Food & Drink | May 2015

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Pie Society

Pictured: Enjoy MaMa’s Lemon Meringue Pie and Browned Butter-Honey Pecan Pie, complete with a buttery or cream cheese crust. / Photo by Cydney Waitley

Tundays were the best days of the week for me (Abby) when I was a kid. We would do the ordinary things families did on Sundays: go to church, have lunch, change our sheets. Then around 2 o’clock we would get in the car and take the 10-minute journey from our house to the home of our beloved grandmother, Bessie Zemanek.

When we pulled up in the driveway, my sisters and I would race into the house and ask MaMa if we could gather eggs. We would run behind the wash house and grab the bucket and head into the chicken yard. I was always a little afraid of those chickens pecking me, so I would only take the eggs if there wasn’t a chicken in the nest. My sisters or my aunt would shoo away the laying chickens and grab the eggs, if there were any. We would carry our prizes to the house and give them to MaMa, and she would send us home with at least a dozen eggs every Sunday. Then we would be off and playing until it was dinnertime.

When it was, oh my, you have never seen so much food in your life! It was as if her oven was magic because she kept pulling out more and more food. There was always fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and bread for my sisters and me. Then she would pull out another meal, which varied from week to week, for the adults. There was always some kind of pie for dessert, unless it was dewberry season, and then we had dewberry cobbler. On the counter, sitting in the same place each week, stood a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Those Sunday dinners are where I developed my love of food and cooking. My grandmother took so much pleasure in feeding all of us each week, and I was the difficult one because I was so picky. I would only eat the kids’ food and anything sweet.

I have some of her recipes — many times she cooked without a recipe — and attempt to make things just the way she did. I still am trying to perfect her kolache recipe, but mine never turn out as light and as fluffy as hers did.

However, there are some things I can do just as well as MaMa, and one of those is pie. I love pie — any flavor, any kind of pie, it doesn’t matter. It is one of my favorite desserts to make and eat. Kevin’s favorite pie is buttermilk, and it was one of my favorites, too, until we had a slice of pie called the Doctor’s Office at the Koffee Kup Family Restaurant in Hico, Texas. It was a buttermilk-type pie with coconut and pecans, and that has now moved into our favorite pie slot. I love anything with coconut, especially toasted coconut. MaMa always topped her kolaches with posipka, which is coconut, butter, flour, vanilla, pecans and a little sugar. It’s kind of like a streusel topping. When kolaches topped with posipka are baking, the house smells heavenly. I can just eat posipka by itself, and I usually do when I make kolaches.

These are some of our favorite pie recipes we have made over the years. Some are MaMa’s, and some come from other relatives. We have shared the lemon meringue pie recipe before when Kevin and I first were married and he worked for another publication. I was in Bryan visiting MaMa and her cousin Agnes Black when I showed her the story Kevin wrote about her and her pie.

Agnes said, “Look, Bessie. You made it into the Waco society papers.”

Here she is again in another Waco publication. I hope you enjoy these recipes as much I have and will share them with your loved ones because that is what good food is all about. Doubrou chut’, which is Czech for bon appétit.

The Recipes

Pie Crust for Blind-Baking

(Use this crust for MaMa’s Lemon Meringue Pie and Agnes’s Velvety Chocolate Pie.)

  • 1 stick butter, chilled
  • 6 ounces (approximately 1 cup) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup ice water
  • Approximately 32 ounces dried beans, for baking

Place butter in a freezer for 15 minutes. When ready to use, remove and cut into small pieces.

Using a food processor, combine flour and salt by pulsing 3 or 4 times. Add butter; pulse 5 or 6 times until texture looks mealy. Remove lid of food processor and add water. Replace lid and pulse again until mixture holds together when squeezed. Wrap mixture in plastic wrap and press into a rounded disk. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 425 F. Remove dough from refrigerator and unwrap. Sprinkle both sides of dough and work surface with flour. With a rolling pin, roll out dough to a 10- to 11-inch circle. Fit dough into a pie pan and trim the edges. Using a fork, poke several holes in the bottom and along the sides of the dough. Place parchment paper on top of the dough and pour beans into the pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment; bake crust for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling. Makes 1 pie crust.


