Granny Foster’s Chess Pie

My grandmother had at least ten handwritten recipes in her recipe book for chess pie, some dating back to 1927. On one of them she wrote in her notes to the side, “For a really rich pie, eliminate the milk and use all egg yolks.” I made several versions of the pies in her book, but this one was my favorite, I think it has to do with the method of creaming the ingredients. To make this happen it is important to have all the ingredients at room temperature before you start, even the buttermilk  and lemon. Otherwise, the filling will separate and become grainy. There are many variations on this pie, with brown sugar, vinegar, buttermilk, bourbon, chocolate, or orange, but this simple, classic version is my favorite: it reminds me of Sunday lunch at Granny Foster’s house.

Makes one 9-inch pie / Serves 8 – 10

One 9-inch parbaked Everyday Flaky Piecrust

1 1⁄2 cups granulated sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1⁄2 cup well-shaken buttermilk, at room temperature

3 tablespoons cornmeal

Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1⁄2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the prepared piecrust on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.

Beat the sugar and butter together until soft and creamy in the bowl of an electric mixer or a stand mixer filled with a paddle. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly add the buttermilk, cornmeal, lemon zest and juice, vanilla, nutmeg, and salt and stir to mix.

Pour the mixture into the prepared crust and place on the center rack of the oven to bake for 35 minutes, then move to the top rack, rotate the pan, and continue baking for 10–15 minutes more, until set around the edges but not puffed and slightly loose in the center. Remove from the oven and cool about 1 hour before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fresh berries.

From Pie: a Savor the South® cookbook by Sara Foster. Copyright © 2018 by Sara Foster. Used by permission of the University of North Carolina Press.