Chocolate Chess Pie - the fancy kind!
It's December 19 I haven’t made any pies in over 2 weeks. I dream of pies almost nightly… not eating them, mind you, just making them. Okay, eating them a little bit too. :)
Christmas is just one week away and the Christmas program at my son's school is tonight! There will be a lot of people to feed, so earlier in the week, I asked the school’s director if I could bring in some pies. No sooner had the words left my mouth than she said “YES!!!” and the school’s cook, who was standing near by, asked me “WHAT KIND?!” I mumbled an “I don’t know yet” while silently loving the positivity that shoots my way when I mention pie. People light up when they talk about pie. Who wouldn't love that?
“What kind of pie do you like?” (I answer every question about my favorite pie with this question, not only because I like them all, but also because I love hearing people talk about pie.)
“That’s a good one.”
“But I really love chess pie, do you make that?”
Now, I am a southern girl who joined the pie party later in life while living in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve seen recipes for chess pie but haven’t ventured to make one and never had one. This woman’s energy was so high, her eyes were dancing and I could see chess pie memories just floating in the air around her head. So, I said…
“Ooo! Yeah! I can make one of those!” (also an automatic response because I love trying new recipes!).
The next day at breakfast, I started researching Chess Pies. I read 3 or 4 recipes, taking note of the ingredients and the cooking time before I read this line:
The filling bakes up into two distinct layers - a very thin, crispy top crust and a fat, oozing, pudding-like layer of chocolate underneath.
Hello? I’m in! This is a recipe for a Fancy Chocolate Chess pie. Fancy indeed! Whatever. I need to make that! But alas, I really need to get my son to school first.
At school that morning, I tell my son’s teacher that I’m making pies for the Holiday party. “What kind?” She asks.
“Chocolate Chess Pie!”
“What’s that?” she asked.
“I really don’t know, but I found a recipe that claims there’s a oozing, pudding like chocolate layer!”
“I like the way you think!”
Back at home, I researched more Chess pie recipes. Though I was “technically” still shopping for a recipe, I knew I was already sold on the Fancy Chocolate Chess. I learned a few interesting tidbits along the way though. According to Southern Living, here are some of the stories behind the naming of the pie:
Gentlemen were served this pie as they retreated to play chess.
The name is derived from the Southern dialect: It’s jes’ pie!
There is so much sugar in this pie that it kept well in pie chests at room temperature and became known as a “chest” pie
Every Chess Pie recipe I read included corn meal. I don’t know if that means, ultimately, that all pie fillings with corn meal are Chess pie. I do know that all the Chess pie recipes I read have corn meal. I will leave that debate to the academics. It’s time to start baking!
Because there are about 100 families at this Christmas Program, I decided to make 4 pies – Chocolate Chess (the fancy one!), Lemon Chess, Banana Cream & Egg Nog Cream. I had the dough, so I decided to put all the pies in pastry and got to work rolling out and pre-baking 4 crusts in a menagerie of pie dishes – ceramic, uncoated ceramic, and glass.
The Fancy Chocolate Chess Pie. Was... SUPER easy to make and made the house smell like brownies. The recipe suggested a total baking time of 55 to 65 minutes. I had this pie in for 55 minutes, then another 15 minutes (in 5 minute increments) to make sure it looked how the recipe suggested. Because it smelled like a brownie, I also stuck a toothpick in the middle to make sure that it came back “dry.” (Is it just me or are coated ceramic pie dishes the worst to bake in?). Next time, I’ll make this one in aluminum, glass & uncoated ceramic.
The recipe I followed – comes from Pie by Ken Haedrich, my pie baking bible. He says “ Slightly warm, the pie is runny and sensuous. Cold, it has the delectiable texture of gooey caramel. Either way, it’s delicious.” Fortunately for me, I made this pie before bed so I didn’t dig in when it was runny and sensuous. I wrapped the pie in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight. About 2 hours before the event, I took it out of the refrigerator and let it cool to room temperature. I sliced and plated the pies so at the event I could give my son my full attention.
At the close of the program, I snagged a chocolate slice before the crowd got there. Seriously, this pie tasted like a brownie in a pie crust. I love love love this pie & cannot wait to iterate on the recipe to make it mine! When I do, I’ll share that recipe. If you can’t wait, let me know – I’ll send this one to you. Until then… PHOTOS!!