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!
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 allrecipes.com. 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!