Our premier Pie or Die “double rainbow all the way” winner was Team Eat The Love with their scrumptious “Check(mate) Please! Blackberry Lemon Chess Pie with Almond-scented Crust & Honey Humbleberry Sauce” earning them both Judges’ 1st Place and People’s Choice wins. So epic! The winners also wrote an excellent adrenaline-fueled recap of their experience, which you can read right here.
This is a long-ass recipe, but nothing worth doing is easy, right? Continue reading if you want to make your own version of this double-winner pie!
Blackberry Lemon Chess Pie with Almond-scented Crust & Honey Humbleberry Sauce
by Team Eat The Love
“This recipe has a lot of components. But hey, it’s an award winning pie, what do you expect? Once you read it through, realize that each component can be made on a separate day to save time, and you can skip certain components if you want to. I’ve made notes at the very bottom of the recipe explaining time saving methods and shortcuts and how to customize the pie. It’s actually a really basic pie when you come down to it.”
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Almond-scented Pie Crust
This recipe makes two single pie crust pies (or enough for one double crust pie).
Adapted from More Best Recipes (America’s Test Kitchen) by the editor’s of Cook’s Illustrated
2 1/2 cups of unbleached AP flour
1/2 cup of almond meal or almond flour
1 tsp of kosher or sea salt
2 Tbsp of sugar
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) of cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup of leaf lard (see note) or trans-free shortening
1/3 cup ice cold vodka
1/3 cup ice cold water
1. Put 1 1/2 cups of AP flour and 1/2 cup of the almond meal into a food processor with the salt, sugar. Pulse a couple of times to blend and then add the butter (sliced into 1/4″ pieces) and the lard or shortening cut into 4 pieces. Process the mixture until dough/paste lump starts to form – about 15 seconds or so.
2. Add the rest of the 1 cup of AP flour to the mixture and pulse a few times to break up the dough. If the dough is still clumped up, open up the processor and break it up a little bit with your fingers or a fork and then pulse a few more times. You want the mixture to look sorta like cottage cheese lumps.
3. Pour the mixture into a bowl and sprinkle the vodka and the water over the dough. Using a large spatula fold the liquid into the dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but don’t worry about that. You’ll be adding more flour when you roll it out to compensate.
4. Divide the dough in half and wrap each half with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Note: Leaf lard is different from the lard you find at the grocery store. It’s refined (but NOT hydrogenated like the grocery store stuff). It’s also a much higher grade way better for you. Don’t use the grocery store stuff. Stick with a trans-free shortening if you can’t find leaf lard, but if you can, it’s worth tracking down. You’ll make amazing flaky crust with it because it melts at a higher temperature (allowing for more air pockets in the dough. Air pockets = flakiness). Check with a local butcher and see if they can order it for you. Or split an order with a fellow baker and mail order a batch.
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This recipe makes more than enough for two pies. Save the rest and use it on toast or a bagel. It’s a great fruit spread.
4 cups of blackberries (fresh or frozen – picked over and any moldy one discarded)
1/4 cup sugar plus 1/2 cup sugar
6 egg yolks
2 Tbls lemon juice
3 Tbsp arrowroot flour or tapioca starch
1. Rinse the blackberries gently and spread them out on a large baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels. Gently shake the baking sheet to dry the berries.
2. Put the berries in a large stock pot with 1/4 cup sugar and cook over medium heat until the berries start to disintegrate. It’s okay if some of the berries are still intact, but you want most of them to have dissolved into liquid. Remove from heat and carefully pour into a food processor. The liquid will be hot. Process the berries until smooth (being careful not to get any on yourself, it’ll burn! I recommend wrapping the edge of the lid with paper towels before you turn on the processor. It will splash out – or at least mine did as my walls can attest).
3. In a double boiler, or a metal bowl placed over a barely simmering pot of water, add 6 egg yolks, the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 Tbsp of lemon juice, the arrowroot flour/tapioca starch and 1/2 cup of blackberry puree. Stir the mixture with a whisk until it thickens up to the consistency of thick pudding.
4. Pour mixture into the food processor and process until smooth. At this point the curd is finished.
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Blackberry Lemon Chess Pie assembling
This recipe makes enough filling for two thin 9″ pies (like my semi-disposable pie tins), or one deep dish pie (when I use my nicer glass pie dish, I can only get enough filling for one).
