Sometimes the idea of a food and the reality of that food just don’t match. That’s what I learned when I made this pie for a picnic. For me, lemon pie evokes summer, outdoors, barbecues and iced tea, which made it seem perfect for the picnic we were going to in Stern Grove. I didn’t really think critically about this until I had baked it and it was time to leave the apartment.
Then I realized how totally impractical lemon pie is as a picnic dessert. You can’t transport it without smooshing it. It requires refrigeration. And forks. And plates. And whipped cream on top, which you will have to transport separately. What was I thinking? Why couldn’t I just bake cookies like a normal human being?
On the plus side, what the dessert lacked in transportability it made up for in ease and deliciousness. The saltine crust is a revelation. You could probably skip the filling and just eat the saltine crust and be happy. In fact, maybe I’ll just make that for the next picnic.
Another benefit of this recipe is that it gives you a chance to try your hand at the Saltine Challenge, which Jesse and I obviously did, several times (who says married couples don’t have fun?) For those of you who don’t know, the challenge is to eat six saltines in a minute without drinking any water.
What I learned from this challenge is that I have a completely unrealistic view of my skills relative to the rest of the world. The fact that this “challenge” has existed for years and that thousands of people have failed had no bearing on my belief that I would be able to do it and it would be totally easy. Is there something I should learn from that?
Lemon Atlantic Beach Pie
(from Bill Smith’s recipe featured on NPR’s “Found Recipes” series. Makes one pie)
- 1-1/2 sleeves of saltine crackers
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1-2 tablespoons of water, if necessary
- 1-14oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or combination of both. It’s worth it to me to use real lemons because then you get some zest and slices for garnish.
- fresh whipped cream
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Crush the saltines into small pieces (not to dust) in a food processor or with your hands. It doesn’t have to be too uniform. You just want the pieces to be small enough that the butter can hold it all together.
3. Add the 3 T sugar. Knead or blend in the butter (I used the dough blade in my Cuisinart) until the mixture holds together like dough. Having soft butter will make this process much easier. If it’s not quite coming together (mine didn’t — it was still really crumbly), add a tablespoon of water to help it stick.
4. Press the dough into an 8 inch pie pan, trying to create an even thickness all the way around. The photo below shows it in process — I still need to press the dough up the sides of the pan.
5. Chill for 15 minutes, then bake just the crust in the oven for 18 minutes, until it starts to color a little bit.
6. In the meantime, separate your 4 eggs and beat the egg yolks into the condensed milk. Mix in the lemon juice and stir until completely combined.
7. When the crust is out of the oven and cooled slightly, pour in the filling and bake for 15 minutes until the filling has set.
8. Wait until the pie is totally cool before cutting. Keep refrigerated and serve with whipped cream, a sprinkle of lemon zest, a lemon slice, and/or a sprinkling of coarse salt. Eat it in the comfort of your own home.