Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! I combined my two favorite fall pies into one glorious treat. # 99: Chocolate Chess Pecan Pie
This is the time of year when even us non-pie-enthusiasts hop on the pie train. How can you not? Most people think that Thanksgiving is about the turkey, but it’s truly about the dessert and the sides. (I could talk about homemade, cornbread stuffing for days, but I’ll try to stay on topic.) The classic pie choices throughout the states are:
- Pumpkin (Potentially the most over-done option, but it’s a classic for a reason. Thick and slightly savory, pumpkin pie filling is full of nutmeg, cinnamon, and that orange squash everyone’s so obsessed with. I’m making a pumpkin mousse this year, we’ll see how it turns out!)
- Apple (Can you get any more American? The best versions use Granny Smith apples so the tart can battle the sweet, buttery, cinnamon-y goodness surrounding them.)
- Pecan (A Southern staple: sweet, sticky and studded with halved nuts.)
- Chocolate Chess (This might be only my family that includes this on the classics list, but it deserves to be there! The filling is like a thick custard, flavored with vanilla, lemon or chocolate.)
If presented with all of them at once, I’d reach for slice of chocolate chess and a slice of pecan. But this year I went rogue and combined them. Why not have the best of both worlds?
Pie crust seems to scare even the most seasoned bakers. It’s finicky and doesn’t like to be overworked. For those who keep up with the ongoing shortening vs. butter debate: I made both my all-butter crust and my grandma’s all-shortening crust and the difference was noticeable. The butter crust had a much better flavor, but didn’t hold it’s shape despite chilling for a while before being baked.
I’ve been using the inside of my rolling pin more often – it’s thinner, with slightly tapered edges that allow for more accuracy in the shape of my rolled dough. It’s a more nuanced and tactile than using the thick rubber version of the roller. The butter crust went into muffin tins to make baby versions of the two pies with my extra pie filling. Lil cups of happiness!
The pecan filling involves corn syrup for both sweetening and for maintaining the right consistency. It doesn’t allow for as much sugar crystallization during the baking process, leading to a smooth and rich end result. Most recipes I read through called for both dark and light corn syrup. I only had light corn syrup on hand, so my filling was a little less molasses-y than it should’ve been.
The chess filling was just as simple to whip up – just a one-bowl kind of filling. It can be whipped by hand, no stand mixer needed! The one odd ingredient in it was evaporated milk. My assumption is that you need the filling to have a little water in it as possible because you don’t want it to bubble up and rise while baking. The goal is dense, rich and gooey.
Mini pies, ready for action! (Ignore my messy pouring abilities.)
Aw yeah. Golden buttery outside, rich gooey chocolate inside. One of the best characteristics of a chess filling is that super thin, crispy layer on the top. I’m honestly not sure what causes it (if you know, leave me a comment!) It’s a lovely contrast to the rest of the velvety chocolate filling.
Look at those flaky layers! Shortening magic over here. I’ve included my grandma Nonnie’s pie crust recipe below (it’s a classic shortening crust recipe – it was a very popular ingredient in the 50s and 60s) but I’m going to try it with half shortening, half butter next time!
Happy munching, friends! I’m thankful for all of you and I hope a slice of pie is in your near future.
Nonnie’s Shortening Crust:
- 1 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 4 or 5 TB ice cold water (have a cup of water with ice cubes you can measure from)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Sift together salt and flour. Cut in shortening until size of small peas. Add water and egg slowly and toss with fork. Don’t overwork it. After rolling out, bake for about 25 minutes in a 450 degree oven.
Chocolate chess filling recipe mostly from: https://addapinch.com/chocolate-chess-pie-recipe/