Sorry for the delay, but the cold I’ve had for over a month still hasn’t quite gone away and I sort of lost all of my energy over the last several days. But I’m springing back with a very beautiful spring pie!

While thinking about this pie project, I’ve been pondering what actually constitutes a pie?

Dictionary.com says: that a pie is “a baked food having a filling of fruit, meat, pudding, etc., prepared in a pastry-lined pan or dish and often topped with a pastry crust.

Wikipedia.org says: “A pie is a baked dish which is usually made of a pastry dough casing that covers or completely contains a filling of various sweet or savory ingredients. Pies are defined by their crusts.”

These definitions are very standard, but what about tarts, quiches or dishes like clafoutis? The definition for a tart is so similar that I don’t see how they cannot be interchangeable for this one month.

As far as sweet pies and sweet pie crusts go, I’m no expert. I’ve only made one sweet pie in my life from scratch before, and apple pie one year at Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually made the crust myself. When it comes to times like this when I have no idea where to go when I get to my pantry, I seek help from other people like myself who love to cook and write about what they cook.

For this lemon-y explosion I’ve turned to the brilliant mind behind Smitten Kitchen, Deb. I’m not really on a first name basis with her, but I love her recipes and the way she writes about food, and she has a great pie crust recipe and a great lemon tart recipe… so I decided to try her recipes out and see where they got me.

Sweet Pie Crust (the great unshrinkable)

Makes one 9-inch tart or pie crust, or seven 4″ tartlet or mini-pie pans.

1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 Cup confectioner’s sugar

1/4 Teaspoon salt

1 Stick plus 1 Tablespoon (9 Tablespoons) very cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg, lightly beaten

I don’t have a large food processor at the moment, so where she says to use a food processor I either use a hand mixer or an immersion blender (depends on the job).

1. Blend the flour, sugar and salt together using a dough mixer or a hand mixer (if you use a hand mixer be sure to cover your bowl and mixer with a tea towel so as to reduce dust). Add the butter pieces and mix until there is a variation of pea-shapes and quick-oats shapes. Mix in the egg a little bit at a time, pulsing the mixer (or food processor). Your mixture should start to look clumpy. When the sound of the machine you’re using changes, stop blending and knead by hand. Not too much, you’re not making bread. Just knead it until the mixture comes together and the dry bits are well-incorporated. Roll into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

2. Butter your tart or pie pan. Roll out the dough onto a floured sheet of parchment paper, or a floured work surface. Lift and turn the round as you roll it to create a more even layer of dough. Transfer dough to pan (or cut into smaller circles for smaller pans like I have done) and seal it to the sides of the pan. Trim around the edges, and pierce everywhere with a fork.

3. Freeze the crust in the pan for at least 30 minutes, or longer if you can, before baking.

4. For this recipe you need to partially bake the crust. Preheat the oven to 375º. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil (or several pieces if you’re making smaller pies) and cover the pan with crust inside tightly, butter side down. Put the tart pan, or pans on a baking sheet and into the oven (without pie weights) for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed up use the back of a spoon to press it down. I found that my crust actually did shrink so I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong here. Put the crust back in the oven, uncovered, and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove the crust again and let cool before putting the filling inside the pie.

Lemon Tart Filling

1 Average-sized or two medium/smallish meyer lemons

1 1/2 Cups granulated sugar

1 Stick unsalted butter, cut into chunks

4 Large eggs

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 Teaspoon table salt

Powdered sugar for dusting

Slice the lemon into very thin slices, making sure you remove the seeds as you go along. A mandoline might help with this, but I did it carefully with an extremely large and sharp knife. You are using the entire lemon except for the seeds and the stems. Again, I don’t have a food processor and for this step I used an immersion blender which worked just fine.

Once the filling is smoth, pour it into the pre-baked pie crust. Put the pie into a 35oº oven and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the pie filling is set. If you’re using individual-sized pans it will take less time, try for 20 – 30 minutes. It might turn a bit golden brown on top. If you push the pan gently and the center is still jiggling a bit, it is not set. Cool the pie on a rack, then remove from the mold or pie pan.


Serve with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, enjoy! It’s very rich, so start with a sliver.

Love and Happy Spatulas,

Alyssa

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