Chocolate Chess Pie

On Saturday, September 14, 1822, twenty-eight subscribers raised $234 “for the support of an Episcopal Minister” in Lynchburg, Virginia, which led to the foundation of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It was not the first church in the town of Lynchburg. That honor goes to the Methodist Church, inspired by the preaching of Bishop Francis Asbury in 1804 and erected in 1805, the same year that Virginia’s General Assembly incorporated Lynchburg as a town.

Both the town and church grew and prospered. By 1840, more than six thousand people lived in Lynchburg and in the 1850’s Lynchburg was one of the richest towns per capita in the United States. The congregation of St. Paul’s moved into a new larger church on Easter Sunday in 1851 and in 1895 into the large Romanesque building that, with modern additions, still houses the congregation.

Since the church was founded, the women of St. Paul’s have been actively involved in Lynchburg, organizing the first public school classes for needy children in 1856 and creating the Episcopal Cot Society to help provide medical care at the local hospital. They are also cooks. In 1995 to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of their current church building, they published a cookbook, One Hundred Years of Heavenly Cooking, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1895-1995.

This recipe for Chocolate Chess Pie from that cookbook is a genuine southern delicacy that is easy to make and eat. If you like moist brownies, hot fudge sundaes and soft chocolate fudge, I can guarantee that you will love this pie.


1 1/2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 stick margarine
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup sugar
2 T flour
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 T milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 inch) unbaked pie crust


Preheat the oven to 425º and put the eggs in a small bowl of warm water.

Melt the chocolate and margarine together in a saucepan over low heat. Mix the sugars and flour together. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture and stir well.

Beat the eggs lightly so the yolks and whites are mixed but not a lemon yellow. Stir the milk and vanilla into the eggs and stir these liquid ingredients into the chocolate mixture. Stir for two or three minutes until all the ingredients are thoroughly blended together.

Pour the filling into the crust. Bake the pie on a center shelf for twenty-two to twenty-six minutes until the crust that forms on the top of the filling begins to crack. Ovens vary so watch the crust.

Serve with milk, tea or coffee.

NOTES: People sometimes ask how a chess pie differs from a custard pie. As you can tell from my recipe for custard pie, eggs are mixed into milk, sugar and flavorings and are baked to create a delicate smooth custard. A chess pie always includes some flour or cornmeal besides the eggs to help set the custard. In most cases, chess pies also have more sugar in them than do custard pies. Both are delicious.

Though the original recipe calls for an eight inch pie plate, I used a nine inch, and the pie turned out just fine, if a little thinner.

Joyce’s Angel Pecan Pie

Like all of us, Jerri’s sister-in-law, Joyce, had a couple of little quirks that give her a special place in our memories. For instance, Jerri and I have occasional attacks of neatness, but for Joyce neatness was a chronic condition. She disliked clutter. When my T-shirts are no longer suitable for polite company, Jerri turns them into cleaning rags. Joyce took worn clothes to a recycling center. There were no rags in her home.

If you wanted to reread a story from last Sunday’s newspaper, you would be out of luck in Joyce’s household. When a meal was over, she got up and did the dishes rather than stalling an hour in the hope that some kitchen elves would do the job for her. They have never lent me a helping hand, but one would think that they would have left her kitchen spotless if she had only given them the chance. Like the cobbler in the story, she was a very generous Christian lady.

Her daughter, Lori, told us of another of Joyce’s quirks a few years ago. Every year when the family sat down for dinner on Christmas Day, there was a cut glass bowl filled with beautiful sweet canned Mandarin oranges on the table. Joyce never explained why she served canned oranges on Christmas Day, and Lori never asked. As you might expect, she grew up thinking that they were an expensive gourmet treat.

Lori learned otherwise when she moved away from home and started doing her own shopping. “You can even buy them at Kroger’s!” she said, “and they’re cheap! Maybe they weren’t when Mom and Dad were first married,” she mused as she told Jerri the story. It’s a mystery. My guess is that Joyce’s mother made sure that Mandarin orange slices were a part of Christmas dinner. Tevye, the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, has the explanation: “Tradition!!”

There is, however, no mystery about why Joyce made made Angel Pecan Pie. She didn’t like to make pie crusts. Angel Pecan Pie makes its own crust. It is absurdly easy to make and is just plain delicious. Jerri asked for the recipe and Joyce obliged. It is an attractive pie suitable for serving to special guests and it is so easy to make that your family can enjoy it often. Jerri likes it because it is not as sweet as traditional pecan pie. I like anything covered with whipped cream.


4 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup whipping cream
Another dash of salt
1 heaping T granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 300º and grease a nine-inch pie plate. Beat four egg whites until stiff peaks form. Mix the dry ingredients together and blend in the egg whites. Spread the batter in the pie plate and bake the pie for thirty minutes. A toothpick inserted near the center of the pie will come out clean when the pie is done.

Remove the pie from the oven, allow it to cool thoroughly on a rack, then refrigerate it for at least a couple of hours.

Whip a cup of whipping cream flavored with a generous tablespoon of sugar, a dash of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla. Spread the whipped cream on the pie and refrigerate until you serve it.