Monday, June 30, 2008

Sweet Tea Pie

The minute I heard a new cookbook was out with a recipe for Sweet Tea Pie, I *had* to have it. As soon as my copy of "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea" by Martha Hall Foose arrived, I went right out and bought the ingredients to make the pie. But here's the thing about me and pies: we don't get along well. Sweet Tea Pie, however, I would conquer. The recipe for this crust contained just three ingredients. How could I botch that?

Alas, the recipe contained a pretty significant error and listed twice the amount of crust ingredients needed for a single pie. Now if I were a more experienced (and less insecure) pie baker, I would have realized this when the piecrust alone filled up nearly 3/4 of the glass pie pan, and the thing weighed 27 pounds when I put the crust in the fridge to cool as I prepared the filling. I cooked it, and cooked it some more. Then when the filling finally set, I refrigerated it, and refrigerated it some more. It was a soupy, disappointing mess. Another potential blog post down the drain!

Suspecting the crust was the problem, I googled an old newspaper article about the author, which included the recipe, and discovered that the crust recipe in the book was accidentally doubled. Well, these things happen. When I was a newspaper lifestyle editor, I once typed in a recipe for the weekly food page and listed one of the ingredients as 1/4 CUP of nutmeg instead of 1/4 TEASPOON of nutmeg. Oops. So, over the weekend I tried Sweet Tea Pie again, halving the crust ingredients. Perfection! And this custard-like pie really does taste like sweet tea! Hallelujah!

And you know what? Despite the error in the recipe, I really, really like this cookbook and the author. (Besides, an editor or proofreader should have caught that error.) A lot of southern cookbook authors, in my opinion, are trying too hard to impress their culinary peers and want to elevate something like, say, grits by adulterating it with overly-fancy ingredients. Martha Hall Foose clearly respects southerners and southern food, and I like that. She is also opposed to store-bought pimiento cheese, as am I, and we could be friends on that basis alone. (I made her pimiento cheese recipe and it turned out beautifully.) I'm also eager to try her gumbo and teacake and salmon croquette recipes. She introduces her recipes with stories and a lot of sass, and I like that. So here's the recipe for Sweet Tea Pie as I made it. Enjoy!



3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1-1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup strong steeped orange pekoe tea, cooled (I used Red Rose)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust: Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until combined. Add flour, mix until dough forms a ball. Pat dough into 9-inch pie pan. Chill in refrigerator (the crust, that is) while you prepare the filling.

To prepare filling: Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium til light. Add yolks one at a time, beating on low after each addition. Slowly add the tea, zest and lemon juice. Scrape down bowl. Add flour, cornmeal, salt and mix well. Pour into crust and bake for 45 minutes or until set. (I had to add 10 minutes until mine was set.) Cool completely on a wire rack, and then chill for 2 hours in refrigerator. Yields one 9-inch pie. I'd love to hear how yours turns out!


  1. I'm not sure if I will try this recipe as I am more insecure about pie making than you; however, I really needed the chuckle when I read (the crust, that is) comment.
    Also, I have obviously been living under a rock as I had no idea that there is such a love for pimento cheese. I googled it after reading your blog and it has certainly opened up a world of recipes. I live in PA and I do buy my pimento cheese freshly made at a farm market but I had no idea there were so many variations! Do you prefer with or without cream cheese? Also would you be willing to share Martha Foose's recipe? My email is
    Thanks again for starting my day on a bright note!

  2. Your finished pie slice looks great. I may have to try this recipe, I've never made a tea pie before. :-)

  3. Thanks! I wasn't sure if I was just partial to this pie because of the "secret" ingredient or what, so after DH and I each got a piece last night, I brought the rest of the pie to the office today and it went FAST, and to good reviews! I was so happy!

  4. I love the idea of sweet tea pie! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

  5. Your pie looks delicious. Custard pie is one of my favorites and what could be better than tea flavored custard? I've had my eye on that cookbook since it was first featured in one of my bookclub mailings. Where on earth would you find a gigantic tomato like the one on the cover.

  6. I just finished making this pie for something I have to go to in 45 minutes and I found out b/c of your blog that I'm waiting in vain for the darn thing to set b/c of the recipe's mistake. I'm glad to know it wasn't me, and that maybe next time I can save it. Thx =)

  7. This pie sounds fabulous and I can't wait to try it!!!

  8. I AM SO glad I Googled Sweet Tea Pie reviews BEFORE making this. I actually have the butter and cream cheese softening as I type! THANKS SO much for the heads up on the pie crust. I am NOT a pie baker so I would never have known!

  9. Wow, I'm glad I found this post because I just got this book and am planning to make this pie soon. Thanks for helping me avoid disaster :)


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