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  1. Place a rack on the lowest rung of your oven and preheat to 375°F.

  2. To prepare the crust: Roll the pastry out to a 13" circle and place it in an ungreased 9" pie pan. Trim and crimp the edges. Chill the crust for 15 minutes.

  3. Line the pan with foil or parchment, place pie weights inside, and bake the crust for 15 minutes.

  4. Remove the crust from the oven, remove the lining and weights, and return to the oven for 5 more minutes.

  5. Remove the baked crust from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes.

  6. To make the filling: Whisk together the filling ingredients and pour into the cooled crust.

  7. Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake it for 45 to 50 minutes, until the center is just barely set and the top is golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool completely before cutting.

  8. Refrigerate any leftovers. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.

Tips from our Bakers

  • For a unique twist on this classic, turn it into Lemon Lavender Chess Pie. Bring the cream for the filling to a simmer and stir in 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons dried lavender buds. Cover and let the mixture steep for 4 hours: 2 hours at room temperature, then 2 hours in the refrigerator. Strain the cream, pressing on the buds to extract all the liquid. Use the cream to make the filling as directed, decreasing the vanilla to 1 teaspoon, and stirring in 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest.
  • How does this differ from a classic custard pie? The filling in custard pie is somewhat soft and very silky. The filling in chess pie — of which there are many flavors — is more solid on the tongue: think light-textured but solid cheesecake, rather than soft custard.
  • Where does the name "chess" come from? Some food historians say it's a takeoff on "cheese," as in English cheese pies, as in American cheesecake — whose filling is of a consistency similar to chess pie. Others say chess refers to the chest in which pies used to be kept; due to the high degree of sugar, chess pies didn't need to be refrigerated (though in these days of heightened awareness of food safety, we do recommend refrigeration). One final theory holds that chess refers to the simplicity of the pie itself. "What kind of pie is that?" "Jes' pie." Chess pie.