2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cups cream
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp medium grain cornmeal
1/4 cup of lemon juice
Zest from three medium lemons (roughly 3 Tbsp of zest)
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.
2. Roll out the pie dough for each pie tin you are using, making sure to use a generous amount of flour (the pie dough will be sticky so use as much flour as you want). Fit the dough into the pie tins and crimp the ends decoratively. Take a fork and prick the bottom of the pie dough several times evenly across the bottom of the pie tin.
3. Line the pie dough with parchment paper or a coffee filter and fill with pie weights or rice or dry beans. Bake the pie dough by itself for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, and then carefully lift up the parchment paper/coffee filter filled with weights/rice/beans and bake the crust for another 5-7 minutes without anything on top of it. The pie crust should look a little dry and the edges just starting to turn golden. This process is called blind baking.
4. Cool the pie crust while you are making the filling.
5. Cream the butter and sugar in a standing mixer until it looks light. Add the eggs one at time, beating between each addition. Add the milk and cream and mix until incorporated. The filling should look quite liquidy.
6. Add the cornstarch, cornmeal, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.
7. Spread a thin layer of the blackberry curd on the bottom of the prebaked pie crust (I used about 3 Tbsp of curd, but you might want more if you like it sweeter, or are using a deep dish pan). I wanted just a bare hint of the blackberry taste as a counterpoint to the tart lemon, but you might want more. Keep in mind the more blackberry curd you use, the sweeter the pie will be.
8. Gently pour the lemon filling over the blackberry curd bottomed pie crust, making sure not to disturb the blackberry curd too much. Don’t overfill the pie.
9. Now you can either decoratively spoon some more blackberry curd on top and then swirl a knife around, or you can pipe some blackberry curd in lines across the pie, and then draw a knife back and forth creating a feathered pattern. Or you can be insane like I was and cut out a grid and fill every other grid with blackberry curd and then gently lift the grid straight up from the pie to create a checkerboard pattern. I don’t recommend that one though. No one should be that insane.
10. Bake the pie for 35 minutes or until the top of the pie starts to get golden and the the center is set.
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Honey Jumbleberry Sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp arrowroot
4 1/2 cups of mixed berries (I used chopped strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, bluberries, blackberries but you can use whatever you want)
zest of 1 medium orange (about 1 Tbsp)
1. Mix the honey, orange juice, and arrowroot together and stir until the honey is dissolved.
2. Put the berries in a large stockpot with the zest. Add the orange juice mixture and cook over medium heat until the berries have dissolved and the sauce has thickened a little and looks shiny.
3. If you want to, you can puree it in a food processor, or just serve it a little chunky. If you want to get fancy, you can put it in a condiment squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the pie slices. Just remember to cut the tip of the bottle so it’s wide enough to allow for the seeds to go through. Or strain the seeds out with sieve. I was too lazy and too much in hurry to do that. People didn’t seem to mind.
This recipe seems super long and complicated. But it’s really a serious of components. Here’s how to simplify it and customize it for yourself.
1. Make the pie dough a day or two ahead. In fact, pie dough freezes really well. Just make a batch or two (the food processor makes it SO easy) and freeze a couple for future use! Just thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and you have pie crust, or better yet, roll out the dough, fit in a pan and then stick the entire pan in a large freezer ziplock bag and just freeze it whole. Pull it out and stick it directly in the oven no need to thaw (just make sure you are using metal pie tins, don’t freeze glass or ceramic pie plates and then stick them in the oven directly. They’ll shatter).
2. Make the sauce in advance. It keeps for a couple of days. Or skip the sauce entirely. It’s totally optional. The sauce, by the way, is awesome on pancakes and french toast.
3. Make the blackberry curd a few days in advance (it’ll keep for up to a week in the fridge). Or skip making the curd and use some store bought stuff. Or even skip that and just use some store bought blackberry jam or some other berry jam or preserve. I won’t tell, I won’t judge.
4. Go back to basics, as the lemon chess pie is a classic southern treat. Skip all the extra stuff, just use a pre-made storebought crust (but I did tell you the pie dough is easy to make with a food processor right?) and make the lemon chess pie filling all by itself without the sauce, without the blackberry curd. It’s a nice change of pace from the cloyingly gelled lemon meringue pies.