Chocolate Chess Pie is a classic Southern recipe; a cross between brownie and chocolate pudding, it’s baked right into a flaky pie crust and is a holiday must!
We’re smack dab in the middle of summer and fruit pie season, but today I’m coming at you with a totally new-to-me recipe: chocolate chess pie. Chess pie is a total staple in Southern kitchens, but I had never heard of it until Christine, a BEB reader, sent me this recipe for chocolate chess pie a couple of years ago. She said that her family makes it for Thanksgiving and Christmas every single year, which means it had to be absolutely fabulous.
Christine said this recipe is from the Angus Barn restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina and that the only thing she didn’t love about it was that the filling was placed in an unbaked pie shell, and she wondered if it would be better in a partially baked crust.
That’s exactly how I made it, and this Pittsburgh girl could not have been more smitten with the combination of gooey chocolate and flaky pie crust!
How Do You Make Chocolate Chess Pie?
It could not be simpler!
The first thing you do is prepare your pie crust, and while I love using my very favorite pie crust recipe, feel free to use your own favorite recipe, or even a store-bought pie crust if you prefer.
Then you mix together the filling, which only requires two bowls and about five minutes of your time. It’s very similar to brownie batter – melted chocolate and butter, mixed together with a couple of eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.
Some recipes use cocoa powder or things like sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk or buttermilk, but I just adore the simplicity of this particular recipe.
What Does a Chocolate Chess Pie Taste Like?
While traditional chess pie is often described as tasting like yellow cake batter, or the gooey layer of a gooey butter cake, it’s chocolate counterpart tastes very much like a cross between a fudgy brownie (complete with that crackly top!) and very firm chocolate pudding.
I served it with a simple homemade whipped cream, but you could also top it with chocolate whipped cream, or even meringue!
Why Is It Called Chess Pie?
I couldn’t find a definitive origin of the name, but this pie dates wayyyyy back to the 1700s.
The most likely explanation of the name is that since the English lemon curd pie filling is very close to lemon chess pie, the word “chess” may be an Americanization of the English word “cheese”, referring to curd pie.
Do You Need to Refrigerate Chocolate Chess Pie? Can it Be Frozen?
You do not need to refrigerate chocolate chess pie; I kept mine at room temperature for up to three days (that’s as long as the leftovers lasted!) without issue. There is enough sugar in the recipe that it should be fine at room temperature. If you prefer to eat it chilled, however, you can absolutely pop it into the refrigerator.
As for freezing, I have yet to find a definitive yes or no answer, as I have not tried to do so myself. Some claim that the filling will be compromised when it is thawed, while others claim it will freeze just fine if it is baked first, then wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and placed in a freezer ziploc bag. Thaw in the refrigerator before serving.
I am so thrilled to have a new Southern recipe in my kitchen tool belt; thank you to Christine for sharing its deliciousness with me!
If you’re a chocolate lover, you are going to be over-the-moon in love with this recipe!
Make the Pie Crust: Process ¾ cups of the flour, the sugar and salt together in a food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add the butter and shortening and process until a homogenous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 7 to 10 seconds (the dough will resemble cottage cheese curds with some very small pieces of butter remaining, but there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and redistribute the dough evenly around the bowl. Add the remaining ½ cup flour and pulse until the mixture is evenly distributed around the bowl and the mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty the mixture into a medium bowl.
Sprinkle the vodka and water over the mixture. With a rubber spatula, use a folding motion to mix, pressing down on the dough until it is slightly tacky and sticks together. Flatten the dough into a 4-inch disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 days.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a generously floured (up to ¼ cup) work surface to a 12-inch circle. Roll the dough loosely around a rolling pin and unroll into a 9-inch pie plate, leaving at least a 1-inch overhang on each side. Working around the circumference, ease the dough into the plate by gently lifting edge of the dough with one hand while pressing into the plate bottom with other hand. Leave the overhanging dough in place; refrigerate until the dough is firm, about 30 minutes.
Trim the overhanging dough to ½ inch beyond the lip of the pie plate. Fold the overhang under itself; the folded edge should be flush with edge of pie plate. Flute the dough or press the tines of a fork against dough to flatten it against the rim of pie plate. Refrigerate the dough-lined plate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove pie pan from refrigerator, line crust with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and fill with pie weights (I use this weight) or dried beans, filling the whole way up to the rim of the pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil/parchment and weights, cover the edges of the pie crust with a ring of foil or pie crust shield, rotate plate, and bake 5 to 15 additional minutes, until bottom crust is golden brown. Remove pie plate from oven (keep the pie crust shield on).
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Make the Filling: In a small bowl, microwave the butter and chocolate together in 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until completely melted and smooth; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to thoroughly incorporate. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is just slightly jiggly. Cool to room temperature and serve with whipped cream. The pie can be kept at room temperature, covered, for up to 3 days.