdy parade outside her window and she was in a bikini. My sister and her fiance opened presents with us Christmas morning from their sofa in China. They poured festive mojitos as it was already Christmas night at their house.

We missed them especially while doing the things we've done every Christmas for 30 years but I felt so lucky to have had my sister's pixelated face across the tree from me. Very 2013.

We ate this tart Monday night. The recipe is from Martha Stewart's new book Martha's American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation's Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast.

She writes the backstory: The sweet-and-sour filling in this tart is composed of only three ingredients - paper-thin slices of lemon (rind and all), sugar, and eggs - a fitting expression of the Shakers' loathing of wastefulness. Baked in a pie shell, the dessert is commonly known as Ohio lemon pie, so named for the Shakers who eventually made their home in the state.

Shaker Lemon Tart
from Martha's American Food: A Celebration of Our Nation's Most Treasured Dishes, from Coast to Coast

2 large meyer lemons, preferably organic, washed well
2 cups sugar
Basic pie dough (recipe below)
Flour for dusting
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1. Cut lemons crosswise into paper-thin rounds using a mandoline or a very sharp knife; discard ends and seeds. Place lemon slices in a medium nonreactive bowl, and add sugar; toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight.

2. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to 1/8 inch thick. Fit round into tart pan and push rolling pin across the top to remove excess dough. Place tart pan on baking sheet; freeze dough until firm, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day (covered with plastic wrap).

3. Preheat oven to 450 F, with rack in lower third. Add eggs to lemon mixture and stir to combine. Pass through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Dividing evenly, pour filling into tart shell, then arrange lemon slices on top.

4. Bake tart on rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 F; bake until filling is set and beginning to brown on top, about 20-25 minutes more. Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack let cool completely.

Basic Pie Dough
 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) plus 2 tablespoons col unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1. Pulse together flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembled coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 10 seconds. Evenly drizzle 1/4 cup ice water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together (it should not be wet or sticky). If dough is too dry, add up to 1/4 cup more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse to combine.

2. Divide dough in half. Wrap each in plastic; shape into disks. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour or up to overnight. (Dough can be frozen up to 1 month; thaw overnight in refrigerator before using.)


  1. So...I learned the difference between a regular lemon and a Meyer lemon the hard way last week when I served my poor dad an uber-tart-and-chewy-rind version, courtesy of my blissful ignorance in lemons. Apparently, the 'real-deal' is a hard-to-find delicacy in Colorado (Whole foods is even sketchy on when they carry it), and I'm tempted to try to find an asian market since Meyers are originally eastern in origin? Where do you find yours?

  2. Hi Athena - oh no I'm so sorry to hear this! After all your hard work. I've done a similar thing in the past. So yes, Meyer lemons are important here and I find them at Whole Foods (off island) but I'm wondering if you could sub oranges? Maybe even peeled? Try calling around to markets too and I also found slicing them extremely thin helped - creating one even layer even if it means having a few slices leftover for your water.
    Good luck!

  3. I attempted this again using actual Meyer lemons and SUCCESS! Yuuummmm.....Thank you for your feedback!

  4. Many thanks for such a lovely posting of this fabulous recipe. I made this today (in a regular pie pan/crust, not a tart pan) to total raves from everyone who tasted (or even just saw it on Facebook). After her third slice, my wife commanded me to "Put that recipe in the black binder," referring to the binder my mom gave me that contains our family's classic, most-loved recipes.

    I was worried that my home-grown Meyer lemons would be too small -- they're not large at all -- but that was not an issue. I made a double batch (4 lemons) just in case, and half of that filled the pie shell fine. (And now I'll be able to make another one tomorrow!)

    I have two questions. 1) As the tart was baking, its top surface domed up and remained jiggly even after the 25 minutes at 350F. Another version of the recipe said to stick a knife in, and it's done when it comes out dry. The knife was too large -- it dented rather than punctured the top -- so I used a skewer. When it came clean, the filling was still really jiggly, but it firmed up after it cooled. Are there any other done-tests that would be better?

    2) Do you have any advise on techniques for cutting this pie/tart into neat slices? I used a very sharp slicing knife, and it still just pressed the rinds into the custard (and didn't cut through them) causing some ragged-looking slices.

    Also, your cooling directions are confusing: "Let cool on a wire rack 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack let cool completely." What kinds of different racks are you recommending?

    Many thanks for your wonderful post. I'll be checking the rest of your site for some more new family classics.

    -- Mike in San Jose, Calif.


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