Chai Chess Pie

Chai Chess Pie

[Photograph: Tina Rupp]

Strikingly dark and delicious, this sweet and spicy First Prize pie uses the complex flavors of chai tea to flavor an otherwise simple chess pie. A plain crust serves to highlight the filling, and big fat dollops of fresh whipped cream are encouraged.

Excerpted from First Prize Pies by Allison Kave. Copyright (c) 2013. Photographs by Tina Rupp. Excerpted by permission of Abrams Books. All rights reserved.

  • Yield:makes 1 9-inch pie
  • Active time: 45-60 minutes
  • Total time:overnight, if making pie crust


  • Classic Pie Crust
  • Makes enough for one double-crust 9-inch pie
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks/170 g) unsalted European-style cultured butter
  • 1/4 cup (55 g) rendered leaf lard OR additional butter
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or any light colored, mild vinegar)
  • 12 ounces (340 g/ approximately 3 cups) unbleached all purpose flour (chilled)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • For the Filling
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (36 g) chai tea mixture, ground in a spice mill or coffee grinder until fine
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the Topping
  • Whipped cream and sliced candied ginger (optional)


  1. 1.

    Making the crust: Prepare the butter and lard, if using. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch (12-mm) cubes (a bench scraper is perfect for this, but a sharp knife works well too), and cut the lard into small pieces. Return them to the fridge or freezer to cool.

  2. 2.

    In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the milk and vinegar. Refrigerate the mixture until ready to use.

  3. 3.

    On a clean flat surface or in a large shallow bowl, toss the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt together lightly to blend. Add the butter and lard (if using) to the dry ingredients and, using the tool of your choice (see Tools of the Trade, page 20), cut the fat into the flour with speed and patience, until the fat has been reduced to small pea-sized chunks. Try to use a straight up-and-down motion, avoiding twisting your wrists, as the more you press on the flour the more tough gluten will develop in the dough. Avoid using your fingers, as the heat from your hands will melt the fat and further encourage gluten development. Unlike with pasta or bread, gluten is the enemy of pie dough, so be gentle, and be quick!

  4. 4.

    Once your fat has been cut down to size, spread your mixture out gently to expose as much surface area as possible. Gently drizzle about half of your milk mixture over the flour, trying to cover as wide an area as you can. Using bench scrapers or a large spoon, toss the flour over the liquid (don’t stir; just lightly toss), spread everything out again, and repeat the process with the second half of the liquid. You should now have a dough that will just hold together when pressed against the bowl, with visible little chunks of butter. If you need to add more liquid to bind it, do so with more cold milk, adding a tablespoon at a time until you reach the right texture. It’s not an exact science, as everything from the humidity in the air to the dryness of your flour will affect the consistency of your dough.

  5. 5.

    Once you’ve reached your goal, cover the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. The dough can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 week, well wrapped, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Note: For this recipe, you'll only need half the dough, as it's a single-crust pie.

  6. 6.

    Making the pie: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Roll out the dough into a circle about 11 inches (28 cm) in diameter. Transfer it to a 9-inch (23-cm) pie plate. Blind-bake the pie crust until partially baked; set it aside to cool. Leave the oven on.

  7. 7.

    Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. Whisk in the tea, flour, butter, and salt. Put the par-baked crust on a baking sheet. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the filling has just set and is still slightly wobbly in the center. Remove the pie to cool completely before serving. This pie can be refrigerated for up to 1 week, covered well in plastic wrap. Add topping, if using, just before serving.