No one is sure where the name or recipe for “chess pie” comes from, but it’s not related to the game of chess. (Read more about the possible origins of chess pie at Wikipedia.) It’s a traditional dessert in the American South. In fact, people outside of the South sometimes haven’t heard of it! It’s really delicious, but extremely sweet. You should make sure to cut the pie into at least 8 pieces, maybe 12, and share with your friends. My favorite kind of chess pie is lemon chess pie, because the lemon flavor makes it taste more balanced. It’s also very pretty–here are some photos of lemon chess pies at Flickr.
These instructions use American measurements, which are not weight-based. (Many American professional chefs use weight-based measurements–e.g., grams–but few home cooks do.) The Metric Kitchen: Conversion Basics explains how to convert the measurements and temperatures to metric systems. If you’re not in the US and you don’t want to do conversions, you may be able to buy American measuring cups and spoons at a specialty cooking store or international store.
If you live outside of North America, some of the ingredients might need to be bought at a specialty grocery store aimed at international residents. In America recipes, “milk” always means cow’s milk unless specified otherwise. “Eggs” means chicken eggs. A “pinch” of something is a very small amount, like if you just took a little bit of salt between your thumb and index finger.
Common American cooking measurement abbreviations:
C = cup (this is a specific amount, not just a drinking cup)
T or tbs = tablespoon (again, a specific amount)
t or tsp = teaspoon (also a specific amount)
Lemon Chess Pie
This recipe is based on one from a friend of my mother-in-law’s. It’s delicious! It has a pretty brown top and is a beautiful yellow inside. The pie is very sweet, so make sure you have something such as tea, coffee, or milk to drink while you eat it.
2 C granulated sugar
1 tbs all-purpose flour
1 tsp cornmeal
4 unbeaten eggs
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk or 2% milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
Pinch of salt (only if you use unsalted butter)
1 unbaked pie crust (flour-based, not graham cracker–buy frozen, or make it yourself)
Combine all of the filling ingredients in a bowl and stir until evenly mixed. Everything should be one color. Press the unbaked pie crust into a pie pan (if it didn’t come in a pan originally). Pour the filling into the pie crust. Bake the pie in an oven at 375 F about 35 mins, or until filling is set. The filling will be set when the top is brown and the center moves only a little when the pie is moved. When done, the pie filling will be soft, but not liquid. Take the pie out and let it cool for at least twenty minutes. Put it on a trivet, rack, or upside-down plate (not plastic) to cool. After that, you can either chill it in a refrigerator to eat it cold, or slice it and eat it warm right away!