Pie Week

Four & Twenty Blackbirds' Lemon Chess Pie

November 14, 2013

For #PieWeek, our guest editors are Emily and Melissa Elsen, the pie mavens behind Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn, NY. They will be sharing recipes all week from their first cookbook, and giving away a copy each day!

Today: A winter pie that still manages to be bright and tangy.

Lemon Chess Pie on Food52

Lemon Chess has garnered a close following in our pie shop. It appears most often on the menu during the winter months, when fresh fruits are scarce on the East coast and we source from the West coast for its bounty of citrus. This tangy but rich custard is a longtime favorite of our pie shop customers. 

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Lemon Chess Pie 

Serves 8 to 10 people

Zest of 1 lemon
1 2/3 cup cups of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
5 large eggs
2/3 cups heavy cream
7 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photo by Gentl & Hyers

To win a copy of The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book, tell us in the comments: What is your favorite winter pie? We'll pick winners at random at the end of the week! (Unfortunately, we can only ship domestically.)

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lynne
  • goldengrain
  • John
  • Daphne Manning
    Daphne Manning
  • Paul West
    Paul West
Sisters Emily Elsen and Melissa Elsen were born and raised in the rural farm town of Hecla, South Dakota. Their mother and her sisters owned and operated the popular local restaurant, the Calico Kitchen, for which their grandmother Liz made all the pies. After pursuing different careers—Melissa in finance and Emily in sculpture and photography—they established their business in Brooklyn. They originally custom-baked pies in their apartment before opening Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie and coffee shop in 2010. Named “Artisan of the Year” by Time Out New York in 2011, they have received critical praise for their pies and have been featured in a variety of food media including the Food Network and the Cooking Channel, in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, and New York magazine.


lynne July 1, 2018
Anything lemon will always win in my book!!!
goldengrain July 2, 2017
That Four and Twenty Lemon pie is HORRIBLE! It tastes like that filling between layers of coconut cake. In the cake it's good because the sweetness and tartness counter the subtlety of the cake. Imagine taking the entire can of that cake filling and dumping it in a pie crust. Imagine eating that filling by the spoonfull right from the can.

That's what this tastes like. Dumping a can of that layer cake filling. I had to throw it out. It was unfit for eating.
John November 21, 2013
I love a good Sweet Potato Pie! One that's made with lots of love!
Daphne M. November 21, 2013
Boysenberry double crust, great color , sweet and tart
Paul W. November 19, 2013
Apple, piled high as possible with lots of cinnamon and lemon.
Nicole November 19, 2013
Chocolate pecan! So rich and delicious
maggie November 18, 2013
Apple pie.
Elisa B. November 18, 2013
Huckleberry and cream cheese with a graham cracker crust
Paula R. November 18, 2013
Well, let's see. . . Anything Pear. No, wait. How about Kentucky Derby. No, wait.
Maybe an unusual cheesecake, but, then again, citrusy is luscious. Oh, boy. Pretty much all of them!
lynne November 18, 2013
O love anything lemon everyday of the year.
Becca A. November 18, 2013
Pumpkin pie!
Jessica November 18, 2013
Apple pie!
Hildy K. November 18, 2013
Sweet potato pie !
Chris G. November 18, 2013
Black bottom shoe fly pie, the gooey-er the better!
AdeleK November 18, 2013
Apple Pie, stacked high
constance November 18, 2013
classic apple pie!
Chip_Head November 18, 2013
Pecan pie (from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book) made with and fool-proof double-crust pie dough (uses vodka in recipe for a flakier pie crust). Time intensive but worth every minute.
Tara M. November 17, 2013
My granny's pecan pie -- it's a full-on nostalgia rush (or perhaps it's the sugar...)
Lori M. November 17, 2013
Favorite winter pie would have to be chocolate...any kind of chocolate pie will do, but a dollop of fresh whipped cream on top is a must.
alme November 17, 2013
Pear and Cranberry Tart