Fresh lemons and cream cheese - it sounds good , right? It is. When I was a kid, growing up in the deep south, most restaurants served something called lemon icebox pie. It was a simple graham cracker crust pie with a lemon filling, made with sweetened condensed milk and served with a spray of whipped cream as big as the pie slice. Yum! I get a little homesick just thinking about it. My other childhood favorite pie was something called a cream cheese pie. So similar to the lemon icebox pie but without the lemon. Now that I am officially in charge of my own kitchen, I make a pie that combines the 2 old favorites - Lemon Cream Cheese Pie.
Fresh lemons by the basket load are coming into my house these days. It is citrus season in southern California and I have a traditional lemon tree that is loaded and 2 of my neighbors have loaded Meyer lemon trees. It is a luxury and I am basking in it, making all my favorite recipes. This week alone I have made my Lemon Honey Vinaigrette, Preserved Lemons, Lemon Pecan Granola, cilantro pesto and a lemon lentil salad. I am just getting started!
Meyer lemons are the Holy Grail of the lemon family. They are extra juicy, thin skinned and almost sweet enough to eat as an orange. So, even though my own lemon tree is dropping fruit, I couldn’t turn down the offer of a big basket of Meyers from my neighbor, Bob. We trade all sorts of things and lately I have been keeping him stocked with my extra garden seedlings. A few pepper plants for a bag of lemons - it works for me! I got these yellow guys home and cleaned them up a bit, always a good idea if you are going to use the zest. Too pretty to eat, almost, but not quite……
Can you see how perfect these lemons are? Just cutting them leaves my counter covered in juice sprays. Because they are soooo juicy, it really doesn’t take too many to get to the 3/4 cup of juice necessary for the recipe. It was about 4 of Bob’s lemons for me. If you don’t have access to Meyer lemons, no worries, regular lemons work just fine.
Tip. Zest your lemons before you juice them and zest all of them, even if you only need a small amount of zest. Air dry the extra zest on a parchment covered baking sheet. Once dry, put the zest in an airtight jar. It usually only takes overnight to completely dry. You will have zest on hand and ready to use in other cooking projects. You know I hate to waste.
Lemon Cream Cheese Pie
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING:
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 large eggs
3 ounces cream cheese
1 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
Extra lemon slices for decorating
Let lemon juice, eggs and cream cheese come to room temperature.
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and salt. Press firmly into pie pan and well up the sides.
Bake for 10 minutes and then cool on wire rack.
Put lemon juice, zest, eggs, cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk into a mixing bowl. Mix with mixer until well combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pie crust.
Bake for 30 minutes or until the center is set.
Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
Pie is best chilled and stored in the refrigerator.
Top with thin lemon slices before serving.
NOTES: If you want, top with whipped cream. Strawberries are good too. I love this pie made with Meyer lemons but regular lemons work just as well!