Tag Archives: dessert

Grandma’s Lemon Sponge Pie or Chess Pie?

Lemon pies

Grandma Vera’s Lemon Sponge pie squares off with Joy of Cooking’s Lemon Chess pie.

When a neighbor offered to let me pick as many lemons as I wanted from his lemon tree, I went a little crazy.  As I juiced those lemons on a 55-year-old electric  juicer, I pondered how I would use these lemons. I wanted to try something other than the standard custard lemon pie with meringue. The winners were: Lemon Bars, Lemon Chess pie, and Grandma Vera Anderson’s Lemon Sponge Pie. The two pies held a competition. By the way, I would have made my favorite lemon pie with whole slices of lemon rather than a custard filling. But these lemons were small, and seed-filled.  Not appropriate for that pie. So let the Bake-Off begin.

Read below the recipes what the taste-testers had to say.

electric juicer

Proctor-Silex electric juicer 1960

 

 

I got my electric juicer for a wedding present, and other than the fact that the strainer insert melted when it dropped onto the heating element in the dishwasher, the juicer is still kicking.  It is much easier than juicing by hand, and I have no need for those enormous juicers that are all the fashion now.

I wish I could find another one of these, just like the vintage version. (Gives me pause to realize something I have used personally all its life is now vintage.)

 

Perfect Pie Crust

Both these recipes were made with my not-so-secret recipe for perfect pie crust, but with the chess pie the crust turned cumbly and more like a cookie crust. All that butter and those eggs. However, the pie dough was as easy as ever to make and manipulate. So if you haven’t tried it, take a look at the most popular recipe on this site–perfect pie crust.

 

Lemon Chess Pie

In Joy of Cooking, I found a recipe for Chess Pie, followed by a version that makes it Lemon Chess Pie. It is described as having a “sparkling translucency and a smooth, soft, and melting texture.”   That wasn’t the way I saw it. It was translucent, but so sticky sweet I could only eat two bites. Others who ate it actually loved it, though.

Basic Chess Pie (without lemon) comes from the Southern states, where it is a staple. Although I searched and searched, I could find no definitive explanation of the name. Several theories, but no one knows for sure from whence came the name for this sweet Southern treat.  The Joy of Cooking recipe diverges from traditional Chess Pie recipes I found on line, particularly in the method of dotting butter on top instead of mixing it in.

Recipe follows.

Lemon Chess Pie

Serves 10
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 10 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Serve Cold
From book Joy of cooking.
This recipe for Chess Pie from Joy of cooking is very rich. You will want to serve it in small slices.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg (large)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pie crust, baked

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Warm pie crust in oven while you are mixing filling.
2. Mix egg, egg yolks, sugar and lemon zest in bowl and whisk (Joy of Cooking suggests setting the bowl in a skillet with simmering water as you whisk.)
3. Whisk in liquids
4. Lemon Chess Pie
Pour into pie shell and dot the butter over the top. (The dotted butter resulted in a freckled top for me. Alternately, you may follow the more traditional method of mixing softened butter into the sugar before step one.)
5. Bake at 350 degrees, until edges are firm and center quiers like Jell-o when shaken gently. ( Joy of Cooking called for 45 minutes at 250 degrees, but I don't think that is warm enough. My oven took over an hour and I raised the temperature to 350 for the last 15 minutes.)
6. Top with meringue if you wish.

Grandma Vera’s Lemon Sponge Pie

Unfortunately, I have far too few recipes from my grandmother, but I have had this recipe for lemon sponge pie in my recipe box for years, and just never got around to trying it out. In checking for other versions of this pie, I found an identical recipe on line labeled as a traditional Amish recipe. I do not know where Grandma got the recipe, but the probable Amish source did not surprise me.  Killbuck, Ohio, where Grandma lived, lies in an area of Ohio settled by German and Amish immigrants,and familiar foods there tend to come from either England or Germany.

I doubled the recipe for my larger pie pan and got a bonus of two dishes of custard. I also reduced the sugar a bit, knowing that grandma had an insatiable sweet tooth.  I prefer to emphasize the lemon in lemon desserts.

