Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Pie a Week - Lemon chess pie

Chess pie is a sweet pie common in the South. It's a single crust pie with a soft, sugary filling similar to a custard pie, but with a difference.

Chess pie was originally English, and migrated to the South from New England and Virginia. The ingredients are simple - eggs, sugar, cream or milk, butter and flavorings, plus a couple of spoonfuls of corn meal. This gives the custard a fine, granular texture.

The origins of the name "chess pie" is unclear. Some think that it's a corruption of "cheese pie," the filling being similar to a cheesecake-like confection. Some think that it was because, before refrigeration, people kept baked goods in a pie-chest, so this would be "chest pie." Others say that, in Southern dialect, when asked what kind of pie it was, housewives would answer, "Jes' pie."

It makes sense that it's "jes' pie," because it's an awful easy pie to make on an ordinary day. Blind-bake the shell, then mix the custard:

1.5 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 eggs
1/2 cup cream, half & half or whole milk
1/4 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 lemon, zested
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the sugar, cornmeal and salt. Beat the eggs with the cream, then add the butter. Pour the liquid into the sugar mixture. Add the lemon zest, juice and vanilla, and combine until smooth.

Pour it into the pie shell, then bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

I made this one with the lemons from our garden. Jes' pie.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I thought it would be a pie traditionally served to chess players...

Blondie's Journal said...

I often wondered what chess pie was...I'm making this!!


Anonymous said...

I've never made this, but it sounds wonderful!
What does it mean to "blind-bake" the shell?

Jennifer said...

Yum, I love chess pie. I had huge cravings for it while carrying my second child. I made many!



Sue said...

I've never had this kind of pie, but I did know it had cornmeal. It really looks good!

Glennis said...

Hi, Karen - blind baking a shell means baking it before you put the filling in.

As you can see by my photo, I still have not solved the problem of having the crust shrink into the pan when blind baking.