• Lisa Donovan’s Slab Buttermilk Pie Recipe


Lisa Donovan’s Slab Buttermilk Pie Recipe

By Lisa Donovan

I developed my buttermilk chess pie when I was working with Sean Brock as his pastry chef as a nod to both of our deep Appalachian roots. It became a huge staple in my career and social life—I basically couldn’t show up to a picnic without it. I was inspired to slab this pie as a way to make it more party-friendly than a whole round pie sometimes is. It becomes a better, more snackable ratio of pie dough to filling – where you can almost just eat it like a lemon square or a cookie instead of having to sit down with a whole fork and plate. It becomes more casual, I think, in slab form. And it also just feeds more people.

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Love food? The south? A great memoir? Read Lisa Donovan’s Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger, a searing, beautiful, and searching chronicle of reclaiming her own story and the narrative of the women who came before her. You can read the actual book, or listen to the audiobook, which Donovan reads herself (perfect for flights, road trips or your daily dog walk).

Watch Lisa make a version of this pie:

Lisa Donovan’s Slab Buttermilk Pie Recipe


Pie Dough
Prepare the pie dough prior to the filling and let rest as instructed below.

  • 500 grams all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound butter, preferably a European style like Plugra
  • 1 tablespoon salt, Kosher coarse

Buttermilk Chess Pie Filling

  • 12 eggs
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounce melted butter
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • Zest and juice of two lemons
  • Scrapings of one vanilla bean


Make the Pie Crust

Prepare a 4-cup measuring cup full of ice, topped off with water. Set aside.

Cube the butter in varying rough chops of ½”- 1” pieces. Toss dry ingredients together. Toss butter cubes into dry and break apart before beginning to work together. Making shmears and buttery flakes, work butter in with your hands. Do not use a machine or a pastry cutter, using your hands will help you discern the temperature and feel of the flour. You are looking to incorporate all the butter into the flour without overworking. Every piece of butter should be shmeared with some flour before you begin to add the water. There should be no whole pieces of butter. Doing this deftly is key. If your butter starts to feel to warm, use your refrigerator as a tool – place bowl in freezer or refrigerator at any time to cool off. Preferably, though, you will be able to work the butter in quickly without too much fuss.

To incorporate the water, start by drizzling about 1/4c of ice water. Using your hands only as a paddle (do not use your fingers or do ANY kneading), toss the water into the flour until it is fully absorbed. Add more water. Paddle with hands. Do this until the dough begins to form it’s own ball and does not take any more water. You will likely use about 1/2c, depending on the humidity.

Once you feel your flour has become a dough and feels moist but not wet or sticky, give it a few strong kneads to work it all together. Your dough should be tacky and supple feeling, but not sticky or moist. Form into a flat disc and wrap in plastic.

Let chill and rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before working with the dough.

Make the Buttermilk Chess Pie Filling

Preheat oven to 400.

Prepare a half-sheet pan by rolling out dough to fit the bottom and along the sides. Freeze while you prepare the filling.

Whisk sugar, salt and flour together, using the sugar to break up the flour lumps. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk together. Add dry to eggs and milk. Slowly whisk in slightly cooled, melted butter. Add lemon and vanilla.

Pour filling in the prepared/frozen pie shell. Place on a sheet pan and place in oven, turning oven down to 350 once you close the door. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Turn oven down to 325 and bake for additional time if needed to set the center.

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