When I make a dish with egg whites folded in, I always want to call all my friends and relatives to see it the moment it comes out of the oven. Because they beautiful pillowy effect is going to disappear in a minute.

Lemon Sponge Pie

Serves 8-10
Prep time 25 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 55 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
A vintage Lemon Sponge Pie from my grandmother's recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 pie shell, unbaked
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 2 heaped tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • lemon peel (from one lemon (lemon zest, grated fine))

Directions

1. Put pie shell in refrigerator while you prepare the filling.
2. Mix sugar and melted butter.
3. Whisk in egg yolks
4. .Stir in half the milk, add the flour, then stir in the rest of milk
5. In clean bowl with clean beaters on electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff.
6. Mix the lemon juice and peel into the batter. Then fold in the egg whites until there are no streaks of white.
7. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Raise temperature to 375 degrees for another 15 minutes.

Note

The recipe as Grandma wrote it looked a bit small for my 9" pie pans, so I doubled the recipe. That way it yielded one large pie and two dessert dishes of custard. The only thing I did not double was the sugar. I like the lemon to shine through, so I used 1 1/2 cups of sugar instead of the full 2 cups. Your call.

Grandmother's instructions for making the pie were simply, "Cream together like cake. Add milk and fold in egg whites beaten stiff." I went into more detail than Grandma, just in case readers needed more help.

Grandma calls for "lemon peel", which we nowadays call lemon zest. That's what she meant--just the yellow part of the lemon peel, grated fine. I don't recall ever hearing the word "zest" in Ohio when I was growing up--it was always "lemon peel" and everyone knew that didn't include the bitter white lining of the peeling.

Don't be alarmed when the pie raises very high and then quickly sinks. That's the nature of the beast with puddings with so much beaten egg white.

The Votes Are In

Male #1: The sponge pie doesn’t taste lemony enough. It is not nearly as good as the other pie. The crust on the other pie was delicious. [As I mentioned above, it was actually the same crust on both pies, but  the ingredients made the Chess Pie crust more sugary.]

Female #1: The Sponge Pie sort of had the texture of a cheesecake, but lighter. But the Chess Pie was more lemony. I liked the crust of the Chess Pie–it was crispier and thinner. Definitely preferred the Chess Pie. It was like a Lemon Bar cookie.

Male #2: Definitely preferred the Chess Pie.  The crust was better and it tasted more strongly of lemons.  The texture of the Sponge Pie looked nice, but it was a let down after the Chess Pie. There really was no comparison.

Female #2: Preferred the Chess Pie.  Both were good, but I liked the calories (ha,ha) in the Chess pie. [the sweetness] The Sponge Pie had a tangy, lemony aftertaste which I enjoyed. The Sponge Pie was kind of like eating cheesecake, with a lemon flavor.

So there you have it. Sorry, Grandma Vera, I’m the only person who actually preferred your pie. I thought the Chess pie was cloyingly sweet (you would have loved it!). I would have preferred a stronger lemon flavor in the Sponge Pie but it would take some experimenting to see how to get that without messing up the texture.

Scottish Black Bun for Hogmanay

Ever hear of Hogmanay? Ever hear of wrapping a cake inside a pastry and calling it Black Bun?

If you answered yes to either of those questions, you are way ahead of me. Despite my Scottish ancestry, I did not know that while we are celebrating New Year’s Eve by singing Auld Lang Syne by the Scot’s favorite poet, Robert Burns, the Scots are celebrating Hogmanay. What’s more, an important ingredient for Hogmanay is a rich dessert called Black Bun.

While you’re celebrating Hogmanay–a tradition that grew out of Viking end-of-winter celebrations–don’t forget about first footing.  Send a dark-haired man outside to enter your house just after midnight bearing gifts of coal, salt, bread and, of course, whiskey.  Maybe he could bring a nice big Black Bun also.

According to Wikipedia, the Black Bun was originally made for Twelfth Night, but has shifted to the Hogmanay celebration.

