Baking for Loved Ones: Lemon Chess Pie

by Maris Callahan on August 12, 2011

When I was in college, my mother would send me newspaper clippings about teenagers and young adults who died in car accidents. They were morbid stories that I didn’t want to read: straight-A students who were killed by a drunk driver on their way home from the  movies,  seniors in high school who would never make it to their graduation. I know that she sent them to instill fear – to show me that if I didn’t drive carefully, if I wasn’t picky about who I accepted a ride home from after a party, the worst could happen.

I avoided reading these stories at all costs – deleting email, discarding the limp newspaper clippings still in their envelopes, because those stories weren’t the norm. They were news because they were tragic stories, the exception. You didn’t read about the cars full of people who made it home safely, because that happened every day.

This past week, I along with many of you, heard the sad news that, Jennifer Perillo’s husband had passed away suddenly. Jennifer is a blogger and food editor who I met at BlogHer Food in San Francisco two years ago (at the time, I lived in New York and we joked that it took a trip across the country to finally meet).

Though I don’t know Jennifer well and didn’t know her husband at all, reading about her husband’s passing reminded me of those news clippings I used to ignore in college. It’s easy to push a sad story to the back of your mind, or avoid the sad news stories you hear in the news, but sometimes they stick with you and sometimes you can’t ignore them.

Jennifer wrote a post on her blog inviting her readers to stop and celebrate the people we love by making a peanut butter pie. In the wake of her sudden loss, I’m awed that she took the time to remind us to celebrate the people who drove home safely. You never know how much time you will have with loved ones, so don’t put off doing special things for them.

A few days ago, I had made two pies for a party and I shared them with friends. There is something special about pie for dessert – it’s more elegant than cookies and in my opinion, more fun to eat than cake. This might not be a peanut butter pie, but it’s a recipe that I’d been wanting to make to share here for a long time.  Today seemed like the right time.

Lemon Chess Pie Recipe

Recipe adapted from Leite’s Culinaria

What You Need:

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee rolled out
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon corn meal
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch pie plate with the rolled-out pie crust.

In a heat-resistant bow, combine the melted butter and sugar until combined.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then stir in the cornmeal, followed by the lemon juice, mixing just until combined. Pour the filling into the crust.

Bake the pie for 35 to 45 minutes, until the filling is a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet August 12, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I can only understand the worries of your Mom. When my kids were old enough to drive, it was really an emotional process to face the inevitable. Driving. Having kids that have gone through High School and hearing all the stories first hand stirred my soul and, to be perfectly honest, still does. It brings tears to hear of another story.

Always give your love to those in your life, whether it be a pie, a hug, an listening ear and partake in those family dinners as often as possible.


Susan August 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

What a wonderful post, Maris, and one to really make you stop and think about how fragile life is sometimes and we need to love those around us like there’s no tomorrow! I absolutely love lemon desserts and this one sounds fantastic to tell someone they are loved.


sarah August 12, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I read about Jennifer’s loss and it’s just so sad. I am utterly at a loss for words at her ability to post such a sweet and simple reminder to love those we love now.

As soon as I have an oven again I’d like to make this pie for my mom. She loves lemon and pie and I think this would be a beautiful way to tell her I love her.


Bonnie from sweet Life August 12, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I heard and was stunned, she is a lovely women filled with joy and love. Thank you for sharing this today!!


Jenni August 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Lovely analogy about getting home safely. I love this. Any food made with love to be shared with loved ones is truly special. (and I have used “love” four times in that comment. It’s just the kind of day it is, I guess).


Erica August 12, 2011 at 1:49 pm

So sad….a great reminder to celebrate life. Lemony desserts are my fav


JulieD August 12, 2011 at 1:54 pm

A beautiful post and a wonderful pie, Maris. I can’t imagine how hard it is for Jennie right now.


polwig August 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Beautiful Pie and Beautiful Post, lets cherish the ones that we love forever and ever.


