Tag Archives: dessert

Recipe: Chess Pie (Honey Bunch)

Chess Pie

Chess Pie

Schatzi: What a fantastic fiancee I am. Last year, when Eli told me of his family’s tradition that a birthday boy (or girl) gets to pick the cake they desire, I happily made him the orange pound cake he so fancied. And he loved it. And when my birthday rolled around, and I requested a haupia cake, I patiently waited. And I’m still waiting. But since it’s Eli’s birthday today, and since I have vowed to not bake him a birthday cake till I get my haupia cake, I baked him a Chess Pie. It also came in handy,to use up the yolks from my frittata a few days previous. And yes, I cheated and used a store-bought crust.

According to the always excellent Food Timeline, Chess Pie derives from old British and early colonial pastries and puddings, which featured egg yolks, butter, milk, sugar, and sometimes lemon juice. Such desserts, including lemon curd, were classified as cheese cakes or pies, due to their consistency, which resembled that of cheese. 17th century recipes for “cheese cakes without cheese curds” bear a striking resemblance to 19th century chess pie recipes, and from those cheese/chess pies came the Southern Chess Pie. There are myriad variations on the chess pie, involving white or brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, and raisins or pecans, and almost as many names as variations; the white sugar chess pie is sometimes called a sugar pie (honey bunch!). I found this recipe on Saveur while looking for rice pudding recipes.

I will add that Eli was delighted by his birthday pie, and said it was just perfect, exactly was a chess pie should be like. So I guess it qualifies as a Tennessee Chess Pie, too!

a piece of Chess Pie

a piece of Chess Pie

click here for the Chess Pie recipe and more pix!

Recipe: Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

a piece of Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

a piece of Rhubarb Upside Down Cake

And when it came to the pie–Mr Perry, a neighbor of Laura’s parents, tasted his first. Then he lifted the top crust, and reaching for the sugar bowl, spread sugar thickly all over his pie. “That is the way I like it,” he said. “If there is no sugar in the pie, then every fellow can sweeten his own as much as he likes without hurting the cook’s feelings.”
Mr Perry had made the meal a jolly one. [ ... ] Everyone laughed and talked and was very friendly, but Laura felt mortified about her beans and her pie without any sugar in. She had been so hurried when she made the pies; but how could she have been so careless? Pieplant was so sour, that first taste must have been simply terrible.
The First Four Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Schatzi: I wondered for years what “pie plant” was, only to discover it was simply rhubarb! Spring time in the Pacific Northwest is rhubarb time, and I promised myself (and Maiya!) a rhubarb upside down cake. Unlike poor Laura, I didn’t have to worry about remembering to sweeten the tart rhubarb since upside down cake is characterized by a gooey layer of sugar and butter on a moist yellow cake. Though it’s a decidedly homely dessert, it is a satisfyingly sweet-tart finish to any springtime meal. click here for the recipe!

Watergate Cake with Cover-Up Frosting

Watergate Cake with Cover-Up Frosting

Watergate Cake with Cover-Up Frosting

Schatzi: Though this cake was a prominent fixture on the community cookbook circuit when it debuted (my mother’s version is noted as being from the Nursing Office Cookbook), I have no conscious memory of it. I came across the recipe in my mother’s recipe box, which contains not only many magnificent Christmas cookie recipes, but also numerous treasures of late Sixties and early Seventies cooking. I remember quite a few of them, but there are a number that my mother seems to have dropped from her rotation as I was growing up. Malia remembers this one (and the Banana Split Cake) quite well; Mom made them all the time when Malia was a little girl, right about the time of Watergate.

I happened upon it in the Desserts section of Mom’s recipe box, and had to make it for several reasons:

  1. I have been craving a pistachio cake lately,
  2. our love for desserts with fun ingredients like soda,
  3. my love for vintage recipes, and
  4. my sincere affection for Richard Nixon (he’s one of my two favorite US presidents). I am totally serious.

