A healthier pie... will this work?

I love chocolate chess pie, and I really want some, but I want to make a lower-fat, lower-calorie version so I don’t feel quite so bad about it.

The recipe I have calls for 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/2 stick of butter, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 tbsp cocoa, a dash of salt, and 1 small can of pet (sweetened condensed) milk. You mix it all together, pour it into a pie crust, and bake it. That’s it.

The worst things here are the sugar and the butter. I want to substitute Splenda for the sugar and Smart Balance for the butter, but since the pie really gets all of its texture from those two things plus the eggs, I don’t know if it will work. Would a sugar/Splenda blend be better? Or is there a different artificial sweetener that more closely mimics the sugar crystal structure? As for the butter, I really don’t know if it’s there for taste or for texture or both. I also don’t know if Smart Balance is enough of a calorie improvement to be worth the substitution… regular butter is about 100 calories per tbsp and Smart Balance is about 80 calories per tbsp, and I think a 1/2 stick is 4 tbsp.

Thoughts? I don’t really like cooking, so I don’t want to do this by trial and error… I was hoping to learn from someone else’s mistakes. :stuck_out_tongue:

I don’t think the pie will work with splenda. The smart balance should work, as long as it contains fat. I am instinctively doubtful that it will set in the oven. I would recommend making the “custard” on the stovetop with the splenda and smart balance, using this Chess Pie recipe that I found on the intrawebs as a basis and starting structure. Then I would simply fill a baked pie crust with the filling… a sort of “no bake” Chess Pie.

Chess Pie Recipe
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
pinch of salt
1 cup raisons

Cook slowly over heat until very thick. Remove from heat before it starts to candy. Add a dash of vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell.
Untested Substitution Recipe (I cannot guarantee the results.)

Diet Chess Pie Recipe
1/2 cup smart balance butter substitute
I cup of granulated baking splenda
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
pinch of salt
1/4 cup cocoa

Cook slowly over heat until very thick. Remove from heat before it starts to candy. Add a dash of vanilla. Pour into baked pie shell.

*I’ve never really cooked with splenda, so I don’t know its properties, but you might need to add some cornstarch in a slurry to get that pie recipe to custardize/congeal.

I have also seen cornmeal used in classic Chess Pie recipes, which might just give the extra body, structure, and texture to a sugarless version. So if you do decide to experiment, there is always that.

I think there’s a form of Splenda that’s sold for baking that might be half Splenda and half sugar. It might be worth looking at.

Although something like Smart Balance may not give you much better in the calories dept, I imagine it would be much better in terms of the types of fats you’re eating. Monounsaturated are best of course and doesn’t SB have Omega 3s?

One approach might be to use half butter, half Smart Balance.

My sister reports no issues WRT cooking with Splenda, though I’m not sure what the conversion rate is.

I think they claim the stuff in the bag is a 1 to 1 conversion. I used to have some but don’t any longer or I’d go look at the bag.

It’s a 1 to 1 conversion with volume, NOT weight, IIRC.

Oh god, yeah. That stuff weighs nothing. That would be a most unfortunate error. :smiley:

Here’s a recipe using Splenda:


IMHO what causes the custard to “set” is all about the eggs. I cannot see that using splenda and the smart balance would stop it setting. I would think that there would be some texture differences and add my vote for cornflour.

On a side note I regularly make sugar free marshmallows using splenda - the main difference is that they don’t keep as long as the sugar ones (not that they need to really)

Does splenda caramelize? Because that’s sort of the crux in the baked texture and essence of a genuine chess pie, you’re really making a milk caramel with a custard base

I don’t have anything helpful to add, I just want to say that it would never ever occur to me to make a less unhealthy chess pie. It just seems somehow… blasphemous. I don’t know if I should praise your audacity or laugh at the idea, but I’ll be curious to know how it works out and I admire your attempt.

Several comments:

First, to the OP: Is this a recipe you’ve made successfully before? If not, here’s a standard (non chocolate) chess pie recipe for comparison: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=257879. This recipe IS for a 9-inch (deep dish) pie whereas yours looks to be proportioned for an 8-inch (standard) pie, so the ratios are more important than the actual ingredient amounts.

