Thursday, September 11, 2014

Chess Pie or Transparent Pudding

Chess Pie or Transparent Pudding
This fine old pie was introduced to me as a kid by my
Great-Grandmother Elma. In the old South it was a favorite.

Before refrigeration, many pies would go bad. When taken from the oven, they were put in special cabinets known as pie chests with screening over holes in the sides allowing the air to cool. This kept the flies off. The pie was mostly sugar which is a natural preservative. So these pies could keep for more than a week setting in these chests or “Pie safes”.
They say the name “Chess” came from the habit of dropping the final letter of the word “Chest”. But that is just a guess. Frankly I never saw one last long because it was so good. Even if they only served it in a tiny sliver. Be warned as to its sweetness!
My Great-grandmother's recipes were only lists of ingredients so that she would not forget anything. slave has searched for decades to find just the right amounts of each. This is the result.
It is presented here to honor a new friend, Capt. Eric. A true gentleman and son of the south. It might not be just the taste that he remembers, however the chances are it has been a long time since he has had any. Anyway, I hope he and “you all” enjoy this sliver of the past.

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 unbaked (9-inch) pie shell

Wrap foil on your pizza stone. Set in middle of oven and let it preheat to 375 degrees.

Slave used a frozen pre-made pie crust which is set inside of the same sized pie pan for strength when moving. Don't just trust those foil pans.

In the mixer, cream the sugar and butter together then add the flour.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, and vanilla together for 30 seconds, until they are well combined.
Stream this into the sugar as the mixer is running. (Some add a tbs of white vinegar at this point) 


Let that run until the filling is smooth and there are no visible lumps. Pour the filling into the shell. Be careful and do not fill to the top!
Sprinkle the top with ground nutmeg. Place on the foil covered pizza stone already in the oven and let bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTE: This filling will swell up high and might spill over: that is the reason for the foil! When the pie cools, it will collapse and probably crack. This is normal for this type of pie. So keep an eye on it! If you notice the crust is getting too dark cover it with strips of foil.
This pie will continue to cook after you take it out. So it is OK if it is just a little jiggly when you put it on the cooling rack. 



                                          Elma Lulu Merrick Bickel
                                                    Oct 22 1876  -  Jan 19  1972

Let me introduce you to my great-grandmother Elma, as slave remembers her: 
“Why are you on the floor, Grandma? What’s wrong? Did you fall?” I cried out to my great-grandmother and ran to her. She raised her head off her kitchen floor and smiled up at me.

She laughed, “Oh my darling Danny, nothing is wrong. “Come over here and look what I’m doing.” She had her carpenters pencil and a rusty old piece of metal she called a “right angle”. She had been drawing lines on her linoleum.
“See how I hold the right angle as I slowly slide the pencil down the side just using it as a guide. “That way the line is straight.”

Elma’s tongue slowly showed on her lower lip as she drew. I knew that look well, she was building something. Being in her eighties never kept her from doing things that were very un-grandma like.

“But Grandma, why are you drawing on the floor?” I did not say, “If I had tried that, you would tell me to go find the stick.”

Sometimes that was the worst part of a “Switching”. I wouldn’t want to get a very big stick because it would hurt too much. On the other hand if I got one too small, I would just get sent out again. Then I'd get even more whacks on the back of my legs. Grandma would hardly ever switch me but I knew from experience what she could do.

Her eyes sparkled up at me. She knew what I was thinking. “Now honey, there is a difference between scribbling and carefully marking a project. “See how my lines make a pattern?”

“But Grandma, why draw a pattern on the floor” I asked.

“Well, I thought the floor looked rather plain. “Once I get these drawn I’ll come back with a small brush and paint. “You’ll see. “It will look like I have expensive tile down here, or maybe a fancy little rug.”

She looked around, “Would you like to help me?” Her voice lowered to that special tone she used. This was going to be a “secret”, I loved that tone!

She looked me in the eyes and said: “Now, you don’t need to go tell your “Ore-mom” about this until we’re done.” How did she read my mind so well? Grandma was so much more fun than “Ore-mom”. There were “special projects” nearly everyday up here in the attic. This was made into an apartment for my great-grandmother. 

 My brother and I loved having her around. We never knew what she would do next. Some days the attic would fill with the sound of the old reed organ she would pump with her feet. Other times, we would hear hammering or the “rasp ah, rasp ah, rasp” of her hand saw. Life with her around was an adventure! So I was quick to join in.
“Grandma, why does Ore-mom get upset when you do something up here?”

“Well Danny, your “Ore-mom” is my daughter”, she had slowed her words watching me pull the pencil. “Yes, some times she worries because she loves us so much.”

“But Grandma, why does she have to fuss so much about everything, all the time?”

“Now Danny, watch what you are doing there. “Here’s an eraser, we’ll just rub that part out. “Try not to hold the right angle so hard, when you hold it too hard it slips. “As to Lura worrying, now where should I start with that?, she said absent minded toward the window. “They had a tough time when she and your “Oredaddy” were married and your mommy was about your age. “Everybody had to work very hard to make ends meet.”

“Grandma that was a long time ago. “Why does she get mad when you are building something up here?”

“Now that, young man, is the type of thing I want you to think about and come up with the answer for me, OK?”

With our lines drawn, (she had me do mine over), she pried open a small can of brown enamel. It smelled horrible! I yanked my head back and made a face. I was used to such nice smells in her kitchen. Her food was never fancy, but all of the love she put into it made for some of my best taste memories. This sure wasn’t cooking. She was stirring the enamel with an old screwdriver.

“Gee Grandma, that’s some strange soup your stirring.”

She let out a cackle. It was a special kind of laugh she did when something caught her “funny bone” that she hadn't seen coming. “I guess your old Grandma is always stirring up something here, isn’t she?”

She was never too busy. She never had to finish her book. She never had to ask: “Don’t you see I’m talking on the phone?”

It made no difference what she was doing. If my brother or I interrupted something, she would give us the biggest smile and use it as a chance to show us how to do something. If that wouldn’t work, she'd say, “pull up a chair.” Then she would tell us a story as she kept working. She had all kinds of stories about stuff that happened when she was young. There were times we thought she was being boring on purpose and excuse ourselves to go off and play. Grandma was living with us now and I could come back for cookies and stories whenever I felt like it.

Today I think: “Oh, if only.”

Yet also today, is wonderful for I get to serve my Master Indy. It truly is a fulfillment of what I was born to do.


To satisfy and restore.
To nourish, support and maintain.
To gratify, spoil, comfort and please,
to nurture, assist, and sustain
..I cook!

Please buy slave's cookbook:

The Little Black Book of Indiscreet Recipes by Dan White via @amazon

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