The Serpent King + Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie
Book: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
Recipe: Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie
I love the South. I was born in Alabama, raised in Florida, my parents both hail from Mississippi, and my stepdad is from Tennessee. Lunch is dinner and dinner is supper. Front porch swings and sweet iced tea. I love the love that is the South.
Doing my best to avoid spoilers because you need to read this book. Seriously. It was loaned to me by my book friend Steve that received it as part of his Parnassus Next subscription. Book friends are the best friends!
Woody impersonation: Don't have a book friend? GET ONE.
The Serpent King shifts through Dill, Lydia, and Travis and their senior year of high school in Forrestville, Tenneesse. Dill is trying to cope with his father's and grandfather's Pentecostal faith and transgressions. Lydia thinks she's destined for more in the big city with her high flying blog. Travis escapes into his fantasy books to create a better world.
This one is very Deep South with churches that speak in tongues with serpents - betcha didn't guess that - and struggling with family loyalty, creative personalities, and escaping the small town while they still have the chance.
What recipe did I dream up after reading this one?
Chocolate. Pecan. Chess. Pie. You can't get more Southern than Chess Pie and Candied Pecans. Chocolate doesn't hurt either.
It's a rich fudge filling, almost like a par-baked brownie, topped with candied pecans in a flaky crust. Top with whipped cream or serve with ice cream and you have teleported to heaven. Swear.
Here we go!
Pie crust! I forgot to take pictures. I usually do this the day before then let rest in the fridge overnight. Here's my go-to never fail recipe: King Arthur Flour
Roll half of it out on a silpat mat - no moving around or sticking here. (Wouldn't survive a day in the kitchen without these suckers) Then press it into your pie pan.
No need to make a fancy crimped border. This is a rustic pie, and I pipe a little whipped cream later. Much easier than fussing with pie crust!
I like to make pie crust leaves using a plunger cutter for garnish because they're easy, pretty, and tasty. All of the best things!
Here are the stars of the incredibly fudgy filling:
All you need to do is melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate together, then whisk in the evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla bean paste (It's magic. You'll NEVER go back to extract again) Whisk together the rest of the ingredients and stir those in. DONE. 5 minutes tops.
Pour the filling into the crust and toss it in the oven on a sheet tray.
While that's baking whip up the topping! Super easy and SO good. I like a LOT of topping. If you don't you can easily halve the recipe. I'm firmly in the more pecans more awesome camp.
Combine the pecans, brown sugar, and honey. This will either take a lot of stirring or using your hands. If you don't get all of the brown sugar coated with honey it won't melt properly in the oven so stir stir stir! I usually give up half way through and get messy with my (CLEAN) hands! (wash your hands often folks, we are planning on devouring this later) Add the topping evenly over the pie. Back into the oven! Throw the pie crust leaves in now too, they should bake to golden brown by the time the topping is done.
This masterpiece will come out of your oven:
Pipe a little whipped cream and garnish with as many pie crust leaves as you want (also in the more pie crust more better camp as well)
If your family is like my family - size matters. I have this nifty little slice divider from the bakery that I LOVE. No more whining kids about who got the bigger slice!
Welcome to the South, y'all. Happy Baking!
Chocolate Pecan Chess Pie
Adapted from Southern Living Magazine, November 2011
1 pie crust (half of a normal recipe, optional extra dough for garnish leaves)
4oz Butter, Unsalted
2oz Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Squares
1 5oz can Evaporated Milk
2 Large Eggs ( optional, +1 egg for egg wash for leaf garnish)
1 teaspoon of Vanilla Bean Paste (or extract)
10.5oz Granulated Sugar
3 tablespoons Cocoa Powder (preferably dark)
2 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
1/8 teaspoon of Salt
5.5oz Pecan Halves and Pieces
4.66oz Light Brown Sugar
Remove pie crust from fridge (either make the day before or use premade crusts)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out half of crust to approximately a 13 inch circle. Press into a 9" pie plate and trim edges.
Roll out scraps or remaining crust to make leaf garnishes using a small cookie cutter. Brush with egg wash (beat 1 egg with a splash of water and pinch of salt), place on silpat on half sheet and put in fridge.
Microwave butter and unsweetened chocolate until melted and smooth, approximately one minute stirring every 15 seconds. Whisk in eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla bean paste.
Stir together sugar, cocoa, flour, and salt. Add to the chocolate and milk mixture, whisk until smooth.
Pour into crust and bake for 50 minutes.
Stir pecans, honey, and brown sugar until all of the ingredients are damp and thoroughly combined. Add topping evenly to pie and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Bake optional leaf garnishes at the same time on the lower rack.
Cool completely, at least one hour, before garnishing with whipped cream and serving.
This post contains affiliate links so I can buy more butter. MORE BUTTER people. Can't bake without butter.