You may have noticed by now that I don’t make a lot of sweets – I honestly don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and when I do crave dessert it’s usually chocolate chip cookies. One type of dessert I do go for, however, is custard. Whether it’s an old fashioned cup custard, a fancy crème brûlée, or a pear custard pie, I love the creamy tartness of it.
I had had a piece of plain custard pie – no fruit – a few years ago when we happened across the Pie Lady’s shop in Blackwater, a tiny town in central Missouri. It was incredible, and I always said I was going to make it at home – then, of course, never did. But I recently became aware of the existence of something called chess pie. A plain, very sweet custard pie, it’s a classic Southern dessert often made with cornmeal and lemon, but sometimes buttermilk. I had buttermilk in the fridge this week, and decided to see what I could do with it.
After some hunting, I found that I had a few recipes for chess pie, buttermilk and otherwise, but I decided on this version I found at npr.org because it had adjustments for the less aggressive sweet tooth. It doesn’t have cornmeal, though, so I might need to try it again replacing the flour with corn. It was one of the easiest pies I ever made – once I had the crust ready, I just needed to whisk all the ingredients together and pour them into the shell. The hard part turned out to be waiting a whole hour for the pie to bake, as it filled the house with golden buttery smells.
It puffed up a lot during baking, then settled into a lovely crusty smoothness. We served it with fresh local blueberries, which perfectly suited the sweet-tart-butteriness of the pie.
Buttermilk Chess Pie
Borrowed from Natalie Y. Moore on npr.org.
This is the only version I’ve made so far – next time I’m substituting cornmeal for the flour. For a more traditional, sweeter version, omit one egg and scale the buttermilk back to 1 cup. A little lemon zest would probably not go amiss here, either.
You could use a boughten unbaked crust here, but I used my usual pie dough approach of 1 cup flour, 2 Tbsp butter, 2 Tbsp lard, a pinch of salt, and ice water.
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons flour, plus a little for dusting
- ½ cup melted butter
- 1 ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell
Preheat oven to 325°.
Beat the eggs and add sugar and flour. Then add melted butter and mix well. Whisk in the buttermilk and vanilla.
Dust the unbaked pie shell with a little bit of flour. Pour batter into shell, and then sprinkle a little more flour on top.
Bake at 325° until the custard is set and the pie is golden on top, approximately 1 hour. Let cool before serving.