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.