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Sue Inoff's Double Crust Lemon Pie • Dale Bellisfield

Brett Rawson

From curator Rozanne Gold:  This scrumptious recipe was submitted to Handwritten by Dale Bellisfield. From a fabulous career as one of New York’s premier graphic designers, she transformed herself into a clinical herbalist (and holistic nurse) who now makes her home in Pine, Arizona. Dale has a practice in integrative medicine and, like Hippocrates, thinks of food as medicine. She is a wonderful cook who once created a dish of black rice with gorgonzola, porcini and espresso for me. I am so grateful to have her wonderful mother’s handwritten recipe, and to share Dale’s memories. www.herbaldale.com    

Sue Inoff's Double Crust Lemon Pie by Dale Bellisfield

I just dug this out of my overstuffed, seven-inch-thick file, a jumble of recipes I've been gathering over the past two years as inspirations for a “breast health” cookbook I’m working on.  It fell out of the file so easily, it was like my Mom was saying hello. This copy of the recipe was meant for my two sisters, Joanne and Sally, and me. And it is one I will happily share with my daughter Samantha, and now with all of you!     

My mother’s Double Crust Lemon Pie was her signature, and our favorite among many of her delicious home-made dishes.  She was an adventurous and excellent cook, and a foodie before there was even such a designation. Much to my Dad's anxiety, though, she loved to experiment with new recipes whenever they hosted an event — be it birthday party, July 4th gathering, Thanksgiving dinner, family home-coming, baby shower, whatever. Although I never caught a whiff of any failures, this one was an experimental blockbuster-turned-mainstream, with many repeated command performances. And it never made Dad anxious.

Only Mom complained about it. She would rail about how time-consuming it was to slice those lemons "paper thin" after having grated and peeled them. And about the effort of making the two crusts it needed. But we didn't really care. We were only consumed with selfish greed about devouring that pie sometime in the very near future. Please, Mom??

This particular dessert was most often associated with our annual "crab fest" dinner, held in the hot Maryland summer at my folks' house. It was a big gathering of friends, neighbors and family that filled our entire basement. And it celebrated the peak of  Maryland’s blue crab season. Every year we looked forward to the slimy, messy ritual of cracking open those bright red, steaming-hot, juicy crabs onto tables covered with layers of newspaper to absorb the excitement and the entrails. No plates. 

There was a certain skill to separating the sweet, briny crabmeat from their tenacious salt and spice-encrusted shells. And as you cracked open the claws, and then sucked out the shell fragments to catch whatever fleshy morsels might still remain, your mouth/eyes/sinuses all dripped from the inescapable fiery spices caked on the shells, on your fingers, on your napkin and on your beer. But we knew relief was coming.

The lemon pie. This made it all calm down — the lemony sweetness of the creamy filling, the hit of those paper thin, gloriously tart lemon slices suspended within it, and the cinnamon-y crust. They formed the most exquisite combo of flavors that perfectly balanced the intensity of the spiced crabs and beer. More than 30 years have passed since I last ate that pie. But I can taste it still.  Suddenly it feels like it’s summer.

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Sue Inoff's Double Crust Lemon Pie

2-1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
6 eggs (reserve 1 teaspoon egg white for top crust)
3 large lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
(squeeze from additional lemons)
1/2 cup water
cinnamon-sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

2. Roll out bottom crust into pie tin.  

3. In a mixing bowl, add sugar, flour and salt.  Blend in butter and eggs until well mixed.  Grate lemons to get 2 teaspoon zest.  Add to bowl.  

4. Cut rind and white pith from 3 lemons and slice lemons very thin.  Add lemon slices to bowl with lemon juice (squeezed from additional lemons) and water.  Stir well and pour into bottom crust.

5. Cover with top crust, sealing (I dampen bottom crust edge) and fluting edge.  Brush top pie crust with egg white and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

** Note from RG: Prepare enough pie crust for a deep-dish 9 or 10” pie, top and bottom crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Let cool before serving.