Chess Pie is an American classic, a true southern favorite. It’s unusual in that instead of just the zest and juice, the whole lemon is used to make the tart, creating a perfect, sharp, and refreshing dessert. This recipe is from Edd Kimber's book ONE TIN BAKES.
Chess Pie is an American classic, a true southern favorite. It’s not really known where the ‘chess’ moniker comes from, but my favorite of the many stories attributes the name to the southern accent. The cook that supposedly invented the dish called it ‘just pie’ and if you do your best southern belle impression, you can almost understand and hear the name. For my version, I’ve taken that chess pie idea and mashed it together with another favorite, whole lemon tart.
It’s unusual in that instead of just the zest and juice, the whole lemon is used to make the tart, creating a perfect, sharp summer dish.
You need minimal equipment and skill to whip up something fruity, chocolatey, spiced or nutty - One Tin Bakes is full of versatile and achievable recipes that celebrate the flavors of both traditional and modern bakes from around the world, each with a special Edd Kimber twist.
300g all-purpose flour
50g icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
185g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1 large egg
For the filling:
2 unwaxed lemons
250g (9oz/1¼ cups) caster (superfine) sugar
5 large eggs
360ml (12½fl oz/1½ cups) buttermilk
50g (1¾oz/3½ tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons coarse cornmeal
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
icing (powdered) sugar, for dusting
- For the pastry, place the flour, icing sugar, and salt into a food processor and pulse briefly together to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg and pulse until the mixture starts to clump together. Chill the dough until firm and roll it out and line your lightly greased parchment lined baking tin. Chill the dough in the tin for at least one hour before using.
- For the tart: Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5.
- Line the pastry case with a crumpled piece of parchment paper and fill with baking beans or rice, then blind-bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and beans and bake for a further 10 minutes, or until the base of the pastry is starting to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4.
- For the filling, slice the lemons and remove the seeds. If the pith is particularly thick (over 5mm/¼in), the recipe may be a little too bitter and if that’s not desired, then you can cut away some of the pith. Otherwise, place the sliced lemons and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and process for 1–2 minutes until smooth. Add the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla and pulse for 30 seconds until combined. Add the flour, cornmeal and salt and pulse for 10–20 seconds to combine.
- Pour the filling evenly into the prepared pastry case and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the filling is just set.
- Set aside to cool completely in the tin before dusting with icing sugar to serve. If you want to replicate the design I’ve used, use two straight-edged pieces of card, placed on top of the tart, to create a template and dust with icing sugar.
- Store in a sealed container for up to 2 days.
If you’re worried about a soggy bottom, which is more common with pies with wet fillings like this one, you can brush the pastry case with a thin coating of egg yolk before filling, placing it back into the oven for a further 2 minutes to set.
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