I went back to Los Angeles for a quick visit a few weeks ago.
I spare my parents from picking me up at the airport, and I still have my house key on my ring, so I came back home to not much fanfare save for my dad in the kitchen meticulously kneading together a pie crust.
He mentioned wanting to perfect his Lemon Chess Pie which… if you were to ask me… was already pretty dang perfect.
I moseyed into the kitchen the following morning to my dad taking his parbaked crust out of the oven. Ok ok.. we’re on track.
Later that evening my dad took his prized pie out of the oven. It was golden but pale, puffed lightly with the slightest jiggle in the center. The secret, according to dad (who is right about all things) is baking the pie in a cold oven. Allowing the pie to gently bake as the oven preheats to temperature.
I was skeptical.
Skeptical until the following morning when I sliced a generous piece of the cooled pie, packed it precariously in a tupperware and took it with me to the airport, headed back to New Orleans. I found some coffee at the airport, a disposable fork and had pie for breakfast. It was so smooth, so creamy, heavenly really. The smoothest texture of a pie I’ve ever encountered – almost like a firm pudding – in the best sense of pudding.
I told dad. I sent him my praise. Two days later I received the thoughtfully typed recipe.
I’m sharing the recipe with you today. We are blessed indeed.
We’ll start with homemade pie crust.
You know about this. We’ve made pie crust before.
I’m of the belief that if you’re going to make one pie crust, you might as well make two. It’s nice to have an extra pie crust in the freezer for emergency pies.
Allow your pie crust to chill for at least an hour before rolling it out and shaping it into the pie plate.
We’re going to par-bake our crust.
Trust me on this one. This is a step that I usually skip, but because we’re baking our pie filling from a cold oven we need to give the crust a proper hot-shock and quick-bake in the oven before the filling goes in.
I know how you feel about parbaking a crust. It’s the same way I feel about par-baking a crust. Terrible.
The crust always shrinks. I never quite do it right. WHYYY.
Before parbaking do this:
- Freeze your shaped pie crust for 30 minutes while the oven preheats.
- Lightly spray a piece of parchment paper with non-stick cooking spray and place it spray-side-down into the frozen pie crust.
- Fill the pie to the BRIM with pie weights (mine are the economical kind – dried beans). Go as high as the crimped edges with the beans. The weight will keep the edges from sinking into the pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 375.
- Carefully remove the weights and parchment. How? Honesty… just as best as you can.
- Gently prick just a few honest in the bottom of the pie crust with the tines of a fork. Just to keep the pie from puffing as it bakes for a few more minutes.
- Bake the pie for 4 minutes for just to bake the center.
Ya did it! That wasn’t so bad.
Turn the oven off and allow it to cool while you make the filling.
Start with the sugar and lemon zest.
Rub the lemon zest into the sugar. This will release the citrus oil and make the pie extra lemony. Baker’s tricks – we got em.
Add the egg yolks and whole egg. The eggs bring richness and structure to the pie and we thank them for it.
Whisk in cornmeal for texture, cornstarch for thickening and salt for flavor. Everyone has their job.
Lastly, melted butter because duh and evaporated milk.
Evaporated milk is canned and has less water than refrigerated milk. It’s more rich. It’s more wealthy (that’s a joke). We’re into it.
If you don’t have evaporated milk on hand and wanted to use heavy cream I would understand. You’re wild.
Juice a lemon and add a few tablespoons to the filling.
And pour the pie filling into the cooled parbaked crust.
Place it on the center rack of a cool oven. Set the oven temperature for 325 degrees and allow the pie to slowly bake until set in the center and puffed around the edges.
Like this little dream.
The pie will deflate as it cools. I chilled mine overnight as I think this pie is best served chilled, with whipped cream and hot coffee.
Also grab a doily your mom might have left at your house. It could come in handy for decorating the pie.
This is totally optional but the invitation is to place a clean doily over the surface of the pie and dust it generously with powdered just before serving.
Remove the doily and magic! (For a few minutes until the powdered sugar inevitably dissolves.)
Slice and enjoy with whipped cream.
This pie is a sweet little dream. Lightly lemoned. Crisp buttery crust. Silky smooth. Dad nailed it.