So, before I introduce this fantastic recipe, I just want to mention that this post right here, is my 200th post since starting this blog. Yes, 200th. It's not necessarily the 200th recipe that I'm sharing, but that milestone is coming up soon too. I couldn't believe when I opened up Blogger to work on this post and saw that I had 199 published posts. I have no idea where the time has gone, or how I've suddenly reached my 200th post, but I'll admit that it's pretty cool, and I'm excited to have gotten to this point! But anyway. Enough of this. Thanksgiving is only a few very short days away, and there are other more pressing and important things to discuss. Things like pie. Things like chess pie. Wait, you don't know what chess pie is?
I'll be honest. I also had no idea what chess pie was until I made this tart version of it. I had heard of chess pie before, but I really didn't know what made a chess pie a chess pie. I wouldn't have been able to describe what it tasted like, or even what ingredients where in it, or why it was even called chess pie. I basically did't know anything about chess pie aside from that fact that I knew that such a thing actually existed. Points for me, I guess? As I was flipping through recipes for Thanksgiving pies and desserts, I knew that I needed to find a recipe that was actually quick and simple to put together, yet also one that could at the same time provide major wow factor. It needed to be a pie that could be made together in advance and would taste delicious if served the next day. I stumbled across this recipe, and after giving it a quick read, it seemed like it was the exact recipe that I had been searching for. All I needed to do was make it and see if it would taste great the next day, so I went ahead and gave it a shot. And now, I know exactly what chess pie is, and I know that it's seriously awesome.
Chess pie is a pie that is traditional in Southern kitchens, although its origins are relatively unclear. There's all kinds of explanations for how chess pie got its name, since it's one of the few desserts out that isn't named based on the ingredients that make it up. The dessert was supposedly brought over from England, and my favorite explanation for the name is that the name developed from the Southern dialect, and turned "chest pie" into "chess pie." We'll never know exactly how chess pie really came about, but that's really not terribly important when we have a chess pie sitting in front of us. Now, as you may have figured out, this isn't an actual chess pie, but is a chess pie disguised in the form of a tart. I love tarts because I find them to be a bit less labor intensive than pie, and are certainly much quicker to prepare. This particular tart combines a Nilla wafer crust with the traditional gooey, buttery filling of a chess pie, which ends up being a fantastic match made in dessert heaven.
This tart is a perfect make ahead dessert option. I was able to make the tart quickly and without any kind of issues, and since it was getting to be a bit dark by the time I was ready to take photographs of the tart, I decided to leave it in the fridge overnight to see what happened. The tart held up very nicely, and sliced perfectly when it was cut the next day. I was happy with the sleek, crisp wedges that came out of the tart, especially when dusted with a little powdered sugar. I was even happier with how the tart tasted. When I was mixing up the filling, I tasted some of the filling that was leftover in the bowl (don't lie, I know you do this too), and thought to myself, "there is no way this tart won't be good." It was just perfectly sweet, buttery, and had a deep warm flavor from the brown sugar...is it possible to go wrong with any of these things? The finished tart was something else though. The Nilla wafer crust was crisp and simple enough to provide a nice balance to the incredibly rich filling. If you've ever been to Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City, I'm sure you've had a slice of their infamous "crack pie" (this is what drew me to the shop at first). This chess pie tart has a flavor that is very reminiscent of crack pie, which for me, was a very welcome realization, because crack pie is named crack pie for a reason (it's ridiculously good). I texted my boyfriend (who can't walk past Milk Bar without picking up a slice of crack pie) that I had made a crack-pie-like-pie, and when he came over to try it, he said it was one of his favorite things that I've made. Score!
I really enjoyed the way this tart came out, especially the fact that it tasted perfectly the next day. I think this recipe is basic enough that you could use it as a foundation for introducing other flavors, like chocolate, or even lemon. I would definitely want to experiment with the idea of a chocolate chess pie tart, maybe by either mixing some chocolate into the filling, or making a chocolate cookie crust. This recipe is really nothing more than a bit of stirring and baking in the oven, so it's simple enough that anyone can bake it. The one piece of advice I have for this tart is to make sure you bake the tart on top of a regular baking sheet. When I filled the tart I noticed that it looked a TAD full, but went against my better judgement, and baked the tart as it was, crossing my fingers that it wouldn't spill as it baked...which of course it did. So, to avoid having to spend time cleaning and scraping cooked custard off the bottom of your oven like I did, do yourself a favor just place something underneath the tart pan to catch any potential spills. You'll be happy you did! I'm very happy that I finally got to try a chess pie filling out for myself, and I know that this is one recipe that is sure to become a Thanksgiving tradition. Enjoy!
Chess Pie Tart
recipe from Martha Stewart's Pies and Tarts
For the Tart Shell
1 1/4 cups Nilla Wafer crumbs (from about 45 cookies)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the Filling
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
To prepare the tart shell, mix together the Nilla wafer crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate the pie crust for about 15 minutes. While the tart shell is chilling in the fridge, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.
After 15 minutes, bake the tart shell until it turns golden brown, about 12 minutes. Let the tart shell cool slightly, and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
To make the tart filling, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cornmeal, and salt in a bowl, mixing to break up any clumps. Whisk in the eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Whisk in the butter, and mix until smooth.
Pour the filling into the pre-baked tart shell, and set the tart on a baking sheet. Bake the tart until the top is golden brown and the edges are just set, but the center is still a bit wobbly, about 35-40 minutes.
Let the tart cool to room temperature, and then chill in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight. Slice into wedges, and enjoy! Makes 1 9-inch tart