It’s a very simple, throw everything together kind of recipe, and since it’s not from scratch, I just dumped everything into my big measuring cup/mixing bowl and stirred it up real good. I especially enjoyed watching the pistachio green color bloom into the rest of the cake at I mixed. Be careful not to overbake; the cake will look slightly sunken in the middle even when done.

As for taste, HOLY SHIT. We had pieces last night, and it was nice. But then I had a piece this morning after it had been refrigerated all night (breakfast of champions!), and it delivered. Cool, creamy, and that perfect ice cream parlor pistachio green that is so evocative of childhood. It’s like ambrosia in cake form! It might not tickle the sophisticated palate, but it is a comforting, nostalgic treat. I can’t wait to enjoy some on a hot summer day.

Moms recipe card

Mom's recipe card

click here for the Watergate Cake recipe!

Date Bars

date bars

date bars

Schatzi: I can and will wax rhapsodic about Liliha Bakery (Coco Puffs! Hot cross buns! The pancakes! Real ice cream sodas!), and I go every time I have the chance, but I can also try like fun to replicate their recipes at home. Particularly since they’re roughly three thousand miles away from me at the moment.

One of my favorite treats from Liliha Bakery are their date bars. They are a humble treat, a bit homely and simple, but luscious and richly sweet;. They are sold in a homely package consisting of a paper tray in a plastic sack, and are dark, thumb-sized bars dusted with confection sugar, and at first site are rather unprepossessing. But once you put them in your mouth–! These are not a bar cookie like a lemon bar, with a crust and filling;they’re almost more confection than cookie, really. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere.
click here for more pictures and a Date Bar recipe!

Gung Hee Fat Choy! and a Butter Mochi recipe, too!

butter mochi

butter mochi

Schatzi: Okay, so the new year actually started on Monday, but who’s counting? One of the best ways to ensure good luck in the new year is to eat sweets as part of your celebrations, and for that purpose I submit to you a Butter Mochi recipe.

If you’re not familiar with mochi, it is a cake made from glutinous rice that has been soaked, cooked, pounded into a paste, and then formed into shapes. (Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered who has the time to do this, just look at the moon. There’s a rabbit up there, pounding mochi. You can see him without even looking too hard.) Mochi comes in many varieties, and is used for many Japanese confections, like manju, chichi dango, and daifuku (one of my favorites is yomogi daifuku). Mochi also has many relatives in other Asian cuisines such as gau, and suman and bibinka, in China and the Philippines, respectively. I’m especially fond of the Okinawan sweet potato mochi.

Mochi is one of those things that has changed a lot over the past century, as people in Hawaii have adapted it to tastes and available products. It’s easy to find recipes for peanut butter mochi, chocolate mochi, pumpkin mochi–whatever! One of the most popular of the “new wave” mochis is butter mochi, which is a coconut custard-like baked mochi. It’s very simple, but rich and sweet. I grew up making butter mochi (among other varieties–microwave gau, anyone?); where the Mainland girls I read about in books made chocolate chip cookies or fudge, my friends and I loved making butter mochi. It’s a very sticky, gooey treat, with a rich sweetness and faintly coconut flavor.

The ingredients are simple enough, but I suggest scouting a local Asian market for the mochiko¬† (sweet rice flour) if it’s hard to find. It’s only a $1.49 at some marts here, but more than double that at Fred Meyer–when I can find it! The batter will look like a liquidy yellow cake batter and fill the pan almost completely, but don’t worry, because it won’t rise very much. It puffs up a bit as it bakes, but deflates as it cools. There are any number of butter mochi recipes online, and most are fairly similar, with only slightly varying proportions. This recipe can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2.25 cups of sugar, depending on your sweet tooth. You can cut out a teaspoon of vanilla, even, if you want the coconut flavor to shine. Another popular variation is to top the mochi with shredded coconut before baking. I never bother.

click to read the Butter Mochi recipe!