Tag Archives: pie

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.

Thanksgiving Recipe: Pumpkin-Apple Pie

I love baking and cooking traditional recipes. But I have met one that is a bit intimidating. Athough this recipe for pumpion, a pumpkin-apple pie, is dated 1671, I have read that it was actually copied from another cookbook, and could be 25 years older.

Here is a pie that is as American as Apple Pie and substitutes for the traditional Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie.

Here we are, just one week form Thanksgiving–you MUST be thinking about the menu, right? How about something so different from your normal routine that it will blow the minds of your guests (or the hosts you are providing with a dish).  Frying sliced pumpkin instead of using pureed pumpkin. Combining the familiar spices with herbs. Mixing pumpkin and apples in the same pie. Adding a wine/egg pudding.  Do you dare do a break with tradition and do a pumpkin-apple pie?

Note: I would love to give you pictures of what this pie looks like, but all the sites I reference below have copyrighted their images, so you’ll have to click through to see various takes on pumpion pie.

Pumpion Pie
from:
The Compleat Cook London: printed for Nathaniel Brook, 1671

Take about half a pound of Pumpion and slice it, a handfull of tyme, a little rosemary,
parsley and sweet marjorum slipped off the stalks, and chop them small, then take the
cynamon, nutmeg, pepper and six cloves, and beat them, take ten eggs and beat them,
then mix them and beat them all together and put in as much sugar as you think fit, then fry them like a froize*, after it is fryed, let it stand till it be cold, then fill your pye, take sliced apples thinne round wayes, and lay a rowe of the froize, and layer the apples with currents betwixt the layer while your pye is fitted, and put in a good deal of sweet Butter before you close it, when pye is baked, take six yelks of eggs, some whitewine or vergis*, and make a caudle* of this, but not too thick, cut up the lid and put it in, stir them well together whilst the eggs and pumpions be not perceived and so serve it up.
*froize = a kind of pancake or omelet
*vergis = verjuice, juice from unripened grapes or from crab apples or other sour fruit [Note that the recipe says white wine OR vergris, so you can get along without the vergris.]

*caudle= a warm spiced and sugared drink

Every reference I found to pumpion pie on the Internet shared a different opinion on how to make it.  Some ignored putting it in a pastry (or coffin as pie crusts were intriguingly called back then).  Some gave up on translating the unfamiliar terms, and just skipped the part they didn’t understand. But each reference added something to my understanding of the sometimes puzzling language of the 17th century recipe.

For instance, if I get up my courage to bake a pumpkin-apple pie, I now know how to make Verjuice or even better, where to buy it ( search for verjuice or verjus). Since the point is to have a puckery sour fruity liquid, I’m tempted to try unsweetened cranberry juice. After all, our Pilgrim mothers had access to cranberries. (Ignoring for the moment that they had plenty of wild grapes as well.) But the easiest route would be to substitute a not-sweet white wine.

After making up some pie dough (probably a tougher one than my flaky Perfect Pie Crust recipe) I would dip the pumpkin slices in the egg and then roll in the herb/spice combination and fry them in a large skillet. When the pumpkin slices are tender, I would pour in the 10 (!) beaten eggs (having used a bit to dip the pumpkins).  That would give me a omelet-like bottom layer for the pie. [Note: I would NOT use extra large or even large eggs, assuming that in the Renaissance they had not yet developed super chickens, I would use small or medium eggs.]

I would roll out the pie dough and line a baking dish — a deep pie plate or even an iron skillet, place the “omelet” in the bottom, slice apples into rounds and cover the “omelet” then sprinkle on currants, cover with a thin layer of sugar and cover with another layer of apples.  Dot heavily with butter and cover with a pie crust that is not sealed to the edges.

While baking the pie, I would mix the six egg yolks and white wine (or vergris if feeling particularly adventurous),add a little sugar and warm gently on the stove. Having baked the pie until the apples are tender and the crust begins to brown, I might remove it from the oven and lift the top crust and pour in the wine/egg yolk mixture, replace the crust and return to the oven so that the “caudle” will become a custard. OR–maybe NOT replace the crust.

I continue to puzzle at the last clause in the recipe, after the pie is baked and the “caudle” warmed– ” cut up the lid and put it in, stir them well together whilst the eggs and pumpions be not perceived and so serve it up.” So it sounds like you break up the top crust of the pie into the wine/egg yolk mixture and stir it together, then pour over to cover the pumpkin omelet? In that case, you would not need to return it to the oven, having cooked the egg/wine mixture on the stove and then further thickened it with the broken up crust. What do you think? The more I think about it, the more sense this makes, since a caudle is a drink like a warm eggnog that would be heated before pouring, but it would not be thick enough to hold up in the pie.

Suggestions for baking the pumpion pie, that chooses to ignore some of the instructions.

Different method–this guy purees the pumpkin instead of frying, which strikes me as totally abandoning the main thrust of the recipe, but he has several other good ideas.

The reprinted ancient recipe for the pumpkin-apple pie comes from Pilgrim Hall Museum. If you’re feeling historic in the kitchen, you can find more early Thanksgiving recipes in this Thanksgiving Cookbook available in PDF at the Pilgrim Hall Museum site.

PLEASE let us know if you try a pumpkin-apple pie, aka pumpion pie! And I promise to do the same.

Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes Round Up

Last year and the year before, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I shared recipes from our Thanksgiving Dinner Table. In case you’re wondering about what you’re going to have. Here are some ideas.

Cranberry Relish

Cranberry-Orange Relish ingredients

Paul Kaser’s Scalloped Corn, which has become my son Brent’s contribution to our Thanksgiving Table.

Norma Kaser’s Turkey Dressing, with all kinds of good things including her Spiced Pecans, which are great on their own for any festive occasion.

Harriette Kaser’s Cranberry-Orange Relish, with a look at the old fashioned food grinder she used to make it.

Perfect Gravy, in honor of my Aunt Rhema, whose gravy was always perfect.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Killer Corn Bread

Killer Corn Bread, my own tradition, borrowed from a 1960s newspaper article about the Scottsdale Hilton chef.

Pickled Beets and Eggs, a traditional European recipe that is a must on our Thanksgiving table, the beautiful ruby-red beets and eggs served up in a crystal dish.

Frozen Fruit Salad, a relic from the days of Jell-o salads and Jell-o frozen desserts.

Thanksgiving recipes

Mixing generations. Left-cut glass bowl from Hattie Stout; top meat platter from Hattie Stout; center my own cut glass bowl, shallow china bowl my wedding china, wicker basket a wedding present.

And of course there must be pie.

Perfect Pie Crust.  Honestly, it is SO easy.

Frozen Pie Filling If you want to get a head start, make and freeze your fruit pie filling. The principle is the same for most kinds of fruit–just gauge the sweetness when adding sugar.

Ken’s Grandma Badertscher’s Raisin Pie is a real vintage recipe, straight from Switzerland.

Blueberry Pie from a Vintage Cook Book.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

Part of a Ham Dinner for an alternative Thanksgiving Dinner.

Add some mashed potatoes, and the turkey of course and you’ll have a whole Thanksgiving dinner.  If you were my grandmother, Vera Stout Anderson, you’d also have ham and bake a cake, and have three kinds of vegetables–but, hey, it all depends on how big an appetite your family has.