This is the most popular story on my original A Cook and Her Books blog. I wrote it up in April 2011, and 10 years later, I still find occasions to bake this pie. It’s my husband’s favorite because it’s a creamy dessert, and it’s just sweet enough.
Give this pie a try.
Buttermilk is for Baking
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, Georgia. 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 (when 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 still says nice things about this pie, so I’ve kept it in my tried and true file. I 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 Recipe
This pie comes together easily when you begin with all ingredients at room temperature. I start by melting the butter in a skillet and let it cool off just enough so that it’s still pourable. While the butter cools, rest the eggs and buttermilk on the counter.
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Combine sugar and flour in a large bowl. Add eggs and buttermilk, stirring until blended. Stir in melted butter and vanilla and pour into unbaked pie crust.
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour or until set. The butter sometimes pools in the middle and cracks form on top. Cool on a wire rack at least an hour before serving. Store leftovers, well-wrapped in refrigerator.
This is a perfectly imperfect recipe. As it bakes, the custard breaks and a puddle of melted butter forms in the middle. The custard top breaks open like a pretzel roll top. It’s all ok. Just make sure it’s baked through. Just like with chubby babies, Santas and Jell-o, a little jiggle in the middle is what you’re looking for.
Thanksgiving Feast with Chess Pie
Buttermilk chess pie is usually found on my Thanksgiving dessert board, because there’s no such thing as too much pie. If you’re baking a lot of pies, it’s easy to add this one to the plan.
More recipes for your Thanksgiving feast:
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Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.