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Like a brownie, dressed up just a little and out for a night on the town


My friend Carol Thomason Price told me about her mother’s stellar reputation as a cook, and for that I am deeply grateful. Mrs. Betty Thomason generously shared two of her recipes with me, one for classic chess pie, and the other for this chocolate chess pie. Luscious pleasure, it’s heavenly just as it is; and with a good-sized cloud of barely-sweetened whipped cream on the side, perfection. Keep unsweetened chocolate on hand in your baking pantry, and you will never be more than a few minutes away from the rewards of this marvelous deep-flavored pie. Consider making it into small tarts by lining the cups of a mini-muffin pan with pastry, pinching up a small rim about the surface of the pan, and filling them a good 3/4 full. They should bake off in 10 to 15 minutes, depending on your pan and your oven. Watch for that puffing up and slight cracking, and test the center of a tiny tart — When a knife blade comes out clean, no filling sticking to it, they’re ready to come out of the oven, cool down, and disappear, leaving only smiles.

Betty Thomason’s Chocolate Chess Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch piecrust

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter (1 stick; 4 ounces)

1 square (1 ounce) unsweetened chocolate

1 cup sugar

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a small bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla, and salt, and stir with a fork to beat the eggs and mix everything together well. Cut the butter into 3 or 4 chunks, and chop the chocolate into 4 chunks. Combine them in a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook, swirling or stirring often, until the chocolate and butter melt, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir them together into a smooth sauce. Remove from the stove, add the sugar and stir well to dissolve it into the chocolate mixture. Add the egg mixture and stir with a fork or a whisk until everything comes together into a smooth, dark, shiny chocolate filling. Pour the filling into the piecrust and bake in the 325 degree F oven, until the pie puffs up, the surface cracks, the crust is nicely browned, and the filling is fairly firm all the way through, 35 to 45 minutes. You can test by carefully inserting the tip of a sharp knife, or a toothpick, into the center of the pie. It should come out clean, even though the filling may still be tender. Place the pie on a cooling rack or folded kitchen towel and cool to room temperature.

This recipe comes from Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes, from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan by Nancie McDermott (Chronicle Books, October 2010). All rights reserved.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.

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