Chess pie is not something I grew up eating. In fact, until this year I'd never even heard of it. They started serving a more traditional version of it at one of our favorite coffee shops in town, and I fell in love at first bite. As I do with most pies.
I just really love pie, guys. It's the best.
In case you've never had the pleasure of trying chess pie before, I'll tell you that it has a custardy-based filling. Honestly, it sort of reminds me of pecan pie, without pecans. The ingredients might surprise you, as most chess pies contain cornmeal and usually vinegar. But somehow it just works.
I've made a few variations recently, and this is my favorite version at the moment. It contains toasted coconut, so in a way it's a great summer version of pecan pie. And if that doesn't excite you, I don't think we're gonna see eye to eye on this one. Just make the pie. Just do it.
Toasted Coconut Chess Pie, makes one.
Crust recipe from Ready For Dessert by David Lebovitz.
3 tablespoons whole milk (or cream)
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, melted then cooled
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/3 cup toasted (sweetened) coconut
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter
3-4 tablespoons cold water
In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, salt, and cold butter until crumbly. Add the first 3 tablespoons of cold water and pulse again. If needed, add an additional tablespoon of cold water. Press the dough together, cover in plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling. Or you can make the dough ahead of time and freeze for up to 3 days.
Once you're ready, roll out out the dough on a lightly floured surface and place in a buttered pie pan. Poke a few holes (with a fork) in the bottom of the crust before filling.
Toast the coconut in a dry pan over medium/low heat until lightly brown and crunchy. I like to use a rubber, heatproof spatula while toasting coconut this way, as it allows you to easily remove bits from the side of the pan so they don't become too toasted while you work.
In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, milk, vanilla, and cooled (but still melted) butter. Stir in the sugar. Now add the salt, cornmeal, flour, and vinegar, and stir to combine. Stir in half of the toasted coconut, reserving the rest to sprinkle over the top.
The first time I made this pie filling, the recipe I was working on made too much filling. I actually had to throw away about 2/3 cup away or else my pie pan would have been overflowing. I was also practicing with a store-bought pie crust, which was a little smaller than the pie pan you see here. This version almost didn't make enough filling, but once baked you'll see that the filling tends to expand a little. So don't worry if your pie filling doesn't seem to fill out your pan just yet (see mine above). And if you choose to use a store-bought pie crust, this should still work well for you.
Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. The pie should only have some very slight movement (jiggle), and the top should look crusty and browned. Allow the pie to cool for at least 30 minutes before trying to cut into it, or else it may not be set enough and will ooze.
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.