Blueberry heaven. That’s what this Blueberry-Buttermilk Chess Pie is . And since fresh blueberry season goes by way too quickly, I highly suggest you get your hands on some of these little blue guys and whip up this pie asap.
And while this pie is all about the blueberries, it’s not all about the blueberries, y’know what I mean? No? Stick with me a little bit longer and the convoluted workings of my mind will become clear.
That’s because though this is definitely a blueberry pie, those berries are surrounded by a sweet, creamy custard enhanced by lemon and vanilla, aka the chess part. Now if you’re not from the South (like me) where Chess Pie is a traditional staple, chances are you’re scratching your head and wondering what “chess” has to do with pie, and the answer is nothing, although eating a piece of this pie while playing chess would make the game a lot more fun!
Classic Chess Pie is filled with a simple butter, egg and sugar custard-like mixture thickened with cornmeal or flour and sweetened with vanilla and/or lemon. It’s a very homey kind of creation that comes together easily and needs only pantry and kitchen staples, something a southern cook could make just about anytime. Anyhoo, legend has it that when people asked what kind of pie it was, the answer was always “jess, pie” (meaning “just” in that charming Southern twang) and that over time “jess” somehow morphed into “chess”. Sounds good to me. As does pairing that creamy, eggy custard with sweet/tart berries in this terrific pie.
As the pie bakes, it gets this lovely crackly top so with every bite you get flaky pie crust, sweet juicy berries gentle eggy custard and crackly sugar topping. So much flavor and texture!
It’s what summer is all about!
And speaking of summer, temps here in the Northeast are predicted to reach 100º F or more (chances are it’s pretty steamy where you are too), so wouldn’t it be a great idea to stay in, crank up the AC and tackle a little weekend pie project? Sounds kinda perfect to me! So go buy some berries and have a yummy and cool weekend. I’ll be back next week with more summer goodies and gab!
Blueberry-Buttermilk Chess Pie
Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie
I use a food processor to make the crust and it’s not absolutely necessary but will make your life so much easier.
Prep Time for Crust: 10 minutes, plus at least one hour of chilling time and then additional time for rolling out, chilling and parbaking; Prep Time for Filling: 15 minutes; Bake Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes- 1 1/2 hours
For the Crust
1 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and refrigerated until very cold
1/3 cup cold water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
For the Filling
1/2 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 Tablespoons fine-ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp and cut into chunks
The finely grated zest of one lemon
1 vanilla bean
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk, room temperature
2 cups fresh blueberries (you could use frozen too, but thaw them first)
1. To make the crust: In the bowl of the food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse the mixture a few times, until the butter is the size of small peas. Be careful not to over mix. Measure the water out in a measuring cup and add the vinegar. Then add enough ice into the cup to reach the 1/2 cup mark. Give it a little stir.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of the ice water to the flour and pulse a few times to mix together. It will still look pretty dry at this point, so add in another tablespoon of water and pulse again. You want the mixture to look like a loose streusel topping, not a dough. If it looks really, really dry add another tablespoon of water and pulse again. This should usually be enough. Resist the temptation to add more water—if your dough gets too wet, it’ll wind up tough. You want it to look crumbly.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface or board and gather all the crumbly bits into a ball. Flatten into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerating for at least 1 hour and even better, overnight.
4. Rolling out the dough: If you’ve chilled it for several hours or overnight, you will probably need to let the dough sit out for about 20 minutes or so to be soft enough to roll out easily. Try not to let it go any longer or the dough will be too soft. Lightly flour your board and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about 13-inch round. It should be fairly thin. Transfer to a 9-inch deep pie plate and fold the overhang up and onto the pie lip. Then crimp the edges—you can either use the tines of a fork or push the dough into little folds with your knuckles or however you like to crimp the edges. Place the pie plate into the freezer for 20 minutes.
5. Make sure the oven rack is centered and preheat to 350ºF. Line the pie dough with a piece or parchment paper or foil and fill with beans or pie weights. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the crust is golden around the edges. Then remove the parchment with the beans and return the pie to the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes longer, until the pie looks golden and dry. Let the pie cool for a bit on a wire rack. Meanwhile prepare the filling.
6. To make the filling: Lower the oven to 325ºF. In a small bowl, whisk the cornmeal, salt and flour together and set aside. Place the sugar, butter and lemon zest in the large bowl of an electric mixer. Split the vanilla bean down the middle, scrape out the seeds and add to the mixture. Discard the pod or save and use to make vanilla sugar. On medium speed, beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to blend between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula. Now lower the speed and add the cornmeal mixture, beating just to combine. Slowly add the buttermilk, beating just to combine—the batter will look sort of curdled, that’s ok. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in the blueberries.
7. Place the cooled crust on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the batter into the pie crust (if you didn’t use a deep-dish pie plate, you might have a little bit of extra batter left over). Bake the pie for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the top is golden and the center is just a bit wobbly. If the center is still very loose, cook it a little longer and check again. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut and serve.
8. Chill any leftovers—this is best on the day it’s baked, but totally delicious cold straight from the fridge.
Note: Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine. I used my go-to pie crust and subbed in lemon zest instead of orange in the filling, but otherwise stayed pretty true to the original.