Pecan Pie Eudora

008Unlike many cooks, I am always open to new recipes for something I have cooked with success many times with another recipe.  In this case, pecan pie.  In my years growing up and learning to cook, holiday desserts usually included  sweet potato pie, a mince pie, often fruit pies, but always pecan pies.  I have confessed my habit of browsing through cookbooks for fun, and a Half Price Bookstore find recently uncovered a for- me untried version of this pie.  In the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts, the title caught my eye.  Eudora Welty is one of my favorite southern authors, and this recipe was titled: Southern Nut Pie Eudora.  The dessert chef, Susan Harville presented the pie to Miss Welty when she was in Ithaca, NY to give a reading.  Miss Welty is said to have accepted the pie graciously and to have said “…the pleasure you’ve had from reading my work? Why, surely it couldn’t add up to a whole pecan pie!”   I opted to use pecans rather than walnuts, and increased the amount of nuts.  The creamy custard and pecans are perfectly enriched with pure maple syrup and heavy cream.  You hardly need any whipped cream on top!

Pecan Pie Eudora

1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust

2 cups pecan halves

1/4 cut butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 Tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs, beaten

1 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup heavy cream or half and half

Preheat oven to 375.  Spread nuts evenly in the bottom of the 9 inch unbaked pie shell and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, mix melted butter, vanilla, and flour.  Add salt, eggs, maple syrup, and cream and mix well.  Pour the filling over the pecans in the pie shell.  Pecans will float to the top, so to keep them from burning during baking, gently push them into the liquid with the back of a spoon.  Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.  May be served with whipped cream.

Lemon Chess Pie

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There are a number of colorful stories about how Chess Pie came to be called that, but however it was named, it remains a quintessential Southern dessert.

One story is that gentlemen were served this sweet pie when they left the table to play chess. Another tale says the name derived from Southerners’ dialect: It’s jes’ pie (it’s just pie). Yet another story is that the dessert is so high in sugar that it kept well in pie chests, also called pie safes,  at room temperature and was therefore called “chest pie.” Pronouncing that with a Southern drawl sounds like chess pie. One more possibility:  a lemony version of the pie was close to the traditional English lemon curd pie, often called “cheese” pie, and chess pie became its American name.

Chess pie always contains flour, butter, sugar, and eggs and the unusual addition of cornmeal.  The South was at one time agrarian, and a farm woman had to cook with what was there. Various other ingredients can be added for flavor, as in the recipe here which calls for lemon juice. Or add a dash of nutmeg, ginger, or cinnamon. Sprinkle in some flaked coconut or toasted chopped pecans. Some believe a splash of buttermilk makes chess pie better; others swear by a tablespoon of vinegar, which is called vinegar pie. You can even add cocoa for the chocolate lovers.

Lemon Chess Pie

2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon fine yellow cornmeal
4 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice with pulp
1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
Directions
In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour and cornmeal. Blend well, then add the eggs one at a time.  Add milk, melted butter, lemon rind and juice. Pour filling into prepared crust . Foil strips may be used to cover the crust to avoid burning. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes, removing the foil after 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Buttermilk Pecan Pie

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Our Thanksgiving dinner this year included both old and new recipes.  Pecan Pie has long been a family favorite, and we have made it in many ways and in different places. My mother’s and grandmother’s pecan pie usually involved the labor of love  called cracking and picking out pecans by hand, making the pies an even more special treat.  Many years ago, my mother-in-law had a large pecan tree in her back yard and would once in a while mail us a shoebox full of shelled pieces that she had picked up and picked out for us.  In recent years, I have bought them for use for holiday baking.  But this year, in keeping with our efforts to buy local produce, we bought our pecans through a school fund raiser that obtained them from a Fort Bend county producer.  They are fresh, delicious, and the Buttermilk Pecan Pies featured them well.

Our family’s old-time recipes usually involved using dark corn syrup and lots of pecans, resulting in a very sticky and sweet pie slice, but I have always liked the fillings made with eggs and milk that give a more custard filling.  The use of buttermilk in this recipe makes this pie delicious, and quintessentially Southern.  I adapted this recipe from one found in Texas the Beautiful  Cookbook,  edited by Elizabeth Germaine, with contributions by Ann Criswell, Food editor of the Houston Chronicle.  It is reprinted from the Corpus Christi Junior League cookbook, Fiesta.  Buttermilk pecan pie was a family recipe often prepared ba a career U.S. Navy chef for many dignitaries. during his military career, the chef refused to share the recipe, but when he retired he allowed it to be printed in a Navy newspaper.

1/2 cup butter

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

3/4 cup chopped pecans

pecan halves for decoration

1 (9 inch) pie crust

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, adding sugar gradually. Blend in vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Combine flour and salt and add to this mixture gradually. Add buttermilk and mix.

Sprinkle chopped pecans in the bottom of unbaked pie crust and pour filling over them. Bake pie in preheated oven at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.  When pie has baked for about 30 minutes, lay pecan halves in simple design on top, pressing slightly, then resume baking. Serve at room temperature.

010I am thankful for all the good help I had baking Buttermilk Pecan Pie!