All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend
Once upon a time I lived in Texas. Well, I grew up there, kind of all over the place: Houston, Dallas, and went to college right outside Austin. But as the first person in my entire family to be born in the state, we didn’t come with a rich heritage of traditional Texas dishes that were handed down through the generations. But that’s what friends are for. Years later, after I immigrated to California and took up residence, my closest friend from college moved out here as well. We started spending every Thanksgiving together, and every year he’d make his Meemaw’s buttermilk pie. I was intrigued. Buttermilk Pie? What? It sounded weird, but apparently it has a cult-like following in the longhorn state. Once I tasted it, I understood. It’s essentially a simple buttermilk and brown sugar custard pie, often flavored with a bit of vanilla and sometimes citrus zest. Being a baker, I decided to take it upon myself to come up with the ultimate version.
I found that many versions were just too sweet, bordering on cloying (or just downright cloying). Or they used store-bought pastry crusts. Or they lacked depth of flavor. I wanted one that struck a balance between sweet and tangy, where the buttermilk still shone, and was highlighted with enough vanilla and citrus to give it some depth.
I like serving it with tangy fruit. Just use whatever you have, ideally whatever is ripe and in season. You can serve it with raw fruit, like succulent raspberries or slices of juicy peaches, or apples sautéed in a little sugar and lemon juice, or pears poached in white wine, citrus peel, and vanilla. Here I’ve served it with cranberry compote to give it a festive holiday glow. This is a nice alternative or even a lovely partner to a pumpkin custard pie on the Thanksgiving table.
Recipe: Buttermilk Pie
Makes one 9-inch pie