Chess Pie

I normally don’t talk about world events on this blog, not because I don’t care, but because this isn’t the forum for it. But I wanted to say a few words about recent events, because they can’t be ignored, and because my dear friend for whom this recipe was made is a tireless advocate for racial justice and equality, and I think she would want it this way.

My heart goes out to the families, friends, loved ones, and communities of those who were killed. These tragedies are heartbreaking. I want a world where everyone is treated fairly and equally, where everyone is safe, and everyone can live in peace. I am committed to working towards that world.


Hey everyone! How are you? I’m fine, thanks for asking. I know you missed all the recipes, so I wanted to let you know I’m back. With more recipes! More yummy things that I’ve baked! More delicious descriptions and pictures! More exclamation points! So sit back and enjoy.

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So what in the world is a chess pie? And where are the checkers pies, dominoes pies, and backgammon pies, too? Chess pie is a classic southern (US) pie. I had never had it before, but I had come across it a bunch when looking up pies. It’s got an interesting name and stories about its name. Is it named after playing chess? A pie chest? From the Rick Springfield song? I don’t know what’s actually true, but the pie piqued my interest.

One dough recipe. Which makes...

One dough recipe. Which makes…

I was looking for something to make for my friend’s birthday/graduation. I asked her what she wanted, and she said she would be happy with anything. Since she’s southern, I thought it would be fun to make a southern dessert in her honor. Intrigued by this funny-named but tasty-looking pie, I decided to make it. I didn’t know if it would be something she would like or not or if it was even part of her southern experience, but I thought I would give it a shot.

...enough for two crusts.

…enough for two crusts.

As I do with most pies now, I started with my go-to pie dough from smitten kitchen. The recipe makes two pie crusts, so I was able to save one for later. (Future yums!) After I made the crust, I didn’t have time to let it sit in the fridge for an hour. So I put it in the freezer, and I let it sit for about 30 minutes, which turned out to be okay. I put it in the fridge for a little bit before taking it out, so it could get to a better temperature.

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Notice the handy circles on the pastry mat. Makes measuring a breeze.

I rolled it out using my handy pastry mat. What makes it particularly handy is that it has the pie crust sizes right on it. No more rolling, guessing, measuring, re-rolling, etc. My first attempt at rolling it out was okay, but it got a little too stretched out while I was putting it in the pie pan. I had to re-roll it, but the second time was the charm. I followed the instructions to pre-bake the crust.

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While it was cooling I mixed up the filling. There’s a lot of sugar in this. It’s a custard pie, so eggs and sugar are to be expected. But the odd ingredients in this one are cornmeal and vinegar. It smelled a lot like vinegar as I was mixing it up, but once I put the eggs in, the vinegar smell kinda went away. It was simple to put together. I mixed it up a fair amount to make sure everything was mixed in.

Pre-baking the crust

Pre-baking the crust

I then filled the pie crust. There was a lot of filling. It ended up being filled pretty close to the top. I carefully put it in the oven and baked it for 10 minutes.

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Then I took it out to put the aluminum foil on the crust. This was difficult. I should have pre-planned it. Trying to get the foil into the right shape and to cover just the crust and not fall off, all on a hot dish, was challenging. I’m afraid this took too long as it seemed the consistency of the filling changed. I will have to practice more if I do something that requires it again. Actually, I guess I should prepare it ahead of time so it’s all ready to go. (I’m interested to hear any tips or tricks you have for this part.)

Filling.

Filling.

I put it back in for 40 minutes. It got really poofy, then it cracked. The “jiggle test” also seemed to indicate it was done. It eventually deflated. It looked and smelled awesome. I didn’t end up doing the optional powdered sugar, although that might have covered up the cracks. I was excited to see how it tasted and what the birthday girl/graduate thought of it.

All ready to bake!

All ready to bake!

At the party the next day, it went over well! When I mentioned to the birthday girl/graduate that I had made chess pie, she immediately asked which kind. So I knew I was on the right track. She really enjoyed it. Everyone really enjoyed it, even if no one else knew what chess pie was. They did learn, however, that it was delicious. It was full of eggy, sugary goodness, surrounded by crust. And you can’t really go wrong with that.

That filling is living on the edge.

That filling is living on the edge.

I’m not the world’s biggest connoisseur of custard pies, so I didn’t have a lot to compare it to. Of anything, it reminded me a little bit of Swedish pancake. Swedish pancake is an old recipe which is a specialty of my mom’s, which isn’t really a pancake the way most of us think of a pancake, and I don’t think is actually Swedish. (As far as my research has gone, it seems similar to a Dutch baby.) I think the similarity is due to the deliciousness of baked eggs in both.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

Beautiful, if slightly cracked.

In any case, it was a wonderful party. My friend had drawn together an amazing assemblage of fantastic people. She is an amazing and fantastic person herself, so I’m not surprised. I had interesting, heartfelt talks with people from all over the world. And it was a great chance to celebrate her.

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I was also not the only one to bring dessert, as she and others had baked and brought a wide array of delicious dishes. So while the chess pie went over well, it was definitely in good company.

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If you’ve never made chess pie before, I would easily recommend it. It’s simple, it’s delicious, and it’s a great conversation starter. If you have a favorite pie crust, you’re already half-way done. And if you have made it before, I’ve heard that there are lots of different variations on what you put into chess pie. So I’d love to hear, what’s the secret ingredient in your chess pie? How do you deal with covering up the crust while baking? Do you have any other favorite southern desserts? Let me know in the comments below!

Crust recipe courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Pie recipe courtesy of Southern Living.

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