August 7th, 2013

Kallari Chocolate Chess Pie


Today’s post combines the exotic and the familiar: artisanal chocolate from Ecuador with a Southern staple, chess pie.

Do you know about chess pie? I was first introduced to it after I moved to Nashville many years ago. The tangy-sweet (sometimes teeth-achingly sweet!) egg custard pie is one of the defining desserts of the South that has somewhat of an undefined history.

It was reportedly brought from England to the colonies. It took hold in Virginia, and became a mainstay in kitchens below the Mason-Dixon line. The name “chess” is curious: some say it is called that because pies of this sort were kept in the pie chest–a specific piece of furniture for pie storage. Others assert that it has more to do with the content of the pie itself–a bake of eggs, sugar, butter, and vinegar—so that it’s a play on words, as in, it’s “just pie”, or, in the vernacular, “jest pie.”

In any case, the pie’s neutral palette has lent itself to numerous variations, such as buttermilk chess, lemon chess, and chocolate chess.


When the kind people at Kallari asked me to sample their specialty chocolates (who could resist such a request?) I was more than happy to accept the offer. I was curious to taste the sustainably produced confection in varying strengths: 70%, 75%, and 85%. But I was really interested in using it in a recipe. Chocolate chess pie seemed like a good place to start.

I was also intrigued by the story behind this chocolate.

Over 900 families of the Kichwa, an indigenous people of Ecuadorian Amazon, belong to the Kallari collective. Using sustainable organic practices, they grow, tend, harvest, and ferment the heirloom cacao beans. They make the chocolate in a factory that is four hours away from their cooperative center. This proximity–and hands-on approach– further distinguishes Kallari, as most cacao growers do not fabricate the chocolate. Few have ever tasted really good chocolate. Most beans are shipped to factories in Europe and North America to be roasted, and processed into bars.


Kallari has 2 meanings in the Kichwa language: “To Begin” and “The Early Times”. This is fitting, as the work of the Kallari collective has meant a new start for the growers, while harkening to the heritage of the crops. As a collective, the Kichwa completely own the company, and therefore reap greater earnings for their harvest than if they sold their beans to another company for fair trade pay. Three varieties of cacao beans that flourish on the Kichwa lands go into making the chocolate, each contributing to the complexity of the bars.

The result is astonishing, swoon-worthy. Eaten out of hand, the 70% chocolate has such creamy mouthfeel, very like milk chocolate, except that it is dark, with notes of caramel and berry. The 75% is richer still, yet silken, with nuances of tropical fruits, and a little peppery bite.


The 85% has firm snap, earthy almost smoky richness with an undercurrent of fruit–a bit bitter and dry to eat out of hand, but an ideal chocolate to bake into my pie.


Much loved for its taste, a chess pie is well-appreciated for its easy-as-pie method. Chocolate chess follows suit. Likely I spent more time making the pie crust than on the filling…


…which gets a kickstart in the microwave, melting the chocolate, butter, and sugars together. Whisk in the eggs, vanilla, a splash of bourbon–you can do this all by hand in a blink.


In no time, you could be pouring this lush filling into the pie shell. Thirty minutes later, you could be having a cup of coffee and a slice of chocolate chess pie. (add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, slices of ripe peach, fresh blackberry puree–ah, sublime!)

Make it with Kallari chocolate, and you are doing good, while feasting well. You can order it from them or check at Whole Foods–many of them carry it.)


2.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup raw sugar, such as Demerara or Turbinado
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

unbaked pie shell

Into a large microwaveable bowl, place chocolate, chopped or broken into pieces, along with butter, and both sugars. Microwave for about a minute to melt the butter and chocolate. Stir and microwave for another 30 seconds, to make sure that all the chocolate and butter is melted.

Whisk in the vanilla and bourbon, until the mixture is smooth. Beat in eggs (using the same whisk) one at a time–adding the second egg after the first is incorporated.

Beat in flour and salt.

Pour into a prepared, unbaked pie shell.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.

