15 June 2010

5 Tasty Sweet as Candy Chess Pie Recipes

*** Taste a slice of Heaven of the most divine pie recipes to thrill your sweet tooth!

Lemon Chess Pie Recipe and Photo by little blue hen @ flickr

From Denny: Chess pie is an old time favorite in the South just like apple pie is across the country. This is a simple pie like our great-grandmothers would have made. You still find it in Amish country.

This is a sweet pie as Southerners do like sweet desserts. It is so rich and intensely sweet that you might wonder if you are eating candy instead of a slice of pie. So, for the calorie conscious you might want to serve this pie in small servings.

The foundation of this pie is the simplicity of eggs, butter and sugar. From there the variations jump off to tasty delights. The history of the chess pie dates back to when farm wives and busy homemakers had to get a good meal on the table without complication. Early farm wives had to use what they had on hand in quantity and butter and eggs were their products. Over the years, the recipes they created were handed down for generations in the families.

How did the name of chess pie come to be? Food historians like John Egerton, author of "Southern Food," speculates the pie may have derived its name from a similar one that was a British cheese pie. Egerton wonders if the name came from the old pie safe or pie chest in which the pies were stored before today's refrigeration. Maybe it was originally named "chest pie" that over time slid into "chess pie."

From the Louisiana perspective and Southern slang, Jody Harper Waggenspack of Houma, Louisiana, claims the name came from Civil War days. The story goes that whenever someone asked the family cook what kind of pie they were serving the answer was, "It's 'jes' pie" which eventually became spelled as chess pie.

Recipes for this pie generally use one stick of butter, almost two cups of sugar, three eggs and some vinegar as their common ingredients. Remember that baking times and addition of other ingredients can create the difference in how the pies taste and look.

A few pointers for great chess pie:

* Always check your milk products by smelling and tasting to make sure they are not about to turn sour as that will ruin a pie taste and texture.

* Always use pure vanilla extract. Skip the imitation product as it just doesn't work well in most baking goods, especially a pie like this based on a custard filling. Custard fillings have a way of amplifying a flavor so if the taste isn't simply divine, the custard will scream it and ruin all your hard work.

* If you have the problem of your chess pie puffing up too fast and quite high, then your oven temperature may be too high.

* Make sure not to over beat your eggs for the filling. What can happen when you beat too much air into the eggs is that the filling can become grainy and unpleasant in texture.

* To get the best flavor and texture for your chess pie, partially pre-bake your pie shell. The reason for this is that because it is a custard pie you can't cook this pie as long as others like a fruit pie. Usually, for a custard pie it is baked just barely until set in the center but not soupy. As it cools the center will firm up.

*** And be sure to try out this recipe from the photographer of the photo: Lemon Chess Pie Recipe and Photo by little blue hen @ flickr

Enjoy these recipes from many Southern families and handed down for generations to this day.

Homestead Chess Pie

From: “Pie: 300 Tried-and-True Recipes for Delicious Homemade Pie” by Ken Haedrich, published by the Harvard Common Press, 2004.

Makes: 1 pie

From Ken: This recipe from the famed Homestead Restaurant in Lexington, Ky., first appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal. The pie embodies the genius I so appreciate about chess pies: that so few simple ingredients can make such a wonderful pie. I really am crazy about this pie, which can be served warm, at room temperature, or slightly chilled. Note: The recipe calls for a refrigerated unbaked pie shell, but Haedrich says that he often partially prebakes his pie shell. (Directions follow). If the pie shell is partially prebaked, it would not be refrigerated. He uses cider vinegar but believes that white vinegar will probably work, too.


1 pie shell, refrigerated
3 large eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
7 tbls. salted or unsalted butter, softened
1 tbl. fine yellow cornmeal
1 tbl. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Place the pie shell in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Whisk well to mix thoroughly, then pour into the chilled pie shell.

3. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Rotate the pie 180 degrees about halfway through the baking, so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. When done, the top of the pie will be a rich golden brown.

4. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Ken Haedrich’s method of prebaking a pie shell:

1. Freeze the shell first. Then put a sheet of aluminum foil in the inside and fill the pan with pie weights or dried beans.

2. Put the pie shell in a preheated 400-degree oven on the center rack for 15 minutes to set the crust.

3. Without removing the pie, pull out the oven rack and gently lift the aluminum foil sheet and the pie weights. Take a fork and prick the pastry all over the bottom, seven or eight times, moving the fork to make the pricks a little bigger.

4. Lower the temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake the shell for 10 to 12 minutes for a partially prebaked pie shell or 15 to 17 minutes for a fully prebaked pie shell.

5. Use the back of the spoon to gently press down any part of the shell that has puffed up.

Dussie’s Chess Pie

Makes: 1 pie.

From: Jody Harper Waggenspack of Houma, Louisiana. Dussie was her mother and this was her recipe.


1/4 lb. real butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tbls. mild vinegar
2 tsps. cornmeal
3 whole eggs
1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie shell


1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter slowly. Add sugar. Remove from heat and cool.

2. Add vinegar and cornmeal.

3. Beat the eggs slightly and add to butter mixture.

4. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 275 degrees and continue to bake until filling shakes slightly and is a little brown. Don’t overcook.

Chess Pie

From: Jane Winfree Flowers

Makes: 2 pies or 1 (9 x 13-inch) pie to cut into squares. Recipe is from Jane Winfree Flowers. Her mother, the late Winnie Winfree, got the recipe from the late Mary Lil Ford. “This pie has been such a staple in our home,” Flowers said.


2 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
1 tbl. flour
2 tbls. white vinegar
1 tbl. water
6 large eggs
1 tbl. vanilla
2 (9-inch) unbaked, deep-dish pie shells or 1 (9x 13-inch pan) with pastry on bottom and sides


1. In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and add sugar, flour, vinegar and water. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar is somewhat dissolved and not so granular. Cool.

2. Beat eggs well until yellow but not foamy. Combine with cooled butter mixture. Add vanilla and blend well.

3. Pour into two unbaked pie shells or into the (9 x 13-inch) baking dish. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Cool before cutting.

Sally’s Chess Pie

From: Sally James

Makes: 1 pie. Recipe is from Sally James, given to her by her grandmother, the late Jean Curet.


3 whole eggs
3/4 stick butter, melted, not hot
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tbl. cornmeal
1 tbl. vinegar
1 (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie shell


1. Mix eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla, cornmeal and vinegar in the order given. Pour into unbaked pie shell.

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and set in the middle.

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