Heirloom Bakers: The Brass Sisters

By Cathy Huyghe

You know the butterscotch pie recipe you always meant to get from your great Aunt Sally?

Marilynn and Sheila Brass have already done the leg work for you.

You know the top-secret ingredient to your Uncle Joe’s BBQ sauce that no one knows but him?

Marilynn and Sheila Brass know.

In fact, they make it their job to know.

That’s because the Brass sisters (Cambridge residents, life-long WGBHers, and authors of the award-winning Heirloom Cooking and Heirloom Baking cookbooks) are in the business of resurrecting old family recipes, whether those recipes come to them in whispers or on yellowed bits of parchment from the 18th century.

The best part?

They breathe new life into these heirloom recipes. They recreate them so the recipes are do-able in today’s kitchen, while still being true to their roots. And they invite you to send in your ideas and questions about an heirloom recipe in your own history.

No question is too arcane. Marilynn and Sheila love a challenge.

Lemon Chess Pie

Recipe by Marilynn and Sheila Brass

Yield: 8 to 10 slices

This pie needs only a bowl and a whisk to make, even just a spoon. It is very delicate, and may need to be tented with foil toward the end to prevent the crust from browning too far.

1 unbaked 9-inch pie shell

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon corn meal

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (1 lemon)

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup lemon juice (1 lemon)

Sprinkle of nutmeg on top (optional)

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate with vegetable spray.

2. In a small bowl, combine flour, corn meal and salt and set aside.

3. Using a whisk, beat eggs in a bowl. Add sugar and butter and whisk into eggs. Add dry ingredients and combine. Add grated lemon zest, milk and vanilla to mixture. Add lemon juice and whisk quickly to combine. Pour into prepared pie shell. Sprinkle with nutmeg if desired.

4. Bake pie for 20 minutes and cover with tented foil or ring made of foil if crust is browning too quickly. Do not allow foil to touch the filling. Continue baking for another 25 minutes and check to see if center is still loose. If loose (not wobbly), cover again with foil and bake another 5 minutes.

5. Remove pie from oven and place on wire rack to cool. Place pie in refrigerator, uncovered, for at least three hours before cutting. Filling will form custard-like curd. Decorate with puffs of sweetened whipped cream around the edge of pie before serving. Leftover pie should be loosely wrapped with wax paper and stored in refrigerator.

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