Bright and tangy lemon flavor meets luscious Southern chess pie goodness in Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie. Stir it together in a jiffy, and then celebrate Chef Lewis’s culinary genius with pie-loving family and friends! Custard meets chess meets lemonade, with luscious results sure to win you all the praise!
What is Tyler Pie?
Tyler pie hails from the traditional Southern baking canon, in the category that cross from egg custard over to chess pie. Both lean on eggs, sugar, and butter for their rich and irresistible essence, and while some chess pies get along fine without milk or cream, this one includes a good splash of dairy for custardy goodness. Tyler pie has a splash of lemon extract, a treasured luxury for home bakers back in the day.
Who was President Tyler?
The tenth president of the USA, VP John Tyler became president in the 1840’s after the death-in-office of President William Henry Harrison. A native of the central Virginia region where this version of chess pie has its roots, Tyler is one of numerous famous folks honored posthumously by having a dish associated with their name.
Why does he have a namesake pie?
The culinary connection? Non-existent, but people like to do it — it’s an antique version of naming a post office or a bridge after a person of note.
Edna Lewis grew up in central Virginia region where this fine pie remains a favorite, and included it in her cookbooks as a salute to the ladies of her community, and because it is elegant, do-able, and delicious.
What goes into a Tyler Pie?
Here’s all you need: Eggs, butter, sugar, milk, flour, salt, lemon extract, and vanilla, with a pie shell to bring it all together in golden goodnes.
The surface turns caramel-brown, and develops a delicate thin and crackly crust, while the filling itself becomes velvety-smooth and imbued with a sour-lemony kick and a plush sweet smooth finish. So much going on for such an everyday amalgam of ingredients.
Who was Edna Lewis?
Edna Lewis was a chef, restaurateur, culinary historian, and author of four cookbooks. Her writing, teaching, work as a chef, and presence in the Southern culinary world throughout her lifetime opened our eyes to the treasure that is the Southern culinary repertoire.
Mrs. Lewis championed the principles of using local ingredients, fresh and in season, while respecting the work and creations of the ancestors, long before these practices were a given. Her life’s work passionately and eloquently showed us the unique beauty and meaning of the cuisine of the American South.
Why does this regional recipe endure?
Because Edna Lewis lauded it. Tyler pie is an old-school pie, still known and loved in its original home of central Virginia where its namesake, President Tyler, was born and raised. Whether he actually loved it, or ate it, there or elsewhere, is something we cannot know.
But we know this simple yet splendid Southern dessert because Edna Lewis tells us about it in her magnificent first 1977 cookbook, “The Taste of Country Cooking”, still in print and cherished today.
My introduction to the classic dessert took place in the city of Richmond, Virginia, a few years ago.
What was my first encounter with Tyler Pie?
During a Southern Foodways Alliance conference, Real Richmond Food Tours led attendees on a walking tour. my favorite kind which covers bakeries, neighborhood cafes, historic churchyards, and more. That is how I ended up strolling around this fascinating city and having my first up close and personal encounter with Tyler Pie.
My first Tyler Pie awaited me among a wide and inviting array of freshly baked goodies at one of two locations for WPA Bakery
I loved “WPA Bakery”, WPA standing for Well-Made Pastry Alliance, scenes above and below right here, and wish I could be a frequent visitor.
This beauty was truly ready for its close up, and identified with a hand-written ceramic name-plate. It was simply and yet extraordinarily delicious, inspiring me to head back home, find out about this oddly-named pie, and make it myself.
My First Tyler Pie
Following the recipe in her first cookbook, “The Taste of Country Cooking”, I made Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie and was thrilled with how wonderfully it came out. It’s been in my go-to pie repertoire ever since, and I’ve been pleased to share the recipe as well as pieces of the pie.
If you like the idea of Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie, you might enjoy checking out my Coconut Custard Pie and my Easy Chocolate Chess Pie, two other old-school desserts which you can stir up quickly and share with pleasure, any time of the year.
What is “The Taste of Country Cooking”?
Falling in love with this splendid cookbook is as easy as pie. In Mrs. Lewis’s landmark book, The Taste of Country Cooking, you will find her thoughtful recipes and luminous reminiscences of her childhood in Freetown, Virginia, in the early part of the 20th century. The link takes you to Indiebound, where you can find out a little about the book and get connected to great independent bookstores near you, which can order it for you if they don’t have it in stock.
Who is this book for?
Edna Lewis’s first book is a treasure, for anyone interested in American culinary history, Southern food, and how food and cooking were woven into daily life in the past. Mrs. Lewis shows us life in her home town, a rural-Virginia community, back when farm-to-table, organic gardening and farming, and eating locally grown and produced food in season were how people lived their lives. Edna Lewis’s Tyler pie is but one recipe among many, arranged in menus which take us with her through a year with her family in Freetown, Viriginia.
Video Time: How to Make Lemon Extract at Home
Baking with lemon extract gives you a vivid tangy citrus boost, beyond what we can get from fresh lemon juice and even lemon zest. You can buy it in grocery stores, next to the vanilla, but making your own is simple, too!
- One 9-inch standard piecrust*
- 2 eggs
- 1 cups of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (4 oz. / 1 stick) of melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 cup milk
Beat the eggs well in a large bowl.
Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a medium bowl and stir to mix well.
Add the sugar mixture to the beaten eggs and mix well.
Add the butter, vanilla, and lemon extract, and stir to mix everything together well.
Add the milk.
After one final stirring, pour the filling into your pie crust pans, dividing it evenly between the two.
Bake in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes, until filling is set and handsomely browned. Makes 2 pies
Miss Lewis's recipe makes two pies. I've halved the amounts here, but if you know that one will not suffice, double the ingredients and enjoy having plenty to share.
This pie works best in a standard piecrust, not a deep dish piecrust. If you have a deep-dish pie pan, you could double the recipe and fill up the pan for a thicker luscious pie.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 servings Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 236Total Fat 8gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 51mgSodium 196mgCarbohydrates 38gFiber 1gSugar 26gProtein 4g