Pie season is upon us! It’s all up on us, actually. Only 2.5 weeks until Thanksgiving! Crazy talk, I know, because wasn’t it just August? I swear I was wearing shorts, like, yesterday. (Note: I probably was though, because I live in California and apparently you can wear shorts in November here? It’s the best/weirdest.)
I feel like the older I get, the faster time seems to fly. Elders/Wisers — is this a thing? And if so, can we punch this thing in the face? No?
Well. At least there’s pie.
Have you ever made pie from scratch? I highly suggest it. It’s a bit of work, but just a bit. Entirely worth it, in the end. I kind of feel like the ability to make a pie is a worthy and important life skill. Never done it? Just take it slow. Read all the steps. Chill your dough. Flour your hands. Don’t cut corners. Most importantly, enjoy the process! Throw on some Christmas carols (it’s November, you’re officially allowed), pour some drinks, and get rolling. And don’t stress about it, because if you do then you’ll forget to add the sugar, which I can say with some authority is a fantastic way to truly ruin a pie.
See that? That’s a buttermilk chess pie. I’ve been reading about chess pie for ages, on other blogs and in magazines, but I’d never seen or tried one in real life. So when I got a copy of the gorgeous new Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, I knew exactly what I wanted to try first.
In the book, the recipe for chess pie is actually a variation of a recipe for buttermilk pecan pie with raisins — simply omit the pecans and raisins and HELLO, CHESS PIE! It’s got a toasty, crackly top shell which gives way to a soft, creamy, sweet custard filling — the buttermilk is there to balance out all of the sugar, although it’s definitely a sweet pie by nature, so next time I’m going to try it with the toasted pecans, too, which I’m sure would help further ground the sweetness.
The Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book, put out by the incredible food geeks (and I mean that in the best way possible) at America’s Test Kitchen, is nothing short of amazing. It’s a behemoth of baking intelligence and know-how — over 450 recipes! Each with extensive headnotes outlining the science behind the pie — or cake, cookie, custard, bread, brownie, pastry… pretty much anything you can bake is covered in this bad boy. Personally, I’ve got my eye on the recipe for buttermilk doughnuts. Or maybe the lemon layer cake? No, wait, first I want to try the chocolate-raspberry rugelach. …ECLAIRS! Let’s make eclairs.
Want a copy of this baker’s bible? Lucky for us, the generous folks at America’s Test Kitchen have offered to gift one copy to a Dunk & Crumble reader — that’s you! And all you have to do to win one bona-fide copy of the Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book is leave a comment, below, telling me about your very favorite thing to bake for the holidays (also you have to live in the US, for shipping reasons). I’ll choose a winner at random on Sunday, November 17th.
Also, in the name of full disclosure, I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for my review, here. I don’t agree to do these kinds of things unless I fully support the company/product I’m endorsing, and I’ve been an avid reader of all things America’s Test Kitchen for years now (the baking buck stops with them, as far as I’m concerned). Needless to say, I was thrilled to accept my copy and the chance to gift one to one of you lovelies, too.
Don’t forget, you’ve got until Sunday, November 17th (at noon Pacific time)! So tell me — what is your favorite thing to bake for the holidays?
THANKS GUYS! THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED — CONGRATULATIONS TO SUSAN T!
Buttermilk Chess Pie
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book
If you want to make this a buttermilk pecan pie, simply add 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans to the custard mixture before pouring it into the par-baked shell and baking.
For Pie Dough:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 1/2 cup ice water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large eggs
- 2/3 cup buttermilk
To make the pie dough, dump the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for about 5 seconds to combine. Add the cubed butter and pulse about 10 times, until the butter has been processed into bits of various size. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and continue to pulse until the dough starts to come together. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and gather it into a flat disc (it will be a bit wet and sticky – flouring your hands will make it easier to shape). Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator (or about 30 minutes in the freezer).
Once the dough has rested and chilled, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and set it on a well-floured work surface. Use ample flour and a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Carefully transfer the rolled dough to a 9-inch pie dish, handling the soft dough gently and crimping the edges to your liking. Place the crust-filled pie dish in the refrigerator or freezer to allow the dough to re-firm before you par-bake it.
Once the pie shell is good and chilled, line it with parchment paper and fill it with pie weights (dried beans work beautifully if you don’t have “official” pie weights). Par bake the crust until it looks pretty dry but it still light in color, about 25-30 minutes. Take the par-baked crust out of the oven and remove the weights and parchment. Place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Lower the oven to 300 degrees.
While the crust par bakes, mix up the filling (it’s important that the crust still be warm when you pour in the filling, so try to have the filling ready when the crust comes out of the oven). To make the filling, melt the butter in a heatproof bowl set in a skillet of barely simmering water. Remove bowl from skillet and stir in sugar and salt until butter is absorbed. Whisk in eggs, then buttermilk until smooth.
Pour buttermilk mixture into warm, prebaked pie crust, and bake the pie until the filling is golden brown and looks set but yields like Jell-O when gently pressed with the back of a spoon, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let the pie cool on a wire rack until the filling has set, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.
Makes one 9″ pie.