Sawsan@chef in disguise August 12, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Thank you Maris for the wake up call…


Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray August 12, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Great post Maris, seems to be a lot of sad news going around lately. A good reminder to hug our loved ones a little tighter every day. I hope that Jennifer knows how many people are thinking and praying for her and her family.


Chrissy August 12, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Great post, Maris. My mom would also send me newpaper clippings… mostly things that were light-hearted, but sometimes ones that really get you. I am sure Jennifer really appreciates your support through all of this!


Sam August 12, 2011 at 2:08 pm

So many bloggers have posted about Jennifer’s loss and others have posted about their own losses in their lives. Everyone has responded by making something. As a friend of mine said this week (talking about bringing muffins to Friends of the Fallen for families of service members who died in a helicopter crash) “Sometimes all you can do is bake muffins.” Or in some cases, pie.


Wendy August 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Nicely said, Maris.


Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga August 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I’ve never baked a pie like that but now i want to!


Sue/the view from great island August 12, 2011 at 3:51 pm

What a touching post. My husband has saved clipping about car accidents for my girls for years…didn’t know anyone else had this morbid but I guess loving habit. I love the idea of cooking something special for the ones we love, thank you for reminding me how fragile life is. The pie looks amazing.


yummychunklet August 12, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Lovely post.


Kathleen August 12, 2011 at 4:46 pm

What a sweet post! Love this pie and can’t wait to make it myself!


Roz August 12, 2011 at 5:07 pm

What a sweet post Maris. My heart goes out to Jennifer and her family. Lessons learned, hug those you love extra hard, make every day a good one, and be kind to each other, because life truly is too short for so many!!! Have a great Friday!!!


Liz August 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Such a good reminder to be thankful for your loved ones, and show them, My deepest condolences to Jennifer…I know the blogger world is there to support her…especially with all the touching posts today. Your pie looks marvelous~


Angela August 12, 2011 at 7:19 pm

This is a really beautiful post. Cooking is a great way to show love.


Jamie | My Baking Addiction August 12, 2011 at 7:28 pm

Beautiful post, Maris! I continue to be in awe of and inspired by our community.


kankana August 12, 2011 at 8:31 pm

this blogging community amazes me and make me so proud of being a part of it. I cried and cried after reading her tweet and then the post. This is such a great gesture !


lisa {smart food and fit} August 13, 2011 at 5:41 am

Beautiful post. So sad, I’ve been behind on reading my emails and was wondering why everyon was baking a peanut butter pie. Touched my heart reading it, so sad she lost her husband. so nice to see the blogging community come together celebrating her husbands favorite recipe.


Candace August 13, 2011 at 7:16 am

Beautiful post! My heart has been breaking for Jennifer and her family. We just don’t realize how fragile life is until something like this happens. Chess Pie is a southern staple; but, I’ve never seen one with lemon before. I love that idea so much. It looks delicious. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe.


Living, Learning, Eating August 13, 2011 at 8:52 am

That’s pretty morbid. :P But I love my parents; there’s nothing quite like family. My condolences and well wishes to Jennifer and hers.


Kate August 13, 2011 at 8:55 am

What a wonderfully written post! You are so right that we need to cherish those we love and celebrate those who are no longer with us. I love lemon chess pie and definitely will make it and share it with the people I care about.


Lynne @ 365 Days of Baking August 13, 2011 at 9:33 am

Maris, browsing the web, it is truly amazing and comforting at the same time that SO many people have come together to support Jennifer and her girls.
I can only hope that this little bit of love from all of us helps to ease their pain at least a little.


Chutneyandspice August 13, 2011 at 9:55 am

I have two little girls, and I am dreading the stage when they will be getting in to cars, or even worse letting others drive them. My mum says you have to let go and pray but I think I might be really bad at letting go!! Your mum must have loved you so much, now I am a mum I understand that love for the first time. I love the thought of baking in celebration of life and loss, what a lovely post.


rebecca August 13, 2011 at 10:03 am

lovely post and she is amazing its so sad though but true we need to enjoy folks each and every day


Junia @ Mis Pensamientos August 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

this looks just like key lime pie, but with lemons! :D and my mom was always overly anxious too!


