Up until a few weeks ago, I don’t think I actually knew what Chess Pie was. I had heard of it, but didn’t think anything of it because the name doesn’t really say all that much about what it is. It’s not a pie that has squares of color like a chessboard. It’s nothing like checkered cookies (thank God). There’s no intriguing description like Sugar Pie or Buttermilk Pie or Apple or whatever. It’s just Chess. Which is a game. A game I don’t understand. A game I don’t care to understand. All I know is that you want the Queen. You yell “Checkmate!” and if you’re in a competition, you wack a timer that’s next to the table. And people feel smart when they talk about chess.
Recently I came into a number of hand-me-down cookbooks, the bulk of which were masses of recipes from local organizations spiral bound together with the names and towns of each home chef who created that recipe. The kind of cookbook you can flip to and see 4 pages with slight varying ingredients and techniques of the same recipe. Home spun stuff. Handed down. I love cookbooks like that.
Someone brought up the idea of doing a Chess Pie at work and as I scoured the internet and pawed through dozens of cookbooks from my collection, I learned quite a bit about chess pie…but still not all that much to be considered an expert on it. Maybe one day. #goals
But since it’s Fall, just any regular ol’ Chess Pie wouldn’t do. A Pumpkin Chess Pie would be much more suitable. And of course, if you can think of it, it probably already exists out on the internet. And it did. When you read recipe after recipe, the one thing you realize that they all have in common is cornmeal. Chess pie is essentially a baked custard. When you add pumpkin to it, which itself is already a custard pie, you pretty much have a pumpkin pie…with some cornmeal. That cornmeal changes the consistency of a pie. There’s more texture, more bite. And it’s delicious.
The best part about this pie is that it is ridiculously easy to make. But then again, most pies are easy to make. The hardest part is the crust. The crust cracks when rolling it out. The crust is ugly. The crust is soggy. When it comes to pies, I’ve learned that par baking is crap. You still end up with a crust that is wet on the bottom. The flakier the dough is, the more wet it will be too. I feel it’s best to just bake the crust completely, then fill it and bake it. This guarantees a crisp crust throughout. I haven’t run into the issue of burned edges, but if you find it browning too fast, all you have to do is cover it with foil (or dole out some cash for a crust protector that does just that). I also like to add flavor to the crust. Any leftover dough can be baked off and eaten. So when I was looking for what to add to the crust, I remember we had been gifted a nice dark rum that had a very strong molasses scent and flavor. A perfect addition to the crust.