My friend Martha Hall Foose is a chef, author, teacher and storyteller. She combines homegrown Mississippi Delta smarts with professional culinary education, work in France, and world travels, and her writing and teaching open windows into the kitchen for her readers and students. Her book, Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook won the prestigious James Beard Award for 2009, and it belongs on your bookshelf and kitchen counter if you love Southern cooking or just want to know more about it from a brilliant writer-cook. Martha’s Sweet Tea Lemon Chess Pie is luxuriously rich, perfectly paired with her cream cheese pastry, which is simply patted into the pie pan with no need to roll it out. You’ll find it in my pie book, and also in the just published treasury, The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, because she is so generous and her pie is so good.
Martha Hall Foose’s Sweet Tea Lemon Chess Pie
Adapted from The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook
Cream Cheese Piecrust
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (1/4 pound, 1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
For the piecrust, combine cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until they are evenly combined. Add the flour and continue beating a low speed just until the dough comes together into a ball. Press and pat the dough into a pie pan, building up a thicker top edge of the crust. Set the piecrust in the freezer while you prepare the filling.
Sweet Tea Lemon Chess Filling
3/4 cup warm, freshly brewed strong orange pekoe tea
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornmeal
Zest of one lemon
1 cup (1/2 pound, 2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 large egg yolks
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl or pitcher, combine the tea, vanilla, lemon juice and vinegar and stir well. In a medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cornmeal, and lemon zest, and stir with a fork to mix them together well.
In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until it is fluffy. Add the sugar-flour mixture gradually, and continue beating to combine well. Add the egg yolks a few at a time, mixing well each time. Add the tea mixture and beat to combine everything evenly and well. The filling will be soft and liquid, not thick, and may seem curdled, but don’t worry about that.
Pour the filling into the piecrust. Bake until the top and crust are handsomely browned, and the pie is fairly firm throughout, with just a little jiggling in the center, about 50 minutes. Place on a cooling rack or a folded kitchen towel and cool to room temperature. Chill two hours or more before serving.
From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook, Edited by Sara Roahen and John T. Edge; University of Georgia Press, 2010. All rights reserved.