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What is Chess Pie?

Increasing the amount of eggs used in a chess pie can enhance the pie's texture.
Half a cup of melted butter is a common chess pie ingredient.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Chess pie is a dessert popular in the US. It may also be called translucent or transparent pie. It is a single crust pie, quite similar in taste to a pecan pie, but without the pecans. In fact most recipes for this pie are almost identical to recipes for pecan pie, omitting the nuts.

Chess pie tends to be a bit gelatinous, and quite sweet. It may have a bit more texture than a pecan pie as many recipes add a tablespoon or two of cornmeal. Food historians suggest that the pie may have originated in England. It is in fact somewhat similar to treacle tart. However, most are puzzled by the name of the pie.

There is little association between the game of chess and chess pie. Some suggest initial recipes for this pie may have derived from Chesterton England. Others venture that the name chess pie may be a corruption of cheese pie. Yet the recipes certainly do not call for cheese. However, the curd texture of cheese pie is somewhat similar to chess pie.

Most chess pie recipes for an eight or nine inch (20 to 23 cm) pie call for about a cup of sugar, half a cup of melted butter, 2-3 eggs, vanilla, and a tablespoon or two of cornmeal. The larger number of eggs will yield a more gelatinous pie.

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The mixture is poured into a pie shell and baked for about 45 minutes. Over-baking the pie can ruin it, as it can cause burning, or the pie filling may become unstable. Variants include recipes that call for chocolate, coconut, buttermilk, or lemon flavor. Some recipes simply use a pecan pie recipe and leave out the nuts. This produces a perfectly respectable version of chess pie.

Chess pie should not be confused with chess cake. Chess cake usually means a type of cake with cream cheese added, usually as part of baked topping combined with fruit. Chess squares may be a cookie recipe with a cream cheese and fruit topping.

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