lemon pie recipe

Spring Lemon Tart

Spring Lemon Tart

I wasn’t sure what to call this dessert. It started out as one thing, but sort of ended up somewhere else. I finally decided to just call it a tart. This is a perfect example of using what you have on hand. I was so pleased with the result.

I was leaning towards making a cheesecake. I already had cookie crumbs, I could use for the crust. Then, I discovered I only had one box of cream cheese. Not enough for a cheesecake.

While searching my fridge for cream cheese, I found a couple of lemons.

I suppose I could have made a lemon pie, but I decided to just make something up with what I had, including the cream cheese.

What I ended up with is a sweet/tart lemon dessert. Really nice, actually.

Before I get to the actual recipe, let me talk about the lemons, and including fresh lemon juice in recipe directions.

Recipes will often list the “juice of a lemon” in the ingredients. There is about the same amount of lemon juice in all lemons, so that a little difference, one way or the other, is no big deal. The amount is anywhere from 2-3 tablespoons of juice in a lemon. You might get 4 tablespoons, if the lemon is really big. I have used that phrase in recipes myself.

Sometimes, however, you have to recognize when you have lemons that aren’t “average”.

The two lemons I had on hand were big, really big. When I juiced them, I ended up with 2/3 of a cup of lemon juice. So, in this recipe I used the actual measurement of the juice, rather than saying, “the juice of 2 lemons.” Three or four average sized lemons should give you 2/3 cup of juice.

So here is the recipe for my lemon tart, the happy end result of using what I had, and making it work.

Spring Lemon Tart

Crust:

1½ c. crushed vanilla cookies

4 T. melted butter

Filling:

1 (8oz.) container cream cheese, softened

½ c. sugar

2/3 c. lemon juice

Zest of two lemons

3 eggs

¼ c. cornstarch

Combine crust ingredients in medium bowl. Press crumb mixture into a 9 –inch springform or tart pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. While the crust is baking, make the filling. In mixing bowl combine the cream cheese with the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon juice and zest and beat well. Add the eggs and cornstarch and beat until smooth. Pour filling over the baked crust and return to oven. Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden on top. Center will be soft, but firms as the tart cools. Cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. You can dust with powdered sugar, if you like.

North Carolina Lemon Pie

North Carolina Lemon Pie

This might be one of the best lemon pies I have ever had. It was simple to make, with a surprise ingredient in the crust. That ingredient is saltine crackers! They work so well in this crunchy and slightly salty/slightly sweet crust. Perfect with the lemon filling.

I first heard about this pie in one of my cooking classes. A woman mentioned it to me after class. Said she saw it on a TV show. I looked for it online. Odd thing was that every recipe was exactly the same. Even down to the wording in the directions.

I found one reference to the recipe first showing up in Cook’s Country Magazine about 4 years ago. I prefer to credit the source of a recipe, when possible.

I did change a couple of things from the original recipe. I added more lemon zest- from 1 tablespoon to 2. What can I say? I like a zesty pie.

I also thought it was odd to make so little whipped cream for the topping. Assuming you had a cup of whipping cream to start with, you use 1/4 cup in the pie filling. That leaves you with 3/4 cup of whipping cream. The recipe only calls for whipping up 1/2 a cup of whipping cream. I rounded it up in the recipe to 3/4 cup. Honestly, I would make even more topping the next time.

My guests really enjoyed the pie. I think you will, too.

North Carolina Lemon Pie

Crust

6 oz. saltine crackers (about 1½  sleeves)

1/8 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup light corn syrup

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14-ounce)

4 large egg yolks

¼ cup heavy cream

1-2 T. grated lemon zest- I used 2 tablespoons

½ cup lemon juice

Topping

¾ c. heavy cream, chilled- increase from original recipe. I think even more whipped cream would be better. Just my preference.

1 T. sugar

1 t. vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add the saltines and salt to the food processor and pulse until you have coarse crumbs (about 15 pulses). Add the melted butter and corn syrup and pulse until the crumbs are well combined.* Add the cracker mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate. Use the bottom of a dry measuring cup or glass and press the crumbs into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the dish. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet and bake until light golden brown, 17 to 19 minutes. Prepare filling while the crust is baking. Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, cream, and lemon zest together in a bowl, add the lemon juice and whisk until well combined. With the pie plate on the baking sheet, remove it from the oven and pour in the filling (the crust does not need to be cooled) and place it back in the hot oven. Bake until the edges of the pie are set but the center still jiggles, 15 to 17 minutes. Place the pie on a wire rack and let it cool completely. Refrigerate the pie until completely chilled.

For the topping, use a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whipped the cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium low until foamy (about a minute). Increase the mixer speed to high and whip until stiff peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie and serve cold.

*Note: I will admit to just crushing up the crackers by putting them in a bag and using a rolling pin. I had a few larger pieces. Still worked. I think it gave the crust a crunchier texture. Although it sank down into the pie pan when I baked it- so maybe next time I will crush the crackers a little more.   

Cooling down