These grown-up lemon bars are made with paper-thin slices of lemon, giving
the sweet filling a pleasant bitterness. © Christina Holmes
Food & Wine's senior recipe developer, Grace Parisi, is a Test Kitchen superstar. In this series, she shares some of her favorite recipes to make right now.
At a recent trip to a great new restaurant in my neighborhood, 606 R&D, I had a most intriguing dessert called Shaker Lemon Pie—a double-crusted pie with a flaky crust and almost lemon-marmalade–like filling. It was quite good, but not flawless—the crust was a bit soggy and the filling was dry, but the flavor was intoxicating. I knew if I did a bit of work it could be even better. I asked my husband, Chris, from Shaker Heights, Ohio, the resident expert (at least in our house) on Shaker culture, but he’d never heard of it.
I was obsessed and had to know more, so I read a number of recipes online and found a few books about Shaker/Mennonite cooking. Obviously, lemons don’t grow in the Midwest, so it’s a relatively modern recipe (last century). Whole lemons are shaved superthin with skin (pick out the seeds) and macerated with sugar for a day or longer, then mixed with eggs, flour and butter and layered between two crusts. The rind softens and cooks like marmalade but with all of the other ingredients, it has more of a cakey/lemon curd/marmalade texture. I opted for something a little different. I made a shortbread-type bottom crust, which I topped with the lemon filling and a lattice of more shortbread. The result is a delicate, yet pick-up-able lemon bar that is tangy, sweet and buttery. It’s totally perfect to take to a Shaker church social or in my case, my back deck with a hot cup of milky, sweet coffee. SEE RECIPE »