Cream Cheese Pie Crust

(Use this crust for Browned Butter-Honey Pecan Pie and Buttermilk-Coconut Pie.)

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 cup flour

Using a mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add flour and continue to beat until a soft dough forms.

Remove dough from bowl, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to use, roll out dough into a 10- or 11-inch circle. Place dough into a pie pan and trim or crimp the edges. Fill with pie filling and bake according to pie directions. Makes 1 pie crust.



MaMa used any dough leftover from trimming pie crust to make a sweet treat called schroopies. She would take the leftover dough, fry it and sprinkle it with cinnamon and sugar. The schroopies work just as well if you sprinkle the unbaked dough with cinnamon and sugar and press the mixture lightly into the dough. You can even give the schroopies a little twist for presentation. Bake these while baking a pie until the schroopies are golden brown.


Browned Butter-Honey Pecan Pie

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbaked
  • Whipped cream

In a small saucepan, cook butter over medium-low heat for 6-8 minutes or until browned. (Do not stir.) Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine corn syrup and next 5 ingredients; stir well with a wire whisk. Stir in browned butter and pecans. Pour mixture into the unbaked pie crust.

Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 F and bake for 40-45 additional minutes or until center of pie is almost set. (Cover pie with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning after 25 minutes, if necessary.) Cool completely on a wire rack. (Pie will become firm as it cools.) Serve with whipped cream. Makes 6-8 servings.


Buttermilk-Coconut Pie

  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust, unbaked
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Dash ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup coconut

Topping (optional)

  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 F. Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add flour and eggs; beat well. Stir in buttermilk, vanilla, nutmeg and coconut. Pour filling into the unbaked pie crust.

In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping and sprinkle over the top of the pie. Bake on the lowest oven rack for 45-50 minutes. Place on a wire rack and cool completely before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.


MaMa’s Lemon Meringue Pie

  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust, baked
  • 3 pasteurized egg yolks (see note)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)
  • Zest from 3-4 lemons
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water

For the meringue:

  • 3 pasteurized egg whites
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Have the baked pie crust in a pie pan ready for use.

In a bowl, whip egg yolks until light yellow and thick. Add sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese; mix together until thick and smooth. Mix in lemon juice and zest.

Pour cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the water and let it bloom, or sit, for about 5-10 minutes, until all the water is absorbed and it turns into a solid. Heat liquid in a microwave for 10 seconds until it turns to liquid again. Pour this liquid into the egg-lemon mixture and combine thoroughly. Pour the filling into the baked pie crust and place the pie into the refrigerator to set.

To make the meringue, whip the egg whites with a mixer until soft peaks begin to form. Add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread the meringue on top of the set pie. You can then brown the meringue under the broiler (watch it closely so it doesn’t burn), or you can brown it using a blowtorch. Makes 6-8 servings.

Note: We like to use pasteurized eggs since this pie is not cooked. Pasteurized eggs reduce the chance of bacteria in an uncooked egg.


Agnes’s Velvety Chocolate Pie

  • 1 (9-inch) pie crust, baked
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

For the topping:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 chocolate bar, shaved for garnish

In a medium pan, mix cocoa, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Blend in milk until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, until smooth. (Make sure you stir constantly as the mixture can easily burn.) Bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Mix in butter and vanilla; pour mixture into the baked pie crust. Cover with plastic to prevent a skin from forming. Chill pie in refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

Right before serving, whip the cream with a mixer until it begins to thicken; add the sugar and vanilla. Continue to whip until it is thick and stiff. Spread topping on the chocolate pie and shave chocolate over the top to garnish. Makes 6-8 servings.

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