I couldn’t let an enticing recipe like that go untested.  So here’s the recipe for Black Bun.  It yields a fruit-rich, overall very rich cake–its heaviness set off by the flaky pastry wrapped around the outside. Fortunately, my recipe for Perfect Pastry once again proves its perfection in this recipe.

The richness encouraged me to attack it in small bites.  Here’s a view of a cut end of the Black Bun and you can see the niche where I have cut out TWO day’s portions.

Black Bun

Black Bun with piece cut out.

It wasn’t really difficult to make, once I figured out how to measure my pan and cut the pastry to fit. The original is loaf-shaped.

Black Bun

Freshly Baked Black Bun, cooling on the rack

I attempted a bow on top, but I think it turned out looking more like either a cross or a “K”.  I would say it is a K for Kenneth, my husband, however he does not like raisins.  If you have an anti-raisin person in your house, forget trying to get them to eat Black Bun. It is all about raisins and currants.

I adapted this recipe from the BBC web page, a really good source of authentic recipes from Great Britain.   Other recipes include nuts or double up on the spices, so once you’ve tried the basic recipe, you can adjust it to suit your own tastes.

Scottish Recipe: Black Bun

Serves 20-24
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
Occasion New Year
Website BBC
The Scottish celebrate New Year's Eve with a holiday called Hogmanay. They also bake a fruitcake inside a pastry wrapper for the occasion. This is a recipe for the Scottish Black Bun.

Ingredients

  • pastry sufficient for a two-crust pie plus about 1/2 crust. (See note)
  • 7oz white flour (=1 3/4 cup)
  • 10 1/2oz raisins (= 2 cups)
  • 10 1/2oz currents (=2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon mixed spice (A British mixed spice combines several spices (See Note). Or use pumpkin pie spice.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, ground
  • 3 1/2oz dark muscovado sugar (=1 Cup. Can substitute dark brown sugar)
  • 3 1/2oz mixed candied peel, chopped (=1/2 Cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons whisky (The alcohol will bake off, but you can substitute another liquid, such as apple juice or water.)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons Buttermilk

Directions

1. Make soft pastry, wrap in plastic wrap and leave in refrigerator while preparing the filling.
2. Preat oven to 350 degrees
3. Mix spices and pepper in small dish, then mix all the ingredients, including the spice mixture in large bowl.
4. Line a bread pan with parchment paper.
5. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry), and line the loaf pan. (I found it best to make one long strip going from one long end of the pan across and up the other end; then make two pieces about 3" x 3" to fit in the two ends. Be sure to wet the dough seams to be sure they stick together.)
6. Spoon the filling into the pastry and press it down with a spoon.
7. Black Bun unbaked
Roll out the remaining dough and cut to fit the top. Wet the inner edges of the pastry in the pan and the edges of this "lid" pastry and seal the top. Press the edges with a fork. Cut slashes in the pastry. Use leftover strips of pastry to decorate the top with a bow or whatever design you wish.
8. Beat an egg and brush the top of the pastry with the egg.
9. Bake for two hours at 350 degrees, or until top is evenly browned. You can lay a piece of aluminum foil loosely over the top for the last hour of baking if it seems to brown too fast.
10. Black Bun out of pan
Let pan cool completely on a wire rack before turning out and peeling off the parchment.

Note

The BBC site from which I adapted the recipe for Black Bun used grams and ounces. I add the equivalents in cups, although your most accurate measure is still by weighing ingredients.

I used my Perfect Pastry recipe to make this pastry to wrap the Black Bun and it worked like a charm, although I did not get it sealed perfectly on one side. I used the equivalent of 3 single crust pie pastries. That left me with quite a bit of dough, which I made into pie cookies.

Here is the recipe for British spice for desserts like Black Bun from the BBC site:

  • Here is a typical blend of spices used to make mixed spice:
  • 1 Tbs ground allspice
  • 1 Tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbs ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground Ginger
  • Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.

