making pie: chocolate chess pie

It feels so good to be back in the kitchen again, even if it is only on weekends.. The stress of the last couple of months, the stress that seemed to have stolen all of my creative energy and inspiration, is finally abating.

Or it could be that I’ve just gotten used to stress as a fact of life.

My father is doing much better, getting stronger and in much less pain from his numerous broken ribs. He is still in the rehabilitation hospital, working with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and speech therapists. He seems more like himself again, and that is something I am so grateful for.

Of course, my dad’s life – and my mother’s life – will never be the same after all of the health issues he has had since January. My mother is coming to grips with the reality that she will be a caregiver for my father, probably for the rest of his life. When he leaves rehab the day before Thanksgiving, to resume his life in his own home, a home he has not seen since early October, we’ll enter the next chapter in this saga.

In the meantime, I’ve felt like making pie. Which is a good thing, of course, as this is pie season after all. Making pie crust dough, rolling it out in a circle (often lopsided), sampling a little piece of dough here and there, and finally nestling it into a beautiful pie dish – these simple things give me moments of peace.

I realize that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but I simply could not wait until then to bake a pie. This past weekend I pulled out an old family recipe for chess pie and made some tweaks. A rich chocolate chess pie was the result. Balanced with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream, this pie was a complete hit with my children.

It’s hard to improve on a Southern classic like chess pie, so I won’t say that I’ve done that. But this chocolate version may well be tied with the classic in the race for chess pie excellence.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Chocolate Chess Pie

Chocolate Chess Pie is a wonderful riff on the classic Southern Chess Pie, especially for you chocolate lovers. Serve with whipped cream and a glass of ice cold milk.


1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
3 eggs, beaten slightly
1/4 cup whole milk
1 stick butter, melted
3 tablespoons Dutch process unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch unbaked deep dish pie crust


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a baking sheet on a lower middle rack of the oven.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar and cornmeal. Add beaten eggs and milk, and mix well. In a small bowl, stir together melted butter, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to egg mixture and stir until well blended.

Pour batter into the pie crust, place carefully on preheated cookie sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325 and bake for additional 45 minutes, or until center of pie is set. Turn oven off and let the pie cool in the oven with the oven door cracked.

Serve warm or chill in the refrigerator prior to serving.

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19 Responses to “making pie: chocolate chess pie”

  1. 1
    Kathryn — November 17, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    Oh this chocolate pie looks just perfect, gooey and squidgy in all the right places!

    I hope you have a peaceful time over the holidays and that your parents adjust to your dad being home well.

  2. 2
    Brian — November 17, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

    You don’t need to have a reason to make a pie… just do it because you want to. 🙂 But this would make for a wonderful Thanksgiving dessert!

  3. 3
    Nutmeg Nanny — November 17, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    I’m so happy to hear that your father is doing better. I can only hope things stay on this track 🙂

    This chess pie looks delicious! Like a gooey brownie in a pie shell…yum!

  4. 4
    Macaroni Mama — November 17, 2011 @ 4:43 pm

    Thank you, Merry Jennifer for posting this. I love chocolate chess pie! I appreciate your vision of our future. Love you!

  5. 5
    Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids — November 18, 2011 @ 6:30 am

    I just now posted this exact recipe on my blog. It was given to my mom so many years ago that we do not even know where it initiated. It is absolutely fantastic!

  6. 6
    Sue/the view from great island — November 18, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    This looks fabulous. I’ve never tasted chess pie, and the chocolate version is even more tempting, I will definitely try it, thanks!

  7. 7
    Barbara | Creative Culinary — November 18, 2011 @ 10:49 am

    I’ve loved chocolate chess pie since the first time I had it which was many, many years ago when we celebrated our first Thanksgiving in our new home in Raleigh, NC. I like pumpkin pie and pecan pie fine but this is what I have to have for Thanksgiving; though I might have revised mine to include just a touch of bourbon. I couldn’t help myself. 🙂

  8. 8
    Paula — November 18, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

    Even with all that has happened to your family in the past several months, this Thanksgiving certainly holds a lot to be thankful for. Yes, life as you know it has changed drastically but your family is coming through it together, stronger, closer and even when you think you aren’t…fully capable of tackling everything that has been thrown in your paths. Continued best wishes for a continuing recovery for your Dad.

    The pie is gorgeous, I wouldn’t be able to have waited for next week either.

  9. 9
    Karriann Graf — November 18, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

    Wow looks yummy …fudge in the center ;). Have fun with your Thanksgiving Dinner its going to be great.

  10. 10
    Jenni — November 19, 2011 @ 7:49 pm

    I am such a fan of chess pie, and I haven’t had it in ages! And I don’t think I have ever actually made it. Now, that’s gonna change. 🙂 Your chocolate version looks wonderful–comfortingly custardy but still kinda Special. Perfect.

    I must say that I’ve not been keeping up with what’s going on with your family, but I wish you and your folks the best. So glad your dad will be home for Thanksgiving. I’m no stranger to getting used to “a new normal,” and I guess you guys aren’t either. Remember to save some time to make a pie now and again; it will probably help. 🙂

  11. 11
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — November 19, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

    This pie looks amazing, MJ… I can certainly relate to how nice it is to escape to the kitchen when life is stressful! So glad to see you’re getting back in the kitchen and that things are looking up a bit for you right now. I hope you and your family have a lovely Thanksgiving together!

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  13. 12
    chris — November 23, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

    This was the big hit at our work luncheon yesterday.

  14. 13
    Nicole — November 15, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    I have been tasked with making the pies for Thanksgiving, and chocolate chess is one of them. I have tried this recipe a couple of times, and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but I haven’t been successful. I don’t know why I was asked to make the pies…I have zero pie baking experience. I used your all butter pie crust recipe, and even after freezing it in the pie pan, it still falls down when baking. I have considered prebaking it. I have also had a really hard time having the pie to set. It seems that I need to bake it almost twice as long. I’m following the recipes exactly, so I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Do you have any advice? Thank you!!!

    • 13.1
      Merry-Jennifer — November 15, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

      Hi Nicole — It’s hard for me to sort out what’s going wrong without being there with you when you bake. If it’s not setting up correctly, it may be that it needs to bake longer, or that perhaps your oven isn’t heating up properly. If the crust is shrinking, it may have something to do with the amount of handling/stretching of the dough you are doing. Feel free to email me if you have more questions and I’ll try to help!

  15. 14
    Nicole — November 16, 2012 @ 11:25 pm

    I was finally successful! I had to tweak a few things. We just moved into this house in July, and I am still getting used to the oven. I had to cook the pie longer, and I prebaked the all butter crust for a little while (not completely, but just enough for it to plump up). I mixed the filling for a very long time, so it was pretty thick by the time I put it into the pie plate to bake. I am truly a novice when it comes to pie baking, so I think I was just making rookie mistakes. I brought the pie to dinner with friends, and they all loved it. I know feel confident about making this for Thanksgiving. Thank you for sharing your delicious recipe!

  16. 15
    pari — December 2, 2012 @ 8:44 am


    This looks delicious! I have a question about this pie, can we bake it without the pie crust? I am looking for a pie just like this, with this soft rich chocolate inside and lightly crispy outside. Waiting for your answer.


    • 15.1
      Merry-Jennifer — December 2, 2012 @ 9:25 am

      I’ve never tried to bake it without a pie crust, but you can certainly try! Please let me know how it turns out. 🙂

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