Sarah (everydaysapicnic) August 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

This is such a sad, but touching post. I think it is so important to celebrate someone’s life.
It looks like a great recipe :-)


Baking Serendipity August 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm

This is a beautiful post. Your story of the newspaper clippings is so real and so relatable. And your pie is perfect. I am sure your friends loved it :)


Kerstin August 13, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I hadn’t heard about this until all the posts today – the blogging community is so amazing.

And what a lovely pie, perfect for company :)


Katherine August 13, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Maris, this is such a touching post. Thanks for the link and the reminder. Also, I always hear chess pies are amazing and very Southern, and have yet to make one. This looks great. You know, my folks are Southern and I still remember some of the food at my grandma’s funeral. Actually, I couldn’t name a single dish, other than to say everything was delicious and homemade. Everyone just brought a dish. It felt funny at first enjoying food on that day, but it’s a tradition. This is sort of like that.


EA-The Spicy RD August 13, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Lovely post and a beautiful pie! I never considered myself a worrier until I had kids. Mine can’t drive yet, but I know I will have many late nights waiting up once they do. So nice you were able to share your pie with friends!


Anne August 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Maris….I’m so sorry for your sad news….but what a lovely post and a great reminder for us all to stop and remember what means the most to us in this world. I’ve always wanted to try chess pie….this may be the perfect time for me, too!


Heather @girlichef August 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Beautiful post and touching tribute. And yum.


Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic August 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm

What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing your stories and the recipe :)


SMITH BITES August 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm

like everyone else, i was shocked Monday morning and the very first tweet i read was about Jennie’s loss . . . i gasped . . . the professor kept asking, ‘what’s wrong? what’s wrong?’ i couldn’t speak other than, ‘oh my god, oh my god!’ i hadn’t met Jennie IRL but was supposed to attend big summer potluck and when work got in the way, we had to cancel. less than a week later, the love of her life is gone. we tweeted often and i’ve been reading her blog almost as long as i’ve been blogging myself . . . i consider her a friend. i’m grateful for our community – grateful we can share our grief together – it’s hard. i’m a pie lover more than a cake or cookie lover and i have to say Maris, this lemon chess pie goes on my list – thank you for sharing


Roxana GreenGirl August 14, 2011 at 12:13 am

what a wonderful and touching post Maris. moments like this should open our eyes and realize nothing in this life is more important than the time spent with out loved ones.


A Plum By Any Other Name August 14, 2011 at 8:52 am

Your mom sounds a lot like mine in that department. Such sad news in the blogging community this week, though I’m still in awe of how the community has rallied in her support. Empathy and pie are never bad things.


paula hennig August 14, 2011 at 11:25 am

Really lovely post. a wonderful reminder that we should never take our loved ones for granted. You pie looks delicious!


Maria @ Scandifoodie August 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Gorgeous pie! Jennifer’s loss has certainly touched so many of us. Seeing all these pies being blogged is the best way to support her at these difficult times.


NancyC August 15, 2011 at 8:41 am

So sorry to hear about Jennifer’s loss. Your post is a great reminder to celebrate those we love who are still with us…thank you!


Nami | Just One Cookbook August 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

It’s very nice tribune to Mikey. You are so sweet for doing this. This pie looks so easy to make. Not sure why it’s called chess pie, but I love the lemon flavors!


Kay August 17, 2011 at 8:05 pm

I’ve been reading about Jennifer’s sad sad news through the food blogging community- so sad! This is a great little tribute that you created.


Marsha @ The Harried Cook August 17, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I saw a few posts about Jennifer’s husband too, and though I don’t know her at all, I feel so much for her and her kids. This is a great tribute, Maris… The pie sounds easy, and looks delicious! Thanks for sharing


Lisa from Lisas Yarns August 18, 2011 at 6:32 am

Wow, that is so sad. My heart goes out to Jennifer! I think food has an amazing ability to comfort people. And at time like that, most of us dont’ know what else to. So we bake. or cook. And hope and pray that the food we share lends comfort to those who are grieving.

Looks like a delicious pie!


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