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History of the Chess Pie

Brown Sugar Chess Pie

By: Abby A, Pie Bar Marietta

If you've ever come into Pie Bar, then you'll know we love a good chess pie! Year-round we have our Chocolate Chess, and our fun Fall flavor, Brown Sugar Chess! Chocolate Chess is like a fudgy brownie in a pie crust, and our Brown Sugar Chess is like a blondie with some sea salt on top! Who doesn't love decadent, rich treats like these?!

Have you ever wondered what makes Chess pie so thick? The answer is... drum roll please... cornmeal! Cornmeal is a classic thickener for many desserts. Cornmeal is so great because it thickens the dessert and makes it denser without expanding the dessert itself. Fun fact: cornmeal can also be used for gardening!

Where does the name "chess" come from? There's a few different origins! First of all, Chess Pie is from the South. One story is that it was called a "chest" pie, since it was made with anything found in your chest, or pantry, but because of the Southern accent, it turned into "chess." Another story is that a woman who whipped up the recipe called it "just pie," which with the Southern accent, it turned into "chess" pie. Another fun story is that a lady published the pie recipe in a cookbook. The pie was unnamed, but it was described as a variation of cheesecake. They say you can make a cheesecake without the cheese curd! Since then, the word "cheese" in the name was simplified to "chess," therefore making Chess Pie.

The first time a Chess Pie recipe was published was in Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, published in 1902. And yes, it's Martha Washington, as in the first First Lady. Like mentioned before, the recipe was not named. The basic ingredients were a quart of cream, a dozen eggs, a pound of butter, and a pound of flour. The ingredients are very simple, and are things that were typically kept in bulk in pantries in the older times (y'know, the times the first First Lady was alive). The mindset of using whatever you have in your kitchen is still alive today. For instance, I make sandwiches out of whatever bread, meat, cheese, and seasonings I can find! Anyone can be a chef if they try!

Pie Bar's Chess Pies are more modern than Martha Washington's recipes. We don't use a pound of butter or flour for just one pie, but we do use the previously-mentioned cornmeal to make it seem like we do! Our Chocolate Chess is a classic flavor that we keep year-round. At least twice a week, we have newcomers stop in and look at our Chocolate Chess, then rave about the homemade Chess Pie that their very Southern grandmother would make. Every time they get a slice, they are blown away by how similar it is to their grandma's classic Chess Pie from '79. Another Chess Pie we have here at Pie Bar is Brown Sugar Chess, which is a staff favorite. People will come in having never heard of it and leave with their new favorite pie flavor! We describe it as a blondie in an oat pie crust with a sprinkle of sea salt on top. It's the perfect sweet-and-salty flavor! It's a great pie for the fall, and we occasionally bring it back in the spring! The last chess pie we make is our Lemon Bar pie, which we offer during the spring, typically as an Easter Vault Release. The Lemon Bar pie is closer to a custard, like a traditional cheesecake-like chess pie. For a while, we called it Lemon Chess, until we decided Lemon Bar was more fitting since it was like a lemon bar dessert. It still follows the idea of the classic "chess" pie described from Martha Washington herself. 

All of our Chess Pies here at Pie Bar are bound to bring joy to everyone who enjoys them. Want a slice of Chocolate Chess? Have it warm with ice cream! Brown Sugar Chess? Warm it up and enjoy with some coffee! If you're looking to come in on Easter weekend for our Lemon Bar, try it with a cup of coffee or a latte! Knowing the history of Chess Pie only adds to the fun of enjoying it yourself or with a friend! Now you have some fun pie facts to share with anyone and everyone!

Hope to see y'all for some Chess Pie soon!