Monday, February 8, 2010

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Chess Pie

Often referred to as a pantry pie because it can be made from pantry basics, chess pie is an old fashioned, southern favorite. I like to cut the sweetness of my chess pie with just a bit of buttermilk instead of sweet milk and fresh lemon juice and zest, instead of vinegar.

Old Fashioned Buttermilk Chess Pie

Old Fashioned Chess Pie is southern to the core. And sweet. A very sweet custard pie made with eggs, butter, a little flour, a bit of cornmeal, vanilla and sugar. Lots of sugar.  While not many folks include buttermilk in their chess pie recipe as I do, I happen to think that it only improves on the flavor of the chess pie. The tartness of the buttermilk helps to cut the sugary sweetness and makes for a simply perfect chess pie.

I have to admit - while I do love sweet things, plain chess pie and brown sugar pies have never been my favorite pies. A brown sugar pie is so sweet, that it literally locks my jaw up, I swear. As far as chess pie, while I do like it better, I also find that it absolutely needs something to counteract the sweetness. So for me, chess pie needs either the bitterness of cocoa or unsweetened chocolate or else the tartness of lemon just to balance out the sweetness.  To do that, I put just a squeeze of lemon juice along with the zest of a small lemon in my regular chess pie.  It is not enough lemon to turn it into a Lemon Chess Pie, but just enough to counter the sugar.  In my opinion don't leave the lemon out, unless you have one heck of a high tolerance for sugar.

This pie really calls to be served with some very strong coffee, perhaps a Cafe au Lait made with a good Louisiana chicory coffee, to help balance the sweetness. I like mine with just a dollop of homemade whipped cream and a light grating of nutmeg over the top.

Here's how to make it.

Recipe: Old Fashioned Buttermilk Chess Pie

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 35 min | Yield: About 8 servings

  • 1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 rounded tablespoon of cornmeal
  • 2 rounded tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • Zest from one small lemon, chopped fine
  • Juice of 1/2 of same small lemon
  • 1 unbaked pie shell, homemade or commercial (Pillsbury recommended)
  • Homemade whipped cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg

Prebake the pie shell if desired, according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together the sugar, cornmeal, flour and salt. To that add the butter, buttermilk, and vanilla; mix. Beat the eggs, add and mix. Zest lemon, then juice half of it, reserving other half for another use; add to filling. Place pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate and pour mixture into the pie shell.

Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown and set. Total time can range from 45 minutes, to 1 hour or longer, based on your oven. Use a pie shield (or aluminum foil) on the edges after about 20 minutes to prevent crust from overbrowning. Can also tent entire pie with aluminum foil if the top of the pie itself is overbrowning.

Let cool completely on a rack. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and a grating of fresh nutmeg on top.

Lemon Chess Pie: Eliminate buttermilk and increase lemon juice to a full 1/2 cup.

Classic Chess Pie: Increase sugar to 2 cups, increase cornmeal to 2 tablespoons, omit the buttermilk and replace it with 1/4 cup of milk, omit the lemon juice & zest, and add 1 tablespoon of vinegar. All other ingredients are the same. For a chocolate version click here.

Traditional Buttermilk Pie: Eliminate the cornmeal, reduce eggs to 3 and separate them - you'll beat the egg whites separate and fold those into the filling before putting it into the pie shell. Increase the buttermilk to 1-1/2 cups - everything else stays the same, except you fold in those beaten eggs whites at the end, then turn the filling into pie shell. Bake in the middle of the oven at 325 degrees for 1 hour (instead of the 350 degrees).


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Posted by on February 8, 2010

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