Second, “Pet milk” is NOT the same as sweetened condensed milk. What is sometimes called Pet milk is evaporated milk – not sweetened and not nearly so concentrated as sweetened condensed. I don’t know which your recipe is really calling for, but with 1 1/2 cups sugar I’m guessing it’s the evaporated milk you should use.

Third, there are two versions of Splenda for use in baking: One is 100% Splenda and can be subbed measure-for-measure, one-for-one with sugar. So, if a recipe calls for 1 cup sugar, you can sub 1 cup of Granulated Splenda. There is also a version called for baking called Splenda Blend. It consists of 1/2 Granulated Splenda and 1/2 sugar. It is NOT a 1-for-1 sub with sugar, so read the measuring guidelines. (It’s also more expensive than just buying Granulated and mixing with sugar.) Note that if you are making something where sugar is there for structure as well as for sweetness (any type of cake/cookie/bread/etc. that will “rise”), you CANNOT use the Granulated Splenda alone, you should sub no more than half the sugar with the Splenda. There’s lots of good info on the Splenda web site about how to bake with it, but it shouldn’t be a factor in this pie.

As for making this recipe lighter … there are a few things you can do, but you may have to experiment to get a level of compromise that satisfies you. You can get low-fat or skim evaporated milk (or sweetened condensed, if that’s what you’re going to use). I would try looking specifically for whatever “healthy margarine” you want to use that’s made especially for baking. One of the problems with light margarines is that they cut calories by adding water to replace fat. You might be better off using real butter but less of it. You only have 2 eggs, you could try 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites to cut out one yolk. Or, you could try an egg substitute. Remember, too that your pie crust contributes a significant amount of fat and calories to this dessert. “Light” pie crusts usually don’t work, though, because they are so dependent on the high fat content for texture.

Here’s a Cooking Light recipe for a lemon chess pie that might give you some ideas: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=223007. CL does not use sugar subs, so you could still use Splenda if desired to reduce a little more.

One of the things I’ve found with lightening desserts is that if you make too many changes, the end result just isn’t something you want to eat, even if you are used to eating “light” food. I would decide what you really want to lighten – if it’s just calories, I’d cut the sugar and maybe use the low-fat milk but leave the rest. If fat’s what you really want cut, leave the sugar alone. Also, remember that portion size can be the most important factor in cutting down.

I think the jury is still out over whether Smart Balance is better for you than butter. It’s certainly better than margarine (which almost all recent studies I’ve seen say is unhealthier than butter, due to trans fats), from all I’ve been able to dig up, but I’m not necessarily convinced it’s a healthier alternative to butter. Personally, I’d stick with butter in the recipe.

As for the custard setting, I don’t see any good reason why it wouldn’t set in the oven even with the substitutions.

Amen to that. That’s what worked for me. Bake the pie the way you love it. Just love less of it, day by day. :slight_smile:

Thanks for the helpful suggestions, everyone, especially the cornstarch. I use that to thicken all kinds of sauces and stuff, but I wouldn’t have thought to use it in a pie.

I think this is just going to take some experimenting. I have no doubt I can make a delicious and healthier version, but I don’t know just what that magical combination will be. I think tonight I’ll try mostly Splenda with a little bit of sugar, and original Smart Balance to replace the butter. I’m not going to mess with the eggs, because this is really a custardy kind of pie and I’m told that egg substitute won’t work for that.

PS–Claire, you were right about the evaporated milk; that’s what my grandmother meant by “pet” milk. :slight_smile:

Oh, gross. Gross gross gross. Bleah!

So, I replaced ALL the sugar with Splenda and used light butter (which actually had significantly fewer calories than Smart Balance) rather than regular.

And it was NASTY.

Oh, god, it was nasty. It was like a nasty fake chocolate quiche.

Next, I will try half sugar, half Splenda. And if that’s nasty too, then I give up and make the real thing.

Look, heyou…pssss, over here…

I didn’t want to upset your flavors, because soulfood is soulfood, but where I come from we’d just eat a Shoofly Pie and be done with it. Half the refined sugar, half the fat.

Okay, same amount of fat… but you can use lard or suet as alternatives, maybe some rapeseed oil.