My mom used to make a Chocolate Chess Pie when I was a kid and it was so easy. It had 4-5 ingredients and I absolutely loved it. As you can see from a Random Recipe post earlier this year, I have continued to try to recreate her recipe – with not the best of luck. Nothing seems to taste like I remember. I think Chris is bored with my trying, however, since I am not one to quit — I am not giving up. This is my most recent attempt of trying another Chocolate Chess Pie recipe.
Chris still is not super excited about the result — he felt it was too much work for the taste, but I think this is the recipe that gets closest to the taste of what I remember. A few caveats:
The crust ingredients listed below made too much and we had to throw a bunch of it away. To me, a Chocolate Chess Pie should always be served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Oh – ENJOY!
15 graham crackers
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grind the graham crackers in a food processor until they are a fine crumb. Place in a bowl and stir in sugar and melted butter with a fork. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 9″ or 10″ pie dish. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes.
Make the filling: Melt the butter with chocolate in a medium sized bowl in the microwave, heating on high in 30 second increments and stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth.
Once the chocolate is melted, whisk in the flour, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in eggs and egg white until the mixture is smooth. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake until the top is puffed and filling is set in the center, 35-40 minutes. Let cool, serve at room temperature. Top with ice cream.
My mom was not always the most amazing cook or baker, but somehow I have childhood nostalgia for a few recipes we made as kids. My mom’s recipes had a bit of an early burial. After college my sister purchased a used laptop. This was back in the day when a laptop was as thick as a brick, and cell phones were used in cars for emergencies and also looked like bricks. Not long after she purchased the laptop she decided to transfer all of my mom’s recipes over to the laptop and get rid of the paper versions. Made sense at the time right? Not until the laptop died and she lost everything on the hard drive. This was before we had a zillion ways to back up a computer.
It was a sad day. Over the years I have thought about that laptop and all the recipes we lost. I still have some of my mom’s cookbooks, but the recipes on index cards, worn and used are long gone. A few of the recipes I remember and have not tried to recreate, but there was one particular recipe that I have tried countless times to recreate with no success. I have tried to remember the ingredients and put together what I think were the amounts, and I have tried to find a recipe on the Internet with similar ingredients, with no luck. I have had runny finished products, nasty tasting ones, and ones that were just boring. Chris has given up on me finding it. I am relentless. I will try until I find it.
Recently I found this version on Design Sponge. Still not my absolute favorite but it gets closer to the real deal. We were lazy and purchased a pie crust rather than making it from scratch. For the full recipe click the link below (pie crust included). We also just used ice cream rather than their whip cream. To me a good Chocolate Chess Pie should be served warm with cold ice cream to make the pie congeal. A bit like a warm brownie and ice cream. If you have your own version, let me know – I will try it!
In a medium bowl, stir together both sugars, the cornmeal, nutmeg and cocoa powder, mixing until completely combined. Stir in the vanilla, butter, eggs and evaporated milk and mix until fully incorporated. When ready to bake, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell. Place on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the pie and cool for at least one hour. Serve with ice cream.
I am a sucker for a feel good novel. You know the kind that makes you dream about living on a farm or opening up a bakery, regardless of all the work it actually takes to pull such ventures off. Over the weekend as I was finishing up such novel, one of the very last paragraphs on the last page of the book reminded me of my mom and grandma:
“My grandmother’s handwriting filled the yellowed index cards, her letters tall and elegant, directing the creation of breads and cakes, pies and pastries, cookies, and of course, muffins. Even in the faded peacock-blue ink, her words live on.” page 341
The book? The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses. A novel about a woman whose grandma had asked her to deliver a letter for her and then dies, and the journey the woman has to make to unravel a past she did not know about her grandma. A fluffy, fun book? Yes. Still, it was good. She talks about food throughout, and juxtaposes it with the woman (a Manhattan attorney) who is always careful about what she eats only to find comfort in the food she eats on her journey.
I still have a few of the index recipe cards in both my mom and grandma’s handwriting. You can tell how often a dish was made by the grease and spill marks, the worn look of the paper, and sometimes the bleed of a pen. I only have a few remnants of these recipes. At one point many years ago, when laptops became a hot item (although they still looked like bricks) my sister and I transferred the recipes we inherited to her new laptop so we could both have copies, and then not too long later the laptop died and was not able to be resurrected. In some ways it is fine as we have found, explored, and made our own favorite recipes, but there are still a few that linger out there that I have not been able to replicate.
Sometimes Chris asks me if the memory of the time, or the memory and nostalgia of that favorite recipe is strong but if I actually was able to replicate the dish would it still have the same effect on me? I love my mom’s coffee cake, and yet that was not lost (thanks to Betty Crocker). I have even changed it up and added my own twist. There are many that I probably never even know that I am missing. The one that I have tried over and over to recreate with horrible luck was her chocolate chess pie. I remember making it often as a kid and loving it, but each time I try now it is a runny mess. I think Chris has given up on it. So if any of you have a chocolate chess pie recipe that you want to share, I am all ears!
“Have you ever been homesick for someplace that doesn’t actually exist anymore? Someplace that exists only in your mind?” page 103
A quote from the book: “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” by Jenny Lawson. A memoir about her life, at times hilarious, blunt, and sassy. The above quote makes me think of what I often feel. Do you ever go over old memories in your head, sometimes over and over again to see if you still remember the smallest details? I think about things from my childhood that make me nostalgic. Things that made me happy as a kid. Was it my mom’s chocolate chess pie that I LOVED and no longer have the recipe for, but have NEVER been able to recreate. Or, remembering times when we would somehow end up on my parents king size bed laughing and tickling each other. Did that really happen? I know it did, but with so much time that has passed I often wonder, was there one time when that happened, or was it many times that created my memory?
We all have a part of us that sugar coats the bad aspects of life. Often over time we forget the bad parts. The ones that made us cry, or feel horrible about ourselves, or alone. There are times when I make a nice creme brulee shell over the painful parts of my childhood, and others show the raw memories of abuse and abandonment. Which is why I related so much to what Jenny says here:
“He quietly said (as if to himself) that the memories of the places we’d been before were always more golden-tinted in retrospect than they had ever been at the time, and I nodded, surprised that he’d known more than he’d let on. He was right, but I didn’t know if that made it better or worse. Was it worse to be homesick for a time that was once home, but now lived only in your own mind … or to be homesick for a place that never really existed at all?” 103-104
I think my homesickness comes as a picture of what I dreamed a family and home life could have been. When I miss my parents and my family together, it is more from telling myself what it would be like to still have parents that are alive. Parents that I can call up when I am having a hard day, or when I needs some words of advice. Honestly though, my parents were never really those kinds of parents. Maybe I feel that way because they passed on when I was so young, that I had to move on with my life without having them fill the roles of advice giver, supporter, and nurturer. In the end, my imagination of what my relationship could have been if they were alive is what makes me homesick.
Does that mean I am “homesick for a place that never really existed at all?”