Chess Pie Squares

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.)
  • Total:
  • Serves: 24 persons



  1. Step 1

    Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Step 2

    Make 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.
  3. Step 3

    Press 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.
  4. Step 4

    Make 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.
  5. Step 5

    Pour 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.