Last fall I took one of my favorite Southern pies to a neighborhood coffee, and yesterday a neighbor delivering Girl Scout cookies asked whether I would share my recipe for the wonderful “chest” pie I had served at the coffee. Chess pie has as many versions as there are cooks who make it. Some are made with sour cream, some with buttermilk, some with whole milk or cream. Some call for the addition of lemon, some don’t. The one constant is cornmeal. I have no idea why. Unless the cornmeal is to form the delicious crust that bakes up in this pie.
I’m not sure how the recipe began, but I imagine that like many other old recipes it grew out of necessity. Southern cooks pressed for money learned to make dessert with vinegar, buttermilk, and whatever else was on hand. Recipes for vinegar pie, buttermilk pie, and of course, chess pie survive today.
Anyway, I’ve been working on my Southern novella for next year, and thinking about recipes I might incorporate into the story, including this one for lemon chess pie.
You will need one 9 inch unbaked pie shell. Get it ready and then preheat the oven to 350.
While the oven heats:
Cream 2 cups sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter until light and fluffy
Beat in 5 eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each.
Add 1 cup whole milk.
Add one tablespoon flour, one tablespoon cornmeal and 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice.
Finally, add 3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
Mix everything until smooth and pour into the pie crust.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Your pie should have a deep golden brown thin crust on the top.
Let this pie cool until the filling is set. Refrigerate when cool.
This is the way I learned to make it. The hardest part is grating all that lemon zest. The second hardest part is waiting for the finished pie to set! I hope you enjoy.
What’s your favorite pie recipe?