Chess pie is a sweet delicacy from the United States south; it is a filling dessert. The crust consists of flour, eggs, and butter, while the filling consists of granulated sugar, cornmeal, vanilla, or lemon. However, the magic that is chess pie can be easily broken by one thing that sadly occurs more frequently than you’d think- it can get runny. So why is your chess pie runny, and how to fix it?
Covering the pie with a top crust, not chilling the crust dough, not pre-baking the crust, whipping the filling too much or too little, not allowing it enough time to settle after baking, not baking enough, and too little flour or cornmeal in the filling can make your chess pie runny.
Chess pie is a very simple and easy-to-make dessert and is a welcomed guest on your holiday table; however, a runny chess pie can ruin the mood. Still, it would be best if you didn’t despair, as there are things you can do to prevent this from happening. Therefore, in the following paragraphs, I will explain why your chess pie gets runny and share some tips on making a delicious and stable chess pie.
Is Your Chess Pie Supposed to Be Runny? Why Does It Happen?
It is not uncommon for chess pie to turn out runny, as the filling consistency needs to be just right for it to be stable. Although your chess pie is supposed to be creamy and somewhat jiggly in the middle, it isn’t supposed to be runny, especially since you don’t put a top crust on a chess pie.
Custard-style pies tend to turn out runny, so if this happens, it happens for a couple of reasons.
Covering the Pie with a Top Crust
Although covering a pie with a top crust is customary in pie-baking, chess pie doesn’t require you to cover it. The filling contains flour/cornmeal, which will bake nicely and double as a top crust keeping the creaminess and softness of the filling underneath. Therefore covering the pie with a top crust will lock in the moisture from the filling ingredients making the flour/cornmeal reabsorb.
If the cornmeal/flour reabsorbs the moisture from the filling, it will become soggy and most likely lumpy, ruining the continuity of the chess pie interior.
Not Chilling the Crust Dough
After making the crust dough, you should let it chill in the fridge for half an hour before you roll it out. The dough needs to rest for some time to bond to a stable substance. Rolling your crust dough immediately after making it will result in an unstable crust that will hardly hold the filling.
After you chill the crust, roll it out and fit it to the pan and then chill again so that it gets into the pan’s shape more quickly.
Not Pre-Baking the Crust
Not pre-baking the crust will most likely result in a runny chess pie. By filling the crust without pre-baking it, the moisture from the crust will get absorbed in the filling, increasing its liquidity.
Whipping the Filling Too Much
To make the filling, you must whip the eggs, butter, and flour/cornmeal together. Whipping the filling too hard or too long will break the bonds between the ingredients, which will make it almost impossible to have a stable chess pie.
While baking, these bonds will not repair but will additionally break due to the evaporation of the moisture. This will not only give you a runny chess pie but will cause the filling to slide right off the crust.
Whipping the Filling Too Little
Not homogenizing the chess pie filling correctly will cause a lumpy filling. The lumps in the filling will be the cornmeal/flour all balled up. These flour/cornmeal lumps will absorb the moisture from the liquid filling ingredients (the eggs and the melted butter), giving you a chess pie that is dry in some places and very runny in others.
No Time to Settle
Even though you’ve been very careful making everything right, your chess pie will still turn out runny if you don’t allow it enough time to settle after baking. This means that you need to leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours so that the ingredients seal together and give the filling a chance to additionally harden.
Not Baking Enough
The golden brown color of the crust can often trick us into thinking that the chess pie is done when it isn’t ready to take out yet. Not baking your chess pie enough is the most frequent reason standing behind a runny chess pie. To ensure that your pie is ready, put a toothpick or a knife in the middle and the edges.
From the middle, the toothpick or knife should come out with no more than a slight smear, and from the edges, it should come out dry.
Adding Too Little Cornmeal/Flour
The cornmeal/flour is an essential component of chess pie, as it doubles as the top crust. Adding too little cornmeal/flour will mean that your filling lacks consistency and will undoubtedly result in a runny pie.
How to Fix Runny Chess Pie?
Sadly, there are more reasons why your chess pie gets runny than solutions to fix a runny chess pie. However, even though there aren’t many solutions, those that exist work very well.
If your chess pie gets runny, the simplest thing is to leave it on the oven rack with your door open. This will allow the excess moisture to evaporate from the oven and your chess pie, which will likely stabilize the consistency of the filling.
Another solution is to take the pie out of the pan very carefully and leave it on the oven rack, which is on your counter. Taking out the pie from the pan will release all the moisture sealed under it, and the chances are that it will solve your runny pie problem.
The third solution is to refrigerate your chess pie longer than what would be otherwise necessary. Place it in the fridge uncovered, but see that you have enough space on the top shelf and, if you can, remove anything smelly from the fridge.
The last option is a combination of the previous three. Do all the steps described above if your pie is very runny, and choose only one or two of them if it is runny in moderation.
How Do You Know if Your Chess Pie Is Done?
To keep track of your pie most accurately, it is best to check it by placing a knife or a toothpick in the middle and on one of the edges. A ready pie will leave a thin smear on the knife/toothpick from the middle, and the edges will leave the toothpick/knife clean.
Usually, if the crus color is golden brown, it suggests that the pie is ready, but that’s not the best indicator, as the middle can still be underdone.
How Long Do You Cook Chess Pie?
Chess pie usually takes about 40 to 50 minutes to bake. Preheat the oven for about 20 minutes at about 350 °F (180 °C); for the first ten minutes, you should bake the pie at that temperature.
After the initial ten minutes, lower the temperature to 300 °F (150 °C) and continue baking for another 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the speed of your appliance.
Ten minutes before the time is up, check your pie to be sure if it’s ready to take it out.
Can You Put an Undercooked Chess Pie Back in the Oven?
Yes, you can pop your undercooked chess pie back in the oven. Cover your pie with an aluminum foil and poke a few holes in the foil. Pop it back in the oven for another 15 minutes at 400 °F (200 °C).