Chess Pies…BIG & small

I tear recipes out of my magazines and file them away to try someday.  Sometimes a recipe sticks in your head, even if you filed it years ago and haven't looked at it since.  I haven't made a pie in ages and I thought with Thanksgiving approaching, it would be a great time to test out a new pie recipe.  My mind went to a photo that was etched in my brain…a gooey tart with a crackly crust…I dug through my file and found it!  Mmm…I know why I was attracted to this recipe in the first place, brown sugar + butter!  With this duo, you just can't go wrong!

Chess Tart from Martha Stewart Living

The chess pie originated in the south and is a sweet custard pie that tastes, to me, like caramelized butter & sugar.  As it bakes, it forms a thin crust on top that is simply irresistible.  There are plenty of recipes out there in cookbooks and online.  I eventually settled on four that looked interesting and I chose what I liked about each one.  The original magazine clipping I had saved was from Martha Stewart Living.  This recipe called for brown sugar which the others had not.  I love the extra molasses flavor you get from brown sugar, so that was a must.  A recipe from Deep South Dish uses buttermilk, which I thought would help to balance the sweetness.  All of the recipes call for cornmeal.  I chose to follow a Serious Eats recipe and go with their 2 tablespoons of cornmeal.  Most chess pie recipes call for vinegar like the one I found on  I decided to try 1 tablespoon like that recipe stated.

I had beginners luck with this first chess pie and it turned out beautifully!  I decided to get a little creative and try two more versions that were swirling around in my head.  One was a maple chess pie and the other was a maple pumpkin chess pie.  After hours of baking and tweaking on Sunday, I decided, with disappointment, that the two variations just didn't stand up to the first.  The maple version turned out too pale and hardly had any maple flavor. The pumpkin version tasted good, but was missing the yummy crust on top that a chess pie should have.  So this morning I jumped back in and tested some mini-chess pies using my first recipe for the filling and they turned out so cute!  So big or small, I hope you'll love these chess pies as much as we have!  

Chess Pies: Blind Bake the Crust 

I chose to use refrigerated crust to save some time.  Feel free to use your favorite homemade recipe if you prefer. Blind baking in this recipe helps to keep the crust from ending up soggy in the end.

Big Pie:  Line your pie plate (9-inch) with dough.  Fold and crimp the edges.  Freeze for 30 minutes.  Line with parchment or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  I used lentils.  The parchment and the weights or beans help to prevent the crust from sliding down into the bottom of the pie plate.  Bake at 450 on a low rack in your oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Remove to cooling rack and cool completely.  

Mini-Pies: Grease your mini-muffin tin.  Cut rounds of dough with 2 1/2 inch round biscuit cutter.  Press into cups of pan.  Prick the bottom with a fork (dock the crust.)  Freeze for 30 minutes.  Bake at 450 on a low rack in your oven for about 7-9 minutes.

Chess Pies: The Filling

This is a really simple pie filling.  Just whisk your eggs.  Whisk in your sugar.  Mix in your wet ingredients and then your dry.  Pour into your prepared mini-pie shells or large pie shell.  I had a little filling left when I made the minis.  I poured it into a small buttered baking dish and made a little crustless tart - mmm!  

A little dollop of whipped cream?  Don't mind if I do!

Chess Pies…Big and Small RECIPE:

Christina Verrelli


1 package refrigerated pie crust (1 crust for single pie/2 crusts for minis)
3 eggs +1 yolk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick butter (1/2 cup) melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons corn meal, finely ground
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt


Blind Bake Pie Crusts:
For single 9-inch pie:

Fit crust into pie plate, fold under excess crust and crimp.
Freeze for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange oven rack to lower position.
Line pie crust with parchment or foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from oven, lift out pie weights/beans by holding corners of parchment or foil.
Allow to cool completely.

For Mini-Pies: makes approx. 36

Grease mini-muffin tins.
Cut 2 1/2 inch rounds from pie crust with round biscuit cutter.  Fit into muffin cups.
Reroll dough scraps and cut more.
Use a fork to prick the bottom of each crust about 3 times.
Freeze for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Arrange oven rack to lower position.
Bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown on edges.
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in pan.

Set oven to 325 degrees.  Arrange oven rack to middle position.

Mix filling:
Whisk eggs and yolk.  Whisk in sugars.  Mix in buttermilk, butter, vanilla and vinegar.  Whisk in corn meal, flour and salt.
Pour into prepared pie crusts.

Bake 9-inch pie for 40-45 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden brown around the edges.
Bake Mini-Pies for 12-15 minutes or until the top is bubbly and golden brown around the edges.

Allow to cool completely.
Serve with whipped cream if desired. 

Note: You may have a little filling left over from the mini-pies.  You can bake in a buttered ramekin for an extra treat! 

Thank you for spending some time in the cloud with me!  I hope you enjoy the recipes and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Tina ( :