Monday, December 10, 2007


These mini-chess pies from a 40-year old cookbook (Jaycee-ettes) used to be a Christmas regular for me, but I haven't made them in quite a few years. I ran into some problems because I had no notes on the recipe, and the amounts are off. To spare you the trouble of what I went through, I'll give you better recipe amounts. I added some chcolate syrup and brandy to this recipe and I toasted the walnuts to enhance flavors. If you're unfamiliar with these pastries, they're very chewy, like a pecan pie, except the walnuts are ground, so you don't get the big pieces of nuts. The sweet nut filling combined with an unsweetened short crust makes for a very pleasant taste experience. They can be topped with candied cherries or maraschino cherries. I ran out of those, so I used some chcolate that I had stored in a glass jar that had been mixed with condensed milk -- kind of like a frosting. So you could sub canned chocolate frosting I guess, just a dab in the center before you put the top layer of nuts on. Then when you bite into the cookie, you get that dab of chocolate frosting in your mouth with all the other goodness.....very yummy. I am warning you ahead of time, these are a little bit of work and are messy, but they are so good I think they are worth the trouble.

Dee's Chess Pies
INGREDIENTS: Crust: 1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine (I used 1/2 butter/1/2 Smart
Balance buttery spread)
6 oz. Neufchatel cheese
2 cups all-purpose flour, lightly spooned and swept

Filling: 2 Tbsp. melted butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance)
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 tsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tsp. brandy (I used Jim Beam)

Other: 1-1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and ground
24 Maraschino or candied cherries cut in half to make 48 halves

DIRECTIONS: Make the crust: Have all crust ingredients chilled. Combine flour, butter and cream cheese in work bowl of food processor and pulse till well combined and mixture is crumbs. (Alternately, cut the butter and cream cheese into the flour with a pastry blender, then form a ball by pressing ingredients together.) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 1 hour or longer.

When ready to make cookies, remove dough from fridge. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. You will need mini muffin tins for 48 little pies. (I only have 2 12-well tins. My other 2 tins are old and rusty and I would not put food against the wells. So I lined the wells with little paper cups. This was a mistake, because the crust partly stuck to the paper liners. You do not want to give cookies to someone who will get paper in their mouth, so don't do what I did. As it turned out, I had to bake a second batch anyway, because the filling amount made way too much. I had some frozen cookie dough that I used for the last batch. I still threw out half of the filling because it was too much.) Cut the cherries in half and, if using maraschino, drain them on paper towels. Put all filling ingredients in medium bowl and whisk well till combined.

Break off pieces of dough to make 1-inch balls. Place balls in muffin wells and, with thumb, work the dough to go up the sides of the well. Using a half-teaspoon measuring spoon, sprinkle nuts in bottom of each well.

Spoon a scant tablespoonful of filling over the nuts, then sprinkle 1/2 tsp. nuts over top and cover with a half-cherry.
Bake for about 1/2 hour, or till tops start to crack and pastry browns. These will puff up and -- if you've filled them too full -- they will spill over, so watch them. Remove tins to cool on counter for 5 minutes, then take them out of the tins and finish cooling on rack. These freeze well.
I'm calling these cookies since I make them at Christmastime with my Christmas cookies, but they could also be considered a pastry.

No comments: