Nailed It or Failed It: Lemon Chess Pie with Berry Sauce Crust

Today’s recipes came from the November 2012 Taste of Home magazine.  I was browsing through the dessert recipes I’ve saved over the years when I rediscovered this one. 

TJ, a young man we know, was going to house sit for us while we were away for a few days.  We were going to have TJ over for supper to reacquaint him with our dog and to hand over our house keys, and I was looking for something to make for dessert.  I like chess pie, and this one sounded like something a little different from the norm, and the thought of a berry sauce made it sound even more delicious.

Everything I needed for the recipe was either in our refrigerator or in the cabinet.  Since the pie crust needed to be refrigerated, I decided to put it together Friday night and finish up the pie on Saturday. Even though I have a really good pie crust recipe I decided, to be true to this recipe, I had to use the one provided. 

I don’t have a food processor, but I do use my Ninja blender as one since it has a pulse button on it.

To make the crust, I dumped the flour, coconut and salt into the blender and turned it on for a few seconds.  When the dry ingredients were combined, I cubed the butter right into the blender and pulsed the mixture a few times.  I ended up using four tablespoons of water, and after pulsing a few more times, the dough came right together.  I formed the dough into a disc, wrapped it in plastic wrap and placed it in the refrigerator.

Saturday, after returning from the grocery store, I decided to go ahead and put the pie together.

I retrieved the pie dough from the refrigerator and placed it on a lightly floured surface.  I coated my rolling pin with flour and began to try and roll the dough out.  Boy o boy, that was harder than I thought it would be.  The dough was so cold and hard that I didn’t think I’d ever get it rolled out, but with a lot of elbow grease and patience, I got it done.

The oven was already preheated so after placing the crust in the pie plate I placed a piece of nonstick foil on the crust and poured in enough dried beans to fill the plate.  I put the crust in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes. 

When the timer sounded, I removed the foil and beans from the pie plate.  I dumped the dried beans out and then just used that same piece of foil to cover the pie crust, sitting it on top loosely.  When the timer sounded again after nine minutes, I removed the pie plate from the oven and lifted the foil.  I was disappointed that the crust had shrunk quite a bit during the second part of the baking process, but I wasn’t going to start this thing over.

While the crust cooled I gathered the filling ingredients and combined them in a large bowl.  This process was easy, and I was able to put it together in time.  I poured the filling into the baked crust and returned the dish to the oven, then lowered the temperature to 325 degrees.  I let the pie bake for about 30 minutes, uncovered.  I opened the oven and knew by looking that the pie wasn’t done, so I put the piece of used non-stick foil on top to keep it from browning too much and let the pie continue to bake for 15 more minutes. 

When I checked the pie it appeared to be done, and for safe measure I inserted a knife into the center, it came out clean.

Once the pie was out of the oven and cooling, I got started on the berry sauce.  I combined the sugar and water in a small pan and let it heat.  When it came to a boil, I began digging through my freezer for some mixed berries.  I didn’t find a bag of mixed berries, but since we freeze homegrown ones, I just mixed some blueberries and blackberries in a colander then found a few raspberries in the freezer and added them to the mixture. 

To quick-thaw the berries I just ran some cool water over them.  I checked on the boiling syrup on the stove, and it wasn’t reducing as fast as I thought it should be,  so I stirred it a bit and let it continue to cook.  Once it was finally reduced, though not down to 1/4 cup I turned the stove off to let it cool. 

Before TJ arrived, I decided to finish putting the sauce together while I was preparing our meal for the evening. 

Before I added the berries, I tried to stir the syrup and realized it was almost hard.  I don’t know what I did, maybe I cooked it too long, but instead of starting over I just added a little bit of water to the pan and started stirring. 

It took a little time, but finally, the sugary substance was liquid again.  I poured in the berries and the freshly squeezed lemon juice.  After a quick stir dessert was ready.

TJ arrived, and we had a good time talking to him over supper.  When we’d all cleaned our dinner plates, we were ready for dessert.  Brad told TJ that I was trying out a new recipe and needed him to be honest about what he thought about it.

I got up to get the pie and the sauce, which I’d let heat up while we were eating the main course.

I cut everyone a piece of pie, and Brad and TJ both spooned some berry sauce over their piece.  I opted to try a couple of bites without sauce, then drizzled some over the remaining few bites.

TJ thought the pie was good and especially liked the berry sauce.  Brad said the pie was lemony and the sauce cut the strong lemon flavor.  I thought the pie was good, but I like my crust better, and I also like my plain chess pie better.  I did agree with Brad the sauce made the pie.

The next day, since my mom loves everything lemon, I took her a piece along with some berry sauce, I told her to let me know what she thought of it.  When I talked to her that evening, she said it was good, and she enjoyed it.

While this pie wasn’t a failure, it wasn’t a big hit with Brad and me. We had TJ take some of the pie home to his family.  His mom said it was delicious so I’ll have to say this is a Nailed It recipe.  I’ll put it in my self-made cookbook, but I doubt I’ll make it often — probably when my mom would like a pie or someone wants a lemony dessert.

Sarah Condley is an amateur baker and chef who is compiling a cookbook of her favorite recipes.

Lemon Chess Pie with Berry Sauce Crust

— 1 cup all-purpose flour

— 1/2 cup flaked coconut

— 1/4 teaspoon salt

— 1/3 cup cold butter, cubed

— 3 to 4 tablespoons of ice water


— 6 eggs

— 1-1/2 cups sugar

— 1/3 cup buttermilk

— 1/3 cup lemon juice

— 3 tablespoons cornmeal

— 2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

— 1/4 teaspoon salt

— Dash ground nutmeg

— 1/2 cup butter, melted

Berry Sauce

— 2/3 cup water

— 1/3 cup sugar

— 1 package (12 oz) frozen unsweetened mixed berries, thawed and drained

— 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place the flour, coconut and salt in a food processor; process until blended. Add butter; pulse until mixture is the size of peas. While pulsing, add just enough ice water to form moist crumbs. Shape dough into a disk; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or overnight

On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8 inch thick circle; transfer to a 9-inch pie plate. Trim pastry to 1/2 inch beyond rim of plate; flute edge. Line unpricked pastry with a double thickness of foil. Fill with pie weights, dried beans or uncooked rice.

Bake at 400 degrees on a lower oven rack for 8 minutes. Remove foil and weights; bake 6-9 minutes longer or until crust is light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, buttermilk, lemon juice, cornmeal, lemon peel, salt and nutmeg. Gradually whisk in melted butter. Pour into crust. Cover edge with foil to prevent overbrowning.

Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove foil. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours or until chilled.

For sauce, in a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to a boil. Cook until syrup is reduced to 1/4 cup; transfer to a small bowl. Cool completely. Just before serving, stir in berries and lemon juice; serve with pie.