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Chessame Pie

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez
Active time 30 mins
Total time 2 hrs, 30 mins

Serves 12 (serving size: 1 slice)

A playful and delicious twist on traditional chess pie, this treat gets a triple shot of rich sesame flavor—white sesame seeds in the crust, tahini in the filling, and black sesame seeds on top (feel free to use white sesame seeds there if you can’t find black). These nutty touches allow Darcy to use less sugar than traditional chess pie recipes, which often call for 2 cups. If you’d like to play up the “chess” pie angle, do as Darcy does, and arrange the black sesame seeds in a checkerboard pattern on top of the pie. A touch of vodka in the pie crust is a great baker’s trick; it makes it the crust more flaky and tender, and it evaporates out as the crust bakes so you have no residual alcohol flavor. We like the depth that sherry vinegar adds to the filling, but you can also use apple cider vinegar for similar results.  


  • Crust
  • 5.75 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (such as Earth Balance), chilled (see Note below)
  • 1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon vodka, chilled
  • 1 to 3 Tbsp. ice-cold water
  • Filling
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 4 teaspoons sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Nutrition Information

  • calories 309
  • fat 15.5 g
  • satfat 5.4 g
  • monofat 5.3 g
  • polyfat 3.9 g
  • protein 6 g
  • carbohydrate 37 g
  • fiber 1 g
  • cholesterol 89 mg
  • iron 2 mg
  • sodium 241 mg
  • calcium 92 mg
  • sugars 22 g
  • Est. Added Sugars 21 g

How to Make It

  1. Prepare the crust: Whisk together 5.75 ounces flour, white sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add shortening and 1 tablespoon butter to flour mixture; combine, using your fingers, until shortening and butter are well distributed and small clumps begin to form. Stir in vodka. Add up to 3 tablespoons ice-cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring just until dough begins to come together. Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface; gently knead 1 to 2 times. Shape into a ball; flatten into a disk, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for 20 minutes.

  2. Unwrap dough, and transfer to work surface. Roll to a 10- to 11-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Fold edges under, and crimp. Freeze for 40 minutes (or up to 2 months).

  3. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  4. Prepare the filling: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium. Cook, stirring often, until butter begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Cool completely, about 10 minutes. Combine sugar and zest in a large bowl; rub zest into sugar using your fingers to release oils. (Sugar will feel slightly moistened, and zest will release a lemony scent.) Whisk together milk, eggs, and yolks in a medium bowl; stir milk mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in cornmeal, 2 tablespoons flour, and 3/4 teaspoon salt until well combined. Stir in tahini, browned and cooled butter, vinegar, and vanilla; whisk until smooth. Remove crust from freezer. Pour sugar mixture into crust.

  5. Bake on center rack at 350°F for 35 minutes. Remove from oven; top with black sesame seeds. Return to oven; bake until set around edges, 7 to 8 more minutes. (Center will still be slightly wiggly.) Cool 45 minutes to 1 hour; serve chilled or at room temperature.

  6. Note: We recommend seeking out Earth Balance shortening because, unlike most other shortenings, it contains no trans fats.