Best Springtime Pie: Lemon Sour Cream

I was in the mood for pie, but with no local fruit available yet, I was stymied. Craving a fresh, clean taste, I thought of lemon, but knew I didn’t want lemon meringue.  A Google search led me to one of the best pies I’ve ever had: Lemon Sour Cream Pie.

Its charms: easy, tangy with sufficient sweetness, and a hit with everyone, including a 1-1/2-year-old.  With a soothing mouth-feel, it’s the perfect dessert after a spicy meal.  We had it after Indian food, which we had eaten shamelessly, but as our dinner companion mentioned, “there’s a separate stomach for pie, right?”  The balance of lightness, richness, and clean taste make it a winner anytime.  I only wish I had come up with the recipe!

The recipe comes from a blog called Inside NanaBreads Head.  Click on the recipe header.

Lemon Sour Cream Pie - My Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

Lemon Sour Cream Pie - My Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

Lemon Sour Cream Pie

It requires a pre-baked pie shell.  I followed the instructions in Essentials of Baking, a Williams Sonoma cookbook, which has excellent dessert recipes as well as sections on baking basics with clear explanations and accompanying photographs.

1/ Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line your pie crust (click on the link for my all-butter crust recipe) with a heavy-duty foil.  Fill the foil-lined crust with dried beans, uncooked rice, or pie weights.  (I’ve tried dried beans and the rice, and both work fine.  I store them for future use.)

2/ Bake the lined crust until it dries out, about 15 minutes.  Check by pulling up one corner of the foil.  If it sticks, it’s not dry enough yet.  Return to the oven and check every 2 minutes. Once dry enough, carefully remove the beans/rice/weights and the foil by gathering the foil edges toward the center and pulling up and out. (Have a heat-proof bowl or pan ready to deliver the foil package to.  It’s hot!)  Reduce oven to 350 degrees.

3/ Continue to bake until the entire crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.  Let cool on a wire rack.

As the pie crust cooled, I made the pie filling, allowed it to cool completely (an important step, so be sure to leave enough time).  Once the pie is assembled, it should be refrigerated at least two hours.

I topped the pie with homemade whipped cream.  I did not try the raspberry jam layer, a variation suggested in the recipe, because the custard was so delicious I didn’t think it needed it.

Homemade whipped cream:

One pint (16 ounces) of heavy cream

Sweetener: maple syrup or agave syrup (I prefer liquid sweetener)

Vanilla – about a teaspoon

Whipped cream is made purely by instinct.  Let’s face it: you can’t go wrong.

Freeze the mixer bowl and beater. If you have a whisk style beater, use that.  Pour the cream into the cold bowl and put the mixer on the nearest to high setting. (On my KitchenAid, I set it on 8.)  You can also whip the cream by hand. While the cream is whipping, pour a thin stream of maple syrup or agave into the cream.  Then add the vanilla. Whip until peaks form.  If you whip too long, and the cream starts to “churn”, add a little milk and it will return to peaks.

Spread on the pie just before serving, or spoon dollops on individual pieces.  Prepare to be popular.

Pie for Breakfast, Yes We Can

Thanksgiving is not complete without pie.  In fact, I think it's the best part of the day.  Move over turkey, move over mashed potatoes: nothing rounds out the meal like pie.

Our friends, the Hunts, host a marvelous pie feast every year: Pie Breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.  They provide the whipped cream, coffee, and hospitality, and everyone brings a pie.  Savory, sweet, pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, quiche.  It's just heaven.  Pies are served, coffee drunk, the room is filled with talk and laughter, a little piano music drifts through the air from the spinet in the corner.  The atmosphere is relaxed and cozy.  Legend holds that it's a New England tradition, this pie breakfast.

Pie Breakfast 1



Pie Breakfast 3                                  Pecan Pie                                                Pie Breakfast 2

 Pie for breakfast, you say?  Are only New Englanders in on this?

"Pie has never been more loved than in nineteenth-century America, where it was not simply dessert but also a normal part of breakfast. The food writer Evan Jones quotes a contemporary observer as noting that in northern New England, 'all the hill and country towns were full of women who would be mortified if visitors caught them without pie in the house,' and that the absence of pie at breakfast 'was more noticeable than the scarcity of the Bible.'"  (From The Great American Pie Expedition, an essay in Sue Hubbell's book From Here to There and Back Again)

A tradition that needs to be revisited.  We're doing our best here in the northwest corner of Connecticut to keep it alive.

Pie Breakfast Napkin










Welcome to Life With Pie

Because life without pie would not be as sweet, salty, buttery, or  delicious.

                     "We must have pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie."                                                                                                                                                                    David Mamet, from his play Boston Marriage, 1999

I love pie.  Thinking about it, preparing, baking it, and, of course, eating it.  It is one of the consistent  pleasures in my life. When I'm not sure what to do with myself, baking a pie, especially with local fruit, never fails to ground me.  And pies are suitable for all occasions, and flexible enough to accommodate many forms.

I came to pie baking as an adult and went through a lot of trial and error before finding my pie-happiness.  I am an ordinary cook with no formal training who has always loved to bake.  On this page I will share my recipes, and some from friends, and tips for making foolproof pies from start to finish.  There is no need for pie fear!

Let's get started.  First, the dreaded crust.  I use an all-butter recipe which has the flavor and consistency of a tart crust.  It rolls out so beautifully that you can roll the crust onto your roller to transfer it to the pie pan, just like they show in the cook books and on the cooking shows. It browns up nicely and tastes heavenly.  I actually prefer it to the traditional crust, as do my taste testers, which have included a Culinary Institute grad. If you prefer a flakier crust, I'll refer you to Michele Stuart's recipe in Perfect Pies, which calls for Crisco.

All Butter Pie Crust

3 cups flour 1 T sugar 1 tsp. salt 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) 1 egg 1 T distilled white vinegar 5 T light cream (or half and half) Crust dust (a la Gisene Bullock-Prado) 1 T flour plus 1 T sugar, mixed

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar and salt until blended. Cut up each stick of butter into about 8 pieces. Add to flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Separate the egg and set aside the egg white. Whisk the yolk and vinegar together. Sprinkle yolk mixture onto flour mixture and pulse. With processor running, slowly pour in light cream, pulsing until mixture holds together.

Note: You do not need a food processor to make this crust.  You can prepare it by hand using either two table knives or a pastry cutter to mix in the butter, then blending the liquids in with a fork, using a light hand.

Divide dough into two balls, one slightly larger than the other. Flatten into disks. (You can freeze the pie crust at this time.) Refrigerate smaller disk while you roll out the larger one into a circle larger than your pie dish. (Ex: roll a 15-inch circle for a 10-inch pie dish.) Roll onto your rolling pin and transfer to pie dish. Brush the inside of the crust (bottom and sides only) with the egg white. Allow it to dry before you fill the crust. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use. Sprinkle the crust dust on the bottom of the crust before you fill it.

If you're preparing a lattice top pie, roll the smaller disk out into a rectangle to be cut into 10 strips.  If you're preparing a covered pie, roll the disk into a round a little larger than the top of the pie dish.