Chess Pie Squares
These heavenly little bars, adapted from the Southern cookbook author Julia Reed, are a modern-day, perfect-for-a-picnic version of a traditional custard pie made from flour, cornmeal, sugar, eggs, butter and buttermilk. They are like lemon bars without the lip-puckering citrus: a blanket of egg-rich custard generously laced with vanilla atop a lightly salted, crumbly shortbread crust. (If you don't have buttermilk, you can make an easy substitute by combining one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice with a cup of milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, then measure out 3/4 cup.)
- Serves: 24 persons
- 2cups/240 grams all-purpose flour
- ½cup/57 grams confectioners’ sugar
- ¾teaspoon kosher salt
- 6ounces/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
- 6ounces/170 grams unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
- 1 ½cups/297 grams granulated sugar
- 6large egg yolks
- 2teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ¾cup/168 milliliters buttermilk, at room temperature
- 2tablespoons fine white or yellow cornmeal
- 2tablespoons all-purpose flour
Step 1Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Step 2Make the shortbread crust: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two forks until well blended and the dough holds together when you press a lump in your hand.
Step 3Press dough evenly into the bottom of 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake until edges begin to brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove shortbread from oven and let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
Step 4Make the filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, until well blended. Switch to the whisk attachment and slowly beat in vanilla and buttermilk until well blended. Beat in cornmeal and flour until just combined.
Step 5Pour filling over crust. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden and set. Cool in the baking dish on a wire rack and cut the dessert into 24 squares (each about 2 inches) to serve.