A few weeks ago, a friend of mine and I hosted a fancy Friendsgiving feast for some close friends - “fancy” because we tried to pick out-of-the-ordinary dishes and flavor combinations, and then plated and served all the courses. There were 14 adults so it was a bit of work, but thankfully most of the work was in advance and we were able to have it prepped and ready to go. So it wasn’t actually stressful at all - it was fun and even a bit of a rush! The plating was a surprising challenge to my creativity, but it adds such a special quality and experience
We were going for a loosely inspired Southern-themed menu and since I knew chess pie is classic Southern but I also really wanted something chocolate, I chose chocolate chess pie. As a further nod to the south I accented it with a bourbon whipped cream and a salty caramelized pecan crunch. And a little dollop of a smooth ganache just to make it that much more chocolatey.
The result was plate lickin’ good. The pie itself is so good, like a gooey fudgy brownie with a delightful crusty topping. It’s rich but not too much, sweet but not too sweet. It would be delicious on its own (with coffee … for breakfast…) or with just a dollop of plain whipped cream. But the punch of the bourbon whipped cream, the smooth intensity of the ganache, and the salty contrast of the caramelized pecans takes it a step beyond.
This would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving (too many Thanksgiving dessert spreads lack chocolate, am I right?!) Or just make it today, because it’s that easy and that good. Recipe credit goes to Cook’s Country. They’re like the home-cooking sister of Cook’s Illustrated and I have always found their recipes to be totally delicious and reliable.
Chocolate Chess Pie
with optional bourbon whipped cream, ganache, and sea salt caramel pecans
single pie crust (I used Sophie’s favorite)
12 Tbsp butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into pieces
3 oz unsweetened chopped chocolate
1 1/2 cups toasted sugar (or plain granulated) + 1 tsp
3 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Roll the pie crust into a 14 inch circle, carefully transfer to the pie plate, and gently press it into the pan. Trim 1/2 inch excess dough around the edge and tuck under itself, then crimp the edges into the classic pie pattern or just press down all around with tines of a fork. Wrap loosely and freeze until firm, 10 minutes or so.
Line with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (or beans, or rice, or sugar.) Bake until lightly golden; set the timer for 18 minutes and start checking every minute or so at that point. Carefully remove the aluminum foil with pie weights, then bake another 5 minutes or until slightly drier and golden. Remove and let cool completely.
Meanwhile prepare the filling: melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler or on half power in the microwave, whisking often, until completely melted and combined. Let cool for a few minutes.
Combine the sugar, flour, salt in a large bowl. Thoroughly whisk in the eggs and yolks, then the cream, vanilla, and bourbon (if using). Whisk in the chocolate mixture until everything is fully combined. Pour into the cooled pie shell and set on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon sugar and place in the oven. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until the edges are set but the center jiggles slightly. If you care for precision, the center should be about 180 degrees. Let cool to room temperature.
This pie can be made a day or two ahead and can be stored, covered, at room temperature.
optional bourbon whipped cream, ganache, and sea salt caramelized pecans
Bourbon whipped cream
In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk together 1 cup cream, 1 tbsp bourbon, and 1 tsp sugar (or more if you prefer sweeter whipped cream) until stiff peaks form.
I used a ratio of 2:1 cream to chocolate. Chop the chocolate and put in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, then pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a few minutes, then gently stir, starting from the center, in small circles, gradually working outwards until chocolate and cream are completely combined. Let cool to room temperature. If too stiff to pour or dollop on the pie, soften for a few seconds at a time in the microwave. Store, covered, in the fridge.
Sea salt caramel pecans
1/2 lb pecans, chopped coarsely
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla
fleur de sel
First toast the pecans on a parchment paper covered baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until toasty and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Keep the parchment covered baking sheet for later use.
Put the sugar in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Sprinkle two tablespoons water over and mix with a fork until the sugar is all wet. Spread out evenly over the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat to medium high. Don’t stir! Let the sugar gradually dissolve and then brown, swirling the pan occasionally and more often towards the end. Sometimes the pan needs to be swirled quite vigorously to break up the sugar. If necessary, use a wettened pastry brush to brush down the sugar on the side of the pans.
Once the sugar is all liquid and amber brown, swirl in the vanilla, and then the salt and pecans. Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, scrape out the nuts and caramel onto the parchment paper, spread out, and sprinkle with a generous pinch of fleur de sel.
Let cool to room temperature, then break or chop up into pieces of desired size.
Store in an airtight container. If it is humid out, get them into a container as soon as cool.
Photo credit to Helen Thompson