Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Southern Favorite: Buttermilk Chess Pie

Buttermilk Chess Pie by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Pie is the new cupcake. Did you know that? That's why I've spent the last month turning out my favorite pies for my family -  from Pie Lab's Apple Cheddar Pie to my favorite Sweet Potato Custard Pie - it's so nice to be able to announce that there is pie for dessert. Here's a buttermilk chess pie that I love, and each time I make it, I think of that Southern tradition of drinking buttermilk, a drink I'm convinced you have to be raised on to appreciate.

My last quarter at the University of Georgia in Athens, I rented a room in an elderly woman's house. Mrs. Willson was a widow and her only daughter lived in Columbus. This was, sigh, more than a couple years ago, and only a few memories rise to the surface - her red brick ranch house with the laundry room off the carport, the old-fashioned medicine cabinet with a slot for dull razor blades, and the refrigerator that she allowed her boarders to share, giving us each our own corner of a shelf. She hid her beer in the back of the fridge, small baby bottles behind the mayonnaise and pickle jars. Mrs. Willson also liked buttermilk and cookies as an evening snack. I always accepted the Grandma's oatmeal cookies, but declined the buttermilk.

To this day, I keep buttermilk in the fridge, but never for drinking straight. It's the base for ranch dressing, with the fresh herbs from the CSA box; it makes a moist banana bread; superlative biscuits (if you use White Lily flour); and this thoroughly excellent Chess Pie.

This is one of the first pies I made. As a new bride, I subscribed to Southern Living magazine for the recipes and the decorating ideas. My husband picked up an issue and remarked that he always liked chess pie. He says nice things about this pie, so I've kept it in my tried and true file. I've cut the sugar by one-fourth, but it's still very sweet. Take your coffee black with a slice of this pie.

Buttermilk Chess Pie by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Buttermilk Chess Pie

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

2/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add eggs and buttermilk, stirring until blended. Stir in melted butter and vanila and pour into unbaked pie crust.

3. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack at least an hour before serving. Store leftovers, well-wrapped in refrigerator.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.


Pattie @ Olla-Podrida said...

This looks so easy, and I have everything on hand. I may just give this a try.

Anonymous said...

I never knew what Chess Pie was until a trip to New Orleans- or rather the bayou surrounding it. Anything custard is my weakness, thanks for the recipe.

Grace @ HapaMama said...

I never knew what Chess Pie was until a trip to New Orleans. A nice restaurant owner insisted that I take a piece with me, when I asked what it was. Thanks for the authentic recipe!

Anonymous said...

Your pie looks delicious! My mom is a GREAT cook. She makes it on occasion but sometimes it is not firm enough. I am anxious to try your recipe for Thanksgiving! It will be a nice surprise for her!

Richard Moore said...

I followed your recipe twice over the holidays. One was for an afternoon gathering of my wife's teacher friends and the second was for a big Christmas Eve dinner. I am still basking in the glow of compliments.

This is a can't miss recipe, easy to prepare and the pie is delicious. Thank you!!!

Lucy Mercer said...

Richard - thanks so much for the kind comment! This recipe is the most popular on the site and for good reason - it's an excellent pie!

Anonymous said...

I just found this recipe on Pinterest and made it! Not only is it a beautiful pie, but it is so very delicious. And super easy...thanks!!!

Susanne Scott said...

I have made this pie four times and just put one in the oven. Super easy and a huge hit!

Lucy Mercer said...

Suzanne, thanks so much for the sweet comment. I think there's a reason the classics endure - they really are that good! And you remind me that I just bought buttermilk - I think it's time for a pie!

Anonymous said...

Do I use a hand mixer or stir by hand?

Lucy Mercer said...

Use a good, sturdy whisk to stir the batter - no need to get out the hand mixer. Happy Thanksgiving!

aftonini said...

I am from the north and the first time I had this I was 9, 10 or 11 made from my aunt. I've remembered it all my 52 years. It took me a few years (like 10 or more) just to get the name. When I would ask others about this pie the northerners had never heard about it. Now I'm living in Texas and it can be found on the groceries. But I am anxious to try this home made for Christmas!

Anonymous said...

Several friends and I went to New Orleans and while out in Houma for a swamp tour, we stopped in at The Cabin. A really great little restaurant. This Buttermilk pie was their specialty. We all loved it and after graciously receiving the recipe from the owner we went home to make it for our families for Thanksgiving. Time after time, I heard from the others that the pies did not set up. This, the same problem I had with mine. They tasted FAB but were runny. Any suggestions?

2dayisgood said...

OH my! I love this pie! I have made it several times and it's always delicious. I do add a touch of nutmeg to mixture and then I sprinkle nutmeg on top. This adds such a delicious taste. I have even made it without the crust for just the custard. YUMMY!!

Lucy Mercer said...

@2dayisgood - I'm so glad you liked the pie. I love your addition of nutmeg to it. That reminds me of my grandmother's favorite dessert - cafeteria baked custards with nutmeg!

Lucy Mercer said...

Anonymous: I'm so sorry your pie didn't set up. I've never had that problem with this recipe. Maybe someone else will chime in here with advice.