Blood Orange chess pie


Far out. I am SO ready for spring. So, so done with this winter business. AND I'm totally being an ungrateful bastard, because we bailed back to NZ for the month of February, so we don't really have anything to complain about seeing as we weren't even here for a month of winter. But STILL. I can't wait for our CSA to start, and for there to be more fruit than just last year's apples, (Rhubarb!?!), and the start of fresh berry season, and just for my eyeballs to stop feeling like they are going to freeze. 

The only good thing about this winter sticking around situation (apart from not having a sweat moustache on the subway), is the citrus! I was kind of worried that I had missed blood orange season while we were away, but I was so stoked to come back and see that they were still here! I love the colour of them, and the amazing flavour that they lend to whatever you put them in. 

I had been eyeing up the lemon chess pie in the Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie book for a while (best book ever BTW), especially after the lovely Tessa made such a pretty version! I had some blood oranges that needed using, so I subbed the lemon juice in the custard for blood orange. It came out the most amazing pink colour! I was a little nervous baking it, as it was my first chess pie, but I made sure to watch it super carefully in the oven to make sure that it didn't overcook and cause the custard to split. The top of the pie went a nice golden brown colour, and underneath there was the pretty pink custard, which was lightly flavoured with the orange. So so good, and such a nice change from the double lattice pies I am used to falling back on. 

The crust for this pie is par-baked before the filling is added in. I followed Tessa's tip and added a braid after the par-bake, but before the filling. I went for my usual trick and ran the dough through the pasta attachment on my kitchen aid, before doing a five-strand fishtail braid. I managed to get long enough pieces that I could do the braid all in one go, but I had to enlist the help of Rich to give me a bit of a hand! We made sure to calculate the circumference of the pie tin before we began, to make sure that we had enough braid to go the whole way around. 

If you want to keep this as a lemon pie, just sub the blood orange juice for lemon! Easy as. 



Blood Orange Chess Pie
- Makes one 9 inch Pie -

Adapted from "Four and Twenty Blackbirds"

Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups (180g) Flour
Pinch of Salt
1 tsp (4g) sugar
1 stick (113g) cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup (220ml) cold water
1 cup ice
2 Tbsp (30ml) Apple cider vinegar

Egg wash
1 egg white
1 tsp water

Zest of 2 Blood oranges
1 2/3 cups (320g) sugar
1 Tbsp finely ground cornmeal
1 Tbsp flour
5 Tbsp (75g) melted unsalted butter
5 eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (160ml) cream
10 Tbsp (150ml) freshly squeezed blood orange juice




Place flour, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Cut butter into chunks, and add to the flour. Toss lightly to coat. Working quickly, using a pastry blender or  your fingers,  cut the butter into the flour mixture until there are only pea-sized chunks left. You want a few lumps of butter remaining to keep the pastry nice and tender.

Combine ice, water and cider vinegar in a bowl. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of the ice water into the flour and butter mixture, and using a stiff spatula or your hands, mix in well. Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time ( I normally need about 4-5 tbsp) until you have a dough that holds together well, but is not too wet. Squeeze together with your fingertips to make a homogenous dough. Shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for at least two hours, or preferably overnight. 

On a lightly floured surface, roll disc into a circle a few inches larger than your pie dish. You want it to be approximately 1/8 inch (3mm) in thickness. Line the pie dish, leaving the extra dough overhanging. Trim the dough so the dough is flush with the edge of your dish. Wrap the remaining pastry tightly in plastic wrap and place into the fridge for the braid. Refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes, until the crust has set firm. Prick all over the surface of the crust, and then place the pie dish in the freezer for 20 minutes to allow the crust to freeze. 

Preheat the oven to 425˚f / 220˚c. Place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Prepare a wash for the dough by whisking an egg white with 1 tsp of water. 

Line the crust with tin foil, ensuring that it overlaps the sides, and is tightly folded down to ensure no gaps. Fill the lined crust with either ceramic pie weights or dried beans. These will help prevent the crust from shrinking. Place on the preheated baking sheet, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until it is starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven, remove the foil and pie weights, and, using a pastry brush, brush the surface of the crust with the prepared egg white mixture. Place back in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack. 


Preheat the oven to 325˚f / 160˚c.

Use the remaining pie dough to form a five-strand fishtail braid. Roll out your pie dough into a long skinny rectangle, and using a ruler or sharp pastry wheel, cut into strips of even thickness. Braid together. You may need to do two braids to reach the entire way around the pie dish. Stick the braid to the edge of the pie crust using the remaining egg white wash. Brush the surface of the braid with more of the egg white.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and stir with a whisk to combine. Add the melted butter and the eggs, and mix well to combine until thick. Add the cream, and mix well. Pour in the orange juice, and whisk well until homogenous. 

Set a sieve over another large bowl or pyrex jug. Strain the filling mixture through the sieve. 

Place the par-baked pie crust onto a baking sheet, and pour the strained filling into the pie crust. Very carefully transfer the baking sheet with the pie on it into the oven. Bake for 45-55 minutes, checking frequently, and turning 180˚ once the custard is beginning to set on the outside edges (approx 30 minutes through). Once the pie is cooked, the surface will be lightly golden, the edges of the pie set, and the centre still a little wobbly, but not runny liquid. It will continue to firm up as it cools.

Remove from the oven, and place on a wire rack to cool. Cool for at least 4 hours before serving.