Lemon Chess Tart–Old Fashioned Fancy

by R.B. Quinn and Min Merrell
lemon chess tart

Lemon Chess tart slices.  Fancy and homey at the same time.

We love making pie and R.B. especially loves making the crust. In fact, when he did a career analysis in college “pastry chef” nearly topped the list.

During the busy holiday pie season, we had to endure pages of food mag instructional articles for decorating pie crusts with the fancy braided edge, the cutesy holly leaf and apple cut outs, and the little dough circles decorating the rim. Truth is, making even the “simple” homey crimp takes practice. 

The glossy tricks are too much and only kept us away from the kitchen. With all the fantastic fall and seasonal ingredients we should have put them to better use. And we did, although a little late, with the rediscovery of the tart pan. Better late than never. If you don’t have one, get a tart pan.Ten-inch with a removable bottom. No crimping or fancy edges necessary.

Here’s why: You will look like a pastry chef. And guess what, the tart pan is easier to operate than the regular pie pan.  It is flat, shallow, no crimping or decorating necessary. The removable bottom makes cutting and serving perfect slices a cinch because there are no sides to the pan.  The tart looks drop-dead-go-to-hell sophisticated on a nice platter.  Besides, “tart” just sounds fancy and people will think that you really put out for them.

Your favorite pastry recipe will work fine in a tart application, as will as refrigerated pie crust. Be sure to roll it out to a 12-inch circle for a 10-inch tart. Your favorite pie fillings will work, too.  You just may have to bake the thinner tart a little less. And here’s our other little secret that Mindy learned years ago from making all those biscuits in the Martha White test kitchen. Get a pastry. It’s just a big square of canvas and it’s Sprinkle the cloth with flour, the dough won’t stick, and the kitchen counter stays clean.

Yep, just a big piece of canvas.

Fold it up when you’re finished and put it in a sealable plastic bag and store it in the freezer.

A pastry cloth is useful for biscuits, cut-out cookies, bread dough, pastry…anytime to have to spread flour on the counter and make a mess. For your winter entertaining, this Cheater Chef Lemon Chess Tart is a winner.  The filling is not much different than a lemon chess pie with a little more lemon in it, but still with the characteristic chess touch of corn meal.  You get the best of both worlds.  All you do is stir it up and pour it into the shell.

My other favorite desserts include pumpkin chess tartcornbread skillet cakeJutta’s Plum Kuchen, Schrafft’s Butterscotch Cookies

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