This handsome dude up above is my husband and he’s turning 29. Not even thirty! He’s still a spring chicken.
For as long as I have known him, his eating habits have been perplexing to me. He is often doing things like asking for hot tea in the middle of summer, claiming that he doesn’t ever get food cravings, or declaring that his favorite food is vegetables. So when I asked him what kind of cake he wanted for his birthday, I shouldn’t have been surprised when he said, “None.”
But I was surprised and very upset. Where I come from, it’s not a birthday without cake (ice cream cake counts), candles, and a birthday song. Unfortunately, Alex…just likes pie. Fine, just as long as there are still candles and a birthday song, pie it is. After a battle to find out what kind of pie he wanted, the answer came to us in the form of a television show.
A while back we were re-watching episodes of Psyche and the episode “Dual Spires” came on. It is their spoof episode of Twin Peaks. Playing on Agent Cooper’s love of the cherry pie at the Double R in Twin Peaks, Sean fell in love with the cinnamon pie at the Sawmill Diner in Dual Spires. Alex decided that cinnamon pie was the only pie worthy of his birthday. The only problem? I had no idea what a cinnamon pie was. Challenge accepted.
A few weeks later, at a party, I was explaining to friends how I was trying to figure out the best way to make said cinnamon pie. My friend’s husband suggested a chess pie. He told me (his wife is a baker) that it was made with a bit of cornmeal, which thickens the filling. That was it, I was sold.
I looked through several recipes. As usual, Joy the Baker gave me a solid base to start from. I made a few changes and, obviously, added a boatload of cinnamon. This pie took me two tries. The first pie, while tasty, wasn’t cinnamony enough to be considered a proper cinnamon pie. The second pie, though, was impressively cinnamony, but not overwhelming. Just perfect.
Cinnamon Chess Birthday Pie
A variation of this recipe from Joy the Baker.
Pie Crust ingredients:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup buttermilk, cold (if your dough is still dry, you can add an additional tbsp or two)
Pie Crust instructions:
Mix together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
Add cold, cubed butter to the mixture. Begin pinching the dry mixture and butter between your fingers until it resembles a combination of small peas and dry oatmeal. (You can also use a pastry blender for this.)
At this stage, slowly begin adding the butter milk to the dry ingredients. Mix together with a fork or your hands until all of the dry ingredients are moist and you can form the mixture into a ball.
Lightly flour a surface. Knead the ball of dough just a few times, before forming it into a disc, wrapping it in plastic wrap and placing it in the fridge for an hour (no longer than three hours).
On a floured surface, roll out the dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick and is about 12 inches in diameter.
Transfer your dough to a pie pan. Trim the edges of the dough, leaving about an 1 1/2 inches hanging over. Fold the extra dough under to create an edge along the lip of the pie pan. Create a decorative edge by crimping with your fingers or by pressing with a fork.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 1/2 an hour.
As the pie shell is chilling, prepare your pie filling.
Chess Pie Filling ingredients:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tsp salt
4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cornmeal
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted and browned
1 tsp vanilla
Egg wash ingredients (optional):
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp buttermilk
Chess Pie Filling instructions:
Move a rack to the middle shelf of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the sugar and orange zest in a medium-sized bowl.
Add the salt, cinnamon, flour and cornmeal and mix thoroughly.
In a 2-cup measuring cup or bowl, mix the 4 eggs, buttermilk, lemon juice, cooled melted butter, and vanilla.
Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
Pour mixture into the prepared pie shell. Sprinkle top of the pie with more cinnamon. Brush the edges of the crust with egg wash.
Place pie dish onto a cookie sheet and into the oven. Cook for 35-45 minutes. 42 minutes was just about right for me.
Remove the pie from the oven to cool. The center will still be slightly jiggly. Allow it to cool for about 3 hours before covering and chilling in the fridge overnight. Then, it’s ready to eat!
Once this pie has set, it’s going to be a sweet, cinnamon dream. Add some whipped cream, or maybe serve with coffee or ice cream. Most importantly, if someone asks for pie for their birthday, don’t fret. Just put a candle in it and sing them the birthday song.