Lemon Chess Pie

4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon white cornmeal
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons butter, melted, cooled to room temp
1/2 cup buttermilk
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
whipped cream (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk the eggs to blend.
  3. Add each of the ingredients through vanilla in order, completely incorporating one before adding the next.
  4. Pour the filling into the piecrust and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the pie is golden brown on top and almost set. The center of the pie should remain slightly loose; it will set as it cools.
  5. Cool completely before cutting. Top with whipped cream.

Chef: beautiful yellow color inside and nice brown on the outside, crust was delicious (homemade by another team member). Zest is nice on top, good balance of texture on whipped cream and filling.

Personal/Team: This was very tart and definitely needs the whipped cream. Rich and delicious.

Lessons Learned: It is important that all ingredients for the pie be at room temperature.  Otherwise blending may be difficult, and the cold ingredients, especially buttermilk or lemon juice, will cause the butter to resolidify and separate from the mixture.

why is it called "chess pie"?
Chess pie has long been associated with the South. Though the origin of the name remains uncertain, there are plenty of guesses and a bit of folklore surrounding it.

The earliest printed reference to the pie was in a cookbook published by the Fort Worth Women's Club in 1928. The unusual name has many possible origins. Some think it is derived from the word "cheese", even though there is no cheese in chess pie. According to Sara Belk in "Around the Southern Table," old cookbooks often referred to cheesecakes and pies that did not actually contain cheese, using the term to describe the curd-like texture. Elizabeth Hedgecock Sparks, author of "North Carolina and Old Salem Cookery," said chess pie was "an old, old tart which may have obtained its name from the town of Chester, England.”  In "Southern Food," John Egerton offers two more possibilities. 

The first has to do with a piece of furniture common in the early South called a pie chest or pie safe.  Chess pie may have been called chest pie at first because it held up well in the pie chest. The second story is that a creative Southern housewife came up with the concoction and tried it out on her husband, who loved it. "What kind of pie is this?" he is said to have exclaimed.  His wife shrugged and smiled. "I don't know," she said; "it's ches' pie."