Make a Real American Dessert: Indian Pudding

Well, darn, we missed National Indian Pudding Day. Mark your calendar for November 13 next year, but don’t wait untili then to bake what some consider the FIRST genuinely uniquely American recipe.  You can read about it, and see the recipe from the venerable Wayside Inn (Built by my Howe ancestors, ahem) at this NPR site.

As the article points out, the original was probably very simple–cornmeal, molasses and milk steamed or baked over an open fired.  But today we favor versions adding egg for a lighter texture and spices for a livelier flavor.

Unfortunately, Indian Pudding is not very photogenic, so you’re only getting one picture–the one with the recipe below, where the pudding is slathered in whipped cream.  It may be the plain Jane of desserts, but it’s a swell after-dinner date nonetheless.

I found the recipe I used at a good site for historic recipes--What’s Cooking America.

This recipe was shared with me by Mary Wright Huber of Tucson, AZ (formerly of CT and MA). Mary says:

“Below you will find my family’s version of Indian Pudding.  It is based on an old 1896 Boston Cooking School recipe, which was run by Fannie [Merritt] Farmer. There are many variations of this recipe, some with no spices and some with raisins.  One or two even include pumpkin.  Although I prefer lots of spices (I am fairly flexible on that issue), and can even see the pumpkin people’s point of view.  But I am adamantly anti-raisin!  I also think it is a travesty to cook the pudding for less time, at a higher temperature.  Many of the newer recipes do this, and I can’t see how one can get the same fine-grained custardy texture.  I also think the higher temperatures are likely to form a thick, coagulated layer over the top of the dessert.  This recipe takes times and patience, but the reward is great (taste). It not only makes a great dessert (with ice cream), but I have been known to eat it re-heated; with half and half; for breakfast.”

Note: I have transferred the recipe, with very minor changes, to my recipe app, which allows you to print it out.

 

 

 

Indian Pudding

Serves 10-14
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 2 hours, 30 minutes
Total time 3 hours
Allergy Egg, Milk
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold, Serve Hot
Region American
Website What America Cooks
The most American recipe you can find--Indian pudding. Spiced up to meet modern tastes, but still easy and delicious.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups Milk ((See recipe note))
  • 1/2 cup Corn meal
  • 3/4 cups molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger (powdered)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves (ground)
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon (ground)
  • 3-4 eggs (well-beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon butter (for greasing pan)
  • tablespoon sugar (for preparing pan)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-cup souffle or baking dish with the 1 T. butter, and sprinkle with 1 T. sugar.
2. In saucepan, heat milk just below boiling. When small bubbles appear all over, you're good. Stir in the cornmeal and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-10 minutes until mixture is syrupy. (If your pan does not have a thick bottom, put in a slightly larger pan with boiling water, or a double boiler.)
3. Stir in molasses and cook another 5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in butter, salt and spices. Stir until butter is melted.
5. Beat the eggs. Temper the eggs-stir a a few spoonsful of the hot mixture, a spoonful at a time, into the eggs, stirring each time to slowly bring up the temperature of the eggs. This prevents getting scrambled eggs in your pudding. When the eggs have warmed to near the temperature of the by now cooled off mixture, pour all the eggs into the pot and stir until no streaks remain.
6. Pour the mixture into baking dish. Put shallow pan in oven, and place pudding dish in that pan. Pour Boiling water into pan. It should come 1/3 to 1/2 way up the dish. Bake at 275 degrees until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. This can take up to 2 1/2 hours.
7. You can serve the pudding warm or cold. If you are refrigerating, it is best to let it cool to room temperature first. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Note

You will have a richer pudding if you use 1 cup of cream and 3 cups of whole milk or 2 cups of half and half and 2 cups of milk. If you are counting calories and watching cholesterol, you can still get a satisfactory pudding with 4 cups of 2% milk.

Don't overbake your pudding. I left mine in the oven a little too long and it wept. (Separated so liquid was floating around the outer edges.)

 

 

Some people add raisins. I think they're superfluous, but have it your way.

My Joy of Cooking cookbook recipe uses less molasses and adds 1/4 cup of brown sugar. If you don't love molasses as much as I do, you might want to go that way.