Chess Pie

Chess Pie

Recipe by Liz Sempervive, Executive Chef of the Millstone Café 

N. C. Wyeth (1882 - 1945), The Recipe Book, 1933, oil on canvas. 48 1/8 × 52 1/8 in. Bequest of Carolyn Wyeth, 1996

This is an easy custard pie from the American South—and you probably have most of the ingredients already in your pantry at home. I love making this adapted recipe from The Joy of Cooking this time of year when there is not a lot of fresh fruit available. You can buy a pre-made crust but, when I make this pie, I like to use the Baked Flakey Pastry Crust from The Joy of Cooking. If you're making your own crust, use whatever is your favorite recipe! 


1 9-inch pie crust, pre-baked and brushed with egg wash
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
6 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


Chess Pie


Prepare a pie crust (either store-bought or homemade) and bake for 20 minutes with a piece of parchment paper on top and dry beans in the center. The weight of the beans will prevent the crust from bubbling. 

After 20 minutes, remove the beans (let cool and save for future use in an airtight container) and brush with a beaten egg yolk. Return to the oven and bake for two minutes. 

Remove the crust from the oven and set aside. The crust should still be warm when adding the filling. Turn the oven down to 275 degrees. 

In a heat proof bowl, whisk the egg, egg yolks, sugar, brown sugar, salt, and buttermilk until it is well combined. Add the butter pieces to the bowl as well. Cook this over a double boiler.

To prepare a double boiler: Use a heavy bottomed pot and fill it with about one inch of water. Bring it to a boil on the stove top and place the heat proof bowl on top. Stirring constantly, cook the pie filling on low heat until the mixture is shiny and warm to the touch and slightly thicker. Be careful not to heat the filling too fast because the eggs will scramble and cook! If you time this correctly, you can heat the filling while the crust is pre-baking.

Immediately pour the warm mixture into the warm crust. Bake at 275 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Remove the pie from the oven as soon as the filling has thickened to a gelatin like consistency. 

Serve the pie once the filling has set and cooled to room temperature and not a moment before! Check by touching the bottom of the pie pan with your flat palm. Store the pie in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to three days—if you can make it last that long before eating the whole thing!

Pro tip: I like to top it up with whip cream and a drizzle of caramel or honey. Enjoy!

Liz Sempervive is the Executive Chef of the Millstone Café and Catering at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. She hopes to bring nourishment to everyone through her scratch cooking, classic dishes and rustic cuisine. Chef Liz is passionate about food accessibility and supporting our local food systems. She believes that collective healing begins with sharing a meal between friends. Her accomplishments include being awarded "Best New Chef, 2019" in Main Line Today magazine and participating as a contestant on Food Network’s Chopped.