Recipe Kentucky Transparent Pie
Pastries Pies

Kentucky Transparent Pie

If you don’t know much about Kentucky, the Transparent Pie is a lovely introduction to our state.

People have a lot of weird ideas about Kentucky. For example, people seem to think that Kentucky is one, tiny rural place where everybody knows everybody and everybody grew up on a farm and everyone’s papaw was a coal miner and we probably all went to school with Jennifer Lawrence.

Of course, these stories DO exist in Kentucky. I, for example, am from a tiny rural place and grew up on a farm. But there were no coal mines where I grew up and no one from my family or extended family ever mined. On the other hand, Kentucky is also home to Louisville and Lexington, a large and medium-size city, respectively, with a good deal of people from a range of backgrounds and heritages, many of whom have never even stepped foot on a farm.

Take, for another example, Justin. Justin grew up in Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. I’m not sure he’d even visited Appalachia until we started dating and I took him home to visit my family (will fact check this when his plane lands today).

With people’s warped perception of Kentucky, it often comes as a surprise to people that Transparent Pie, local to Maysville, Kentucky, was totally unknown to me until I was in my twenties and Justin’s family introduced me to it. The more famous Kentucky pie is the controversial Derby Pie. “Derby Pie” – the name – is trademarked by Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville, Kentucky. So while every Kentucky bakery, restaurant, home baker, and cookbook crafter in the area makes a version of Derby Pie, no one can call it a Derby Pie except for Kern’s.

With all that drama to compete with, plus the romantic association Derby Pie has with the horse racing, Transparent Pie just fell between the cracks. Not to mention that Louisville, Kentucky, where the Kentucky Derby is held, is a MUCH bigger than city than Maysville. But what Maysville lacks in size, it makes up in beauty. A little riverside town with a picturesque main street, winding roads, big trees, and the bakery that makes this phenomenal pie.

Transparent Pie gets its name from the colorless, “transparent” (it’s not really transparent) custard filling. The pie has been compared to chess pie, but you’ll notice this recipe has no vinegar or cornmeal, both staple ingredients in the Southern chess pie. You may also notice, if you’re especially eagle-eyed and an avid baker with a propensity for Southern recipes, that Transparent Pie calls for heavy whipping cream instead of milk. These differences give the Kentucky pie a smoother, richer custard than the more well-known chess pie.

Recipe Kentucky Transparent Pie
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Kentucky Transparent Pie

I didn't have this classic pie from Maysville, Kentucky until my 20s. I'm excited to share this delicate custard pie, and a best-kept secret, from my home state. 
Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 8 slices

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lemon zested
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cold
  • 1 large egg

Transparent Filling

  • 9-inch glass pie dish
  • 4 ounces unsalted butter melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Begin with crust. In a medium bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add butter in thin slices and using fingers, rub butter into the dry mixture until the mixture is the texture of fine sand. Add egg to mixture and form into disc. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 375. Grease pie dish with butter.
  3. In a large bowl, beat melted butter and sugar with hand mixer on medium speed until fluffy and creamed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, on medium-low. Slowly pour heavy cream into mixture and beat on medium speed until the mixture is fully incorporated. Stir in flour and vanilla. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, making sure the mixture is fully combined.
  4. Remove chilled dough from refrigerator and on a well-floured surface, roll into a circle large enough for 9-inch pie dish. When rolling dough, generously coat bottom and top of the dough as well as the rolling pin to prevent sticking. Regularly slide the dough away from the surface to ensure the dough isn't sticking, adding more flour when necessary. When the right size is reached, fold the dough over the rolling pin and place it in the pie dish. Crimp edges.
  5. Pour liquid mixture into pie shell. Bake at 375 degrees in the middle of the oven for 40 - 45 minutes, or until top is golden brown. After 25 minutes, check pie to make sure edges of crust are not burning and if they are, cover in foil or pie guards.
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