Blood Orange Chess Pie

published Nov 10, 2020
Blood Orange Chess Pie

Chess pie is perfect for winter months when fresh fruit is slim. The creamy pie is the perfect vehicle to incorporate your favorite citrus, like blood orange.


Prep20 minutes

Cook1 minute to 20 minutes

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Credit: Brittany Conerly

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Chess pie is perfect for winter months when fresh fruit is slim. The creamy pie is the perfect vehicle to incorporate your favorite citrus, like blood orange. While the filling is typically strained, I opt for a rustic approach that keeps all the texture and perfume from the zest, plus additional cornmeal for more body. It creates a layered effect with a silky custard base and floats a slightly caramelized top from the cornmeal and sugar. If par-baking has been daunting in the past, try using readily available sugar — the tiny granules are easy to press into the nooks of a pie shell and keep the walls supported. Pass it through a mesh strainer to use again.

Credit: Brittany Conerly

Blood Orange Chess Pie

Chess pie is perfect for winter months when fresh fruit is slim. The creamy pie is the perfect vehicle to incorporate your favorite citrus, like blood orange.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 1 minute to 20 minutes

Serves 8

Nutritional Info


For the flaky all butter pie crust:

  • 1 1/2 sticks

    cold unsalted butter (6 ounces)

  • 1 1/4 cups

    all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons

    granulated sugar, plus more for filling the pie shell

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    apple cider vinegar

  • Ice water

  • 1

    large egg

For the filling:

  • 1 1/4 cup

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    stone ground cornmeal

  • 1 tablespoon

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated blood orange zest

  • 1 tablespoon

    finely grated lemon zest

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 5 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 5

    large eggs

  • 3/4 cup

    heavy cream

  • 2/3 cup

    freshly squeezed blood orange juice

  • 2 tablespoons

    freshly squeezed lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla paste or vanilla extract


Make the pie dough:

  1. Cut 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Add 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and toss to combine.

  2. Press the butter between your index finger and thumbs using a slow snapping motion to create large shards of butter. Rotate through all the pieces of butter until they have all been flattened out and semi incorporated in flour. The mixture should look lumpy. There will be time to incorporate the flour further into dough later.

  3. Add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, then add ice water 1 tablespoon at a time while tossing the flour mixture to absorb each addition. Add just enough water until the dough comes together when squeezed, about 2 1/2 tablespoons water total. Lightly dust the counter with more flour and gently bring the dough together just until it forms a ball. It will require a small amount of kneading, about 2 to 3 turns. Avoid using too much bench flour and over kneading. Add a few sprinkles of ice water if the dough is too dry.

  4. Roll the dough gently into a rough 4 x 8-inch rectangle. Brush off any excess flour. Using a bench scraper, fold the dough half. Repeat rolling and folding once more to create an easy lamination. At this point you should still be able to see dots and streaks of butter in the dough.

  5. Lightly press a rolling pin into the dough to help form it into a round that’s about 1-inch thick. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

Prepare the pie shell:

  1. Let the pie dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes before rolling. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Fold gently in half and transfer it to a 9-inch pie dish. Leaving a 1/2-inch border for a decorative crust, trim and reserve any excess dough.

  2. Prick the bottom of the pie with a fork, then transfer to the freezer while you make the decorative wreath. Wipe the rolling pin clean and scrape any excess flour from the work surface. Generously dust both sides of all the dough scraps with flour and roll between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick. If needed, re-roll scraps once. Cut 1-inch squares out with a fluted pastry wheel, pizza cutter, or knife.

  3. Transfer the squares to a baking sheet or plate with an offset spatula. Dust the squares with flour to ensure they do not stick together and freeze for a few minutes.

Assemble the crust:

  1. Beat 1 large egg with 1 tablespoon water. Lightly brush the edges of the pie crust with the egg wash. Shake off excess flour from the frozen pastry squares and lay the squares in an overlapping fashion around the rim. Overlap each piece by half with the corner of each square pointing in one direction, it will create a diamond-like pattern. Press down on the corner of the square attached to the rim to secure it, don’t worry, any messiness will be covered with the next square. Add dab of egg wash between squares while applying if necessary.

  2. Lightly brush the rim with more egg wash if it dries out. Tuck the last square under the first square to create an infinity circle of pastry squares. Freeze pie shell for 15 minutes or overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Par-bake the pie shell:

  1. Place a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven, then heat the oven to 400°F.

  2. Arrange 2 large sheets of crinkled parchment paper perpendicular to each other over the crust, making sure they cover the entire pie shell and crust (this prevents over browning during the final bake). Check if all the squares are attached securely, if not dab the pieces with egg wash, otherwise they might slide off during baking.

  3. Fill the parchment paper-lined pie shell with granulated sugar until it reaches the rim – gently push the sugar towards the edges, it won’t be exact, but it will help the border maintain its shape and keep the walls from shrinking.

  4. Bake on the heated baking sheet for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment with sugar (keep the sugar for future use). Prick the bottom of the crust again with a fork. Bake until the bottom is set, 3 to 5 minutes more. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Prepare the filling and bake the pie:

  1. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F. Place 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, 1/4 cup cornmeal, 1 tablespoon blood orange zest, 1 tablespoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.

  2. Melt 5 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add to the flour mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in 5 large eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before the next, without adding too much air. Add 3/4 cup heavy cream, 2/3 cup blood orange juice, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract, and whisk to combine. Pour into the cooled par-baked pie shell.

  3. Bake pie on a rimmed baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven until golden and center has a slight wobble (it will continue to cook as it cools), about 55 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent overbaking. Turn off heat and leave pie in the oven slightly open to cool gently and prevent the custard from cracking. Transfer to a wire rack after an hour; let cool completely, 4 to 5 hours.

Recipe Notes

Make-ahead: Refrigerate well-wrapped dough for 2 to 3 days or freeze up to 3 months. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Storage: The pie can be kept at room temperature for 1 day or refrigerated for 3 days.

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