My friend Kathy, who lives in California, recently sent me a box of Meyer lemons she had picked on her daily walk. I was thrilled — Meyers have a floral and gracious tartness that converts something ubiquitous, a lemon, into something rare. It felt like I had bowl of warm light in my kitchen.
The Meyer lemons inspired me to look up a fabled lemon and lime pie, “Atlantic Beach Pie,” made by Bill Smith, the longtime chef at a place called Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, N.C. The original has a saltine cracker crust, but I could not give up my all-butter pastry.
If you can’t find Meyer lemons, regular lemon juice plus a bit of tangerine or orange juice makes for a reasonable facsimile of their flavor. Making this pie from ordinary lemons is also just fine — if they’re fresh squeezed, of course.
Meyer Lemon Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie
For the crust
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
½ tsp. fine salt
4 oz. (one stick) cold unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. vodka (optional)
2 to 3 Tbsp. ice water
Berry or beach plum jam, optional
For the filling
14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 large egg yolks
¾ cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (or ½ cup lemon juice plus ¼ cup tangerine juice)
Pinch fine salt
Whipped cream and candied lemon slices for serving, optional
Make the crust: Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl. Cut the butter into half-inch pieces and add it to the dry ingredients. Work it in with your fingers or a pastry blender until the mixture looks like corn meal with bean-size bits of butter. Drizzle the vodka (if using) and 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water over the mixture.
Toss and rub lightly by hand (or with a pastry cutter) until the dough just starts coming together. To test whether the dough is moist enough, grab a handful of the dough and squeeze it to see if it holds together. If it’s still dry and crumbly, add one to three teaspoons more water.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of wax paper and use the wrap to form and press the dough together. Press into a flat disc, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface into a 13-inch round. Ease into a 9-inch pie plate; crimp the edges as desired. Freeze until firm, about 10 minutes.
Blind bake the crust: Line the crust with a piece of parchment or foil and fill with about 2 cups dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake until the edges are just set and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, return to the oven, and bake until golden, about 10 minutes more. Remove crust and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.
Paint the bottom of the crust with jam if desired.
Make the filling: Whisk the eggs, condensed milk, lemon juice, and salt together in a medium bowl until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared crust. Bake until set, 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on a rack until room temperature, 20 minutes. Refrigerate until set, 1 to 2 hours before serving. Top with whipped cream and candied lemon if desired.