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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: Just one bite of Classic Chess Pie, and you’re hooked! With richly eggy custard nestled in a flaky crust, Chess Pie is a seemingly simple dessert that will surprise you with its layers of deliciousness: robust vanilla sweetness, irresistible browned-butter nuttiness, and a touch of tanginess. Plus, this old-fashioned pie made with inexpensive ingredients has stood the test of time for a reason—it has a unique irresistible flavor you’ll adore!
Table of Contents
- What is Classic Chess Pie?
- Tools You Need to Make Classic Chess Pie
- Key Ingredients and Why
- How to Make Classic Chess Pie
- Can I Make Classic Chess Pie in Advance?
- How to Store Classic Chess Pie
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Southern-Inspired Pie Recipes
What is Classic Chess Pie?
- Classic Chess Pie is a custard-like pie made with eggs, milk, sugar, and butter. Also, the addition of cornmeal and vinegar in chess pie gives it an intriguing, pleasant tanginess and a unique texture that differentiates it from a typical custard pie.
- Chess pie originated in the Southern United States, and its low-cost, pantry-staple ingredients reflect its humble roots.
- There are many stories behind the name. Perhaps it comes from “pie chest” food storage units first used in the 1800s. However, some say Chess Pie evolved from long-ago southern folks drawling that this perfectly simple dessert is “jes’ pie”!
Tools You Need to Make Classic Chess Pie
- 9-inch pie dish
- Parchment paper and pie weights (optional)
- Rolling pin
- Mixing bowl
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Pastry brush
Key Ingredients and Why
- Butter gives Classic Chess Pie delectable richness, and browning the butter provides a deep nutty flavor.
- Milk fat gives the pie a velvety, indulgent mouthfeel.
- The fat and natural dairy sugars give the filling a fresh taste with caramel notes.
- Tart vinegar keeps chess pie from being cloying by offsetting the pie’s sweetness and richness.
- Vinegar’s acidity works with the protein in eggs, milk, and butter to stabilize the filling.
Fine Ground Cornmeal
- Cornmeal gives chess pie a fuller-bodied, thicker texture than most custard pies.
- In addition, cornmeal’s texture adds a subtle, pleasantly gritty contrast to the filling’s smoothness. Make sure you use finely ground cornmeal for this pie.
- Sugar sweetens chess pie. In addition, as the pie cooks, the sugar on the top can caramelize, making a thin, toffee-like flavor.
- Sugar also aids in thickening the pie filling. Importantly, that lets this pie hit the perfect spot between creamy and awesomely gooey!
- Eggs give the chess pie filling its structure and lovely texture.
- In addition, beaten eggs incorporate air into the mixture, making it lighter.
- Use room-temperature eggs for smoother mixing, which will give a better incorporation of ingredients, and will protect against curdling.
How to Make Classic Chess Pie
Pre-heat the oven and prepare the crust
- Pre-heat the oven to 350°F(180°C).
- Roll out the pie crust, place it in the dish, and then refrigerate it.
Make the Filling
- Melt butter in a saucepan until it browns and has a nutty scent, and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Next, add the milk, vinegar, and vanilla to the bowl. Then stir in the sugar, cornmeal, flour, and salt. Finally, mix in the eggs.
Bake the Pie
- Brush the pie crust edges with egg wash, and then pour the filling into the crust.
- Finally, bake the pie for 45 minutes. You’ll know the pie is ready when it’s set on the edges but still slightly jiggly in the middle.
Can I Make Classic Chess Pie in Advance?
Yes, you can make Classic Chess Pie in advance if you’d like to serve it cold (and it’s wonderful that way!).
How to Store Classic Chess Pie
You can keep Classic Chess Pie in the refrigerator for up to two days.
How can I keep my pie from having a soggy crust?
- If you prefer a firmer crust, check out my article of How to Blind Bake a Pie Crust. First, line the crust with parchment, fill it with pie weights, and bake for 20 minutes.
- Then, remove the parchment and weights and bake for another 10 minutes. Let the crust cool completely. Fill with custard and continue baking according to the directions.
- To ensure a crisper crust, bake your pie in the lower-middle part of the oven.
How do I keep my chess pie from tasting too eggy?
- First, look for the tell-tale sign that the pie is ready: The filling around the edges should be firm, but take it out of the oven when it’s still jiggly at the center.
- Chess pie might have a more pronounced eggy flavor if it’s overcooked.
What if the crust or the top of my chess pie is getting too brown before the cooking time is over?
- Monitor your pie as it cooks. The top of the pie will caramelize and have a golden brown crust, but if it gets too dark too early cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- This pie is quite sweet and is therefore particularly delicious served with sweet-tart berries or stone fruit.
- Make a chocolate chess pie by whisking 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the filling.
- Another good twist is making a lemon chess pie by adding ¼ cup (2 fl oz/57 g) lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the filling.
- Also you can make this a coconut chess pie by mixing in 1 cup (3 oz/85 g) of unsweetened shredded coconut to the filling.
- Try this with my Flaky Sour Cream Pie Crust!
- And be sure to use fine cornmeal for this recipe as it will cook well and disappear into the pie. Coarse cornmeal isn’t ground fine enough.
More Southern-Influenced Recipes
Classic Chess Pie Recipe
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pie crust to a 12-inch (30 cm) circle about ¼-inch (6mm) thick and line a 9-inch (23cm) pie dish. Next, crimp the edges and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it browns and has a nutty smell. Transfer to a large heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.
- To the bowl, add the milk, vinegar, and vanilla extract, then stir in the sugar, cornmeal, flour, and salt.
- Finally add the eggs and mix until well combined.
- Brush the edges of the pie crust with egg wash, then pour the custard into the pie shell and bake until the filling is set but still jiggly, about 45 minutes.
- Let cool for at least 45 minutes before serving warm, or transfer the pie, once completely cooled, to the refrigerator to fully chill for several hours before serving if you wish to serve it cold.
- Store, well covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.