When you hear the name “chess pie,” you might think that it has something to do with a classic chess board. A chess pie is a classic – but it doesn’t have anything to do with the board game. Chess pie is a Southern custard pie made with sugar, eggs, milk and cornmeal. The cornmeal is a relatively unique addition to the pie and helps to create a slightly crispy top over a sweet, tender custard.
Chess pies can be made in a wide variety of flavors and this Pumpkin Spice Chess Pie is a great choice for fall baking. It is a twist on the basic recipe, but with a generous amount of pumpkin spice added. To bring in the spice element, I used a blend of the spices that normally make up a pumpkin pie spice mix: cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. I added all of these spices individually, but you can substitute 2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice for all of the other spices if you happen to have some on hand. Make sure that your spices are fresh for best results, as your pie won’t have as much flavor if that pumpkin pie spice has been sitting in the back of your pantry for the past few Halloweens!
I recommend using a homemade pastry crust for this recipe because store-bought crusts tend to be a little on the smaller side and you might not be able to fit all the filling into the crust. That said, I do like the flavor of a shortbread or graham cracker crust with this filling, so using a pre-made crust is not necessarily a bad idea. When filling your pie crust, fill it almost to the top of the pan and reserve whatever doesn’t fit. It’s not worth overflowing the pie shell (any pie shell) to try to squeeze in a bit of extra filling because it can throw off the bake on the whole pie. While you probably won’t have any extra with a slightly deeper pie pan, any leftover filling can be baked in individual ramekins until just set.
This pie should be chilled before serving to help it set up completely and make it easier to slice. It has a dense custard filling with a nice vanilla and buttermilk flavor. There is a visible layer of spice on the top of the pie, along with a crisp sugar and cornmeal topping over the whole thing. It tastes almost like a fall coffee cake – but feels much more indulgent. Serve it as-is or top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Pumpkin Spice Chess Pie
dough for 9-inch pie crust or baked crumb crust
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
5 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
Preheat oven to 350F.
Roll out pie dough on a lightly floured surface and fit crust to a 9-inch pie plate. Chill rolled crust in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cornmeal, salt and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the buttermilk, spices and vanilla, followed by the cooled, melted butter until batter is smooth.
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until pie is set.
Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate until cold before slicing.