Sunday, August 18, 2013

Arnold Palmer Pie

For a barbecue, I was inspired by Nothing-in-the-House's sweet tea pie recipe. However, I wanted a less sugary custard with more lemon and a bracing tannic edge. My approach yielded a soft tart-and-sweet filling supported by a tender pie crust. It was delectable, and the flavors brought to mind the Arnold Palmer, that refreshing blend of iced tea and lemonade. 

for a 9 1/2-inch pie pan, or a 9-inch pan if you're willing to risk spillover




1 cup pastry flour
dash of salt
1 stick cold butter
tiny dash of apple cider vinegar
1 or 2 Tbsp ice water (I don't understand the difference between "ice water" and cold water from the refrigerator, but you could swirl ice around in a glass of water to make it even colder.)


1 1/2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
8 egg yolks
3/4 c. strong black tea, room temperature (I use 3 bags of Wegmans Irish Breakfast)
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp cornmeal
dash of salt


First, brew the tea. Heat the water to the boiling point and pour it over the three tea bags. Let it sit so it can cool. You may want to brew yourself a cup to drink so you can muscle up for the crust.


Sift flour and salt into a bowl.

Cut in butter. (I do this by slicing it and then crumbling it in the flour with my bare hands until the flour is uniformly pebbly, but you can also freeze the butter and grate it.)

Add the vinegar and one tablespoon of the ice water. Mix with the dough and try to form the dough into a ball. If it's too dry and crumbly, add more ice water. Be careful! I tend to overdo this, and end up with a mushy, soggy lump that I have to pat with paper towels.

Wrap your lovely, pale yellow dough in plastic and pop it in the freezer. Let it sit there for at least 20 minutes, but preferably an hour or more (you can leave it in there for days or weeks--even months, if you're willing to eat pie that tastes like your freezer).

After the dough has endured enough freezing, take it out. Generously flour a large, clean surface (I use a silicon baking mat). Once the dough has softened a bit, roll it out, turning it over periodically and sprinkling flour on it so it doesn't get sticky. Try to form a large, flat circle. (I usually have to wait until the dough completely softens to achieve a shape that is 70 percent what I want.)

Press the dough into your pie pan, fluting the edges. (This is where I usually have to patchwork excess dough onto gaps in the crust.)

Stick the pan back in the freezer while you make the filling.  


Preheat the oven to 350.

Using a whisk, beat the sugar and the butter until creamy and pale.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking them in the batter after each addition.

Add tea, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and whisk again. (I use a citrus squeezer to avoid pits.)

Add flour, cornmeal, and salt, and whisk until the mixture takes on a lively froth.

Take the pie crust out of the freezer and pour the filling in. 

VERY IMPORTANT: There is nothing stopping the contents of this pie from bubbling and spilling over except for the size of the pie pan and the grace of the pastry gods. Line the oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings unless you want a smoky oven you need to douse in baking soda like so. (Note that this was after I had lined the rack with foil! Sugary liquid evaporating in a hot oven is a dangerous thing.)

Place the pie in the oven and bake 45-50 minutes. The top will look slightly burnt and crackly, like creme brulee, and the pie will jiggle a little bit when shook.

Cool the pie on a rack until it is no longer a lethal pan of lava, then put it in the refrigerator for a few hours to let it set. I balanced the rack on some other food items and set the pie on the rack so that it could aerate further.


  • In case you missed it, this pie is so runny, you'll want to line your oven rack with aluminum foil to catch drippings. I realized that the filling was simply too much for my 9-inch pan when it kept spilling over during the first 15 minutes of baking. Not liking to waste anything, I scooped up the half-baked ooze and poured it back on the pie, resulting in the moon craters you see here.
  • On the bright side, the sweet goo spilling over the fluted edges of the pie constitutes an egg wash that enhances the flavor of the crust.
  • I baked this pie a scant hour or so before the barbecue, and it didn't have time to set properly. As a result, each slice was a runny emblem of the chef's procrastination. However, even in a mostly liquid form, the pie still drew oohs and aahs.
  • Even cooled for hours, the pie will never firm up into even key lime pie consistency. A slice will not win a beauty contest, but it will take over its neighbors on the plate like a sprawling pie warrior.
  • Even though the tea I brewed was strong, somehow, you don't really taste it in the pie, even after it sets for a few days. Emily noted this in her recipe, in which she used 2 tea bags. Some enterprising person will have to use 4 and let us know if you can taste it then. Don't get me wrong, though, the flavor of this pie is scrumptious--like a lemon lollipop. Perhaps the tea contributes to the overall umami.


3.5 stars--succulent and slightly troublesome, like a tempestuous starlet


  1. ARNOLD PALMER PIE! LOVE this idea! I'll have to give it a try.

  2. Thanks, Emily!! I hope you do and I hope it works out for you. I love the idea of a tea pie, two of my favorite things.