Remove and cool on a pie/cake rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 8


Posted in Chocolate, Desserts, Recipes

20 Responses to “Kallari Chocolate Chess Pie”
  1. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    I’ve always wondered about the name of this pie, yet still haven’t tried a slice of one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it here in San Francisco, in a shop or restaurant. I’ll have to make my own. The buttermilk version intrigues me, as does your use of the 85% bar in a pie that is “sometimes teeth-achingly sweet!” I’m sure the bittersweet dark chocolate was just what it needed.

  2. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Denise, the buttermilk version can be really really delicious, if made with whole buttermilk, and not too much sugar. I should post on it sometime, with a good recipe. This chocolate chess has the right balance of sweet and bitter.

  3. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    Here it is before 6 am and you have me yearning for a piece of that pie.I love learning the origin of food names. Enjoy the chocolate!

  4. goodfoodmatters Says:

    good morning Michele–I don’t blame you! It’s scarcely dawn and I am contemplating the Last Piece, as I sip my cup of coffee. The Kallari chocolate is quite good, and the pie, made with any quality chocolate, is a simple joy. Hope you move is going well.

  5. Samantha Says:

    I’m wondering how the crust underneathe gets ‘done’ since the pie isn’t going into the oven at a higher temperature, then lowered.

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Samantha,
    The pie filling is dense and not very thick in the pie shell.
    The crust underneath browned nicely for me. I used a glass pie dish, and I think that a stainless steel one would work just as well.

  7. fluffy Says:

    I can attest to the richness of this pie. I wanted the last piece!

  8. Joyti Says:

    Ah, that looks so decadent and delicious! I’ve never had chess pie, I’ll have to check it out.

  9. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    For all my years living in the south, I never had chess pie. Your version sounds wonderful.

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Joyti, Hope you are doing well!

    Karen, That surprises me. And, is giving me yet another nudge to make a traditional chess pie, vinegar, cornmeal and all!

  11. Juliana Says:

    I never had chess pie, and I can tell you now that I sure enjoy having a slice of this pie now…with a scoop of vanilla ice cream…yum!
    Hope you are having a lovely week Nancy :D

  12. Patsy Says:

    I have two other tales about the origin of chess pie:

    One is that the gentleman of the house announced after supper that his chess club would be there shortly and require refreshments. This pie takes only on-hand ingredients, and his wife (or cook) depending on the tale easily had it ready when required.

    The other version plays off the previous one in that the ingredients are those commonly found on hand in a kitchen “chest” or cabinet.

    I have a dear friend’s grandmother’s recipe which is well over 100 years old – people still love it!

  13. goodfoodmatters Says:

    great chess pie tales, Patsy! Thanks for sharing them.

  14. NaturesComplete Says:

    I am going to have to go find me some of that chocolate. I love dark chocolate and will have to resist eating it so that I can try this pie recipe out. It looks amazing. thanks for the post.

  15. Ellen Says:

    Great story and the chocolate sounds amazing.
    I will check their website to find out how to get it

  16. Teresa, food on fifth Says:

    I have not had this brand of chocolate but I am crazy about the packaging. Very beautiful. Your pie is even more beautiful. Chocolate pie is my favorite dessert when it is rich and dark like your recipe. Lovely my dear.

  17. Beth Says:

    Chess pie really is a lovely treat, and the better quality chocolate you use, the better the pie would taste. I wish I could eat a slice right now!

  18. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    now this brings me back to my grandmother’s house sitting on her back porch swing after a thanksgiving meal and eating chess pie! It is scrumptious and delicious and so rich and just perfect! I love your version with the little extra raw sugar that we don’t normally do. a must try for sure

  19. 2 Sisters Recipes Says:

    Good Morning Nancy! This is a wonderful pie recipe! SO easy – my style of baking too! I love the Bourbon added. My family would absolutely love this pie!
    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Tammy Says:

    Wow. I also grew up with chocolate pie but have never attempted more than a berry tart.

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