Racetrack Pie

Kick off Derby weekend with a pistachio chess pie mingled with bitter chocolate

Photo: courtesy Ryan Mahony from Hermitage Farms

Katie Irvin is the pastry chef at Barn8 Restaurant + Bourbon Bar in Goshen, Kentucky, just outside the city of Louisville and its 149th Run for the Roses (May 6). A nutty chocolate pie is a classic Derby dessert, and pistachios make for a particularly winning combination: “The chocolate brings a certain bitterness that pairs nicely with a toasted nut. Pistachios in particular have a bit of sweetness that works with the richness of chocolate,” Irvin says. “The two combined make a really special dessert.”

photo: courtesy Ryan Mahony from Hermitage Farms
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  • Pistachio Chess Pie aka “Racetrack Pie”


    • 2¾ cups all-purpose flour

    • 2 sticks, or 1 cup, unsalted butter

    • ½ cup water

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • 1 tsp. sugar


    • 6-oz. bag of Setton Farms roasted and salted pistachios

    • 1 tsp. sugar

    • 1 tsp. neutral oil such as canola


    • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter

    • 3 oz. dark chocolate, chopped

    • 1 egg

    • ¼ cup sugar

    • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

    • 2 tbsp. corn starch

    • Large pinch of salt


    • 5 tbsp. butter, unsalted

    • 1 cup sugar

    • 1 tsp. salt

    • ⅓ cup milk

    • ½ cup pistachio paste

    • 1 tbsp. white vinegar

    • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

    • 3 eggs


  1. Make the crust: Slice the cold butter into thin pats and toss into flour, salt, and sugar. You want to smash the fat into the dry ingredients to incorporate. Keep rubbing the butter into the flour until the pieces are pea-sized.

  2. Drizzle the cold water over the ingredients. Work the water in until a shaggy dough starts to form. 

  3. Dump the dough and any dry bits onto a clean work surface. With a bench scraper, cut the dough in half and stack on top of each other to create layers.

  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours minimum, or ideally overnight.

  5. Make the pistachio paste: Heat oven to 350ºF and roast the pistachios. This helps release the oils and will grind easier.

  6. Grind the pistachios in a food processor until sandy. You will have to scrape down the sides a few times. Add the sugar and oil, to help the nuts grind into a paste. Scrape and process until smooth and a liquid paste forms. 

  7. Make the fudge brownie: To make brownie batter, start by melting the butter and chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or over a double-boiler on the stove. 

  8. While this is cooling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt until lightened in color and thickened. 

  9. Stream in the chocolate and butter mixture into the eggs. Whisk until combined. 

  10. Sift in the cocoa powder and cornstarch into the batter. Fold with a spatula until just combined. 

  11. Make the pistachio chess filling: Melt butter in a medium bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk together until smooth. 

  12. Bake the pie: Roll pie crust a few inches larger than your pie plate. Place into plate and press the bottom and sides firmly. Trim any excess dough and shape the crust. I always go for a classic crimped edge.

  13. Par-bake the crust for around 15 to 20 minutes at 375ºF, weighed down with parchment and pie weights or beans. Remove the weights and bake for an additional 5 minutes until the bottom starts to barely brown and no longer looks “wet.”

  14. Spread the brownie batter into the bottom of the par-baked crust and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 325ºF.

  15. Once the brownie is mostly baked through, pour in the pistachio chess filling and bake for about 30 minutes at 325ºF, until the top is evenly browned and the filling is set.

  16. Chill completely before serving.

  17. Optional for serving: Whip a pint of cold cream with 2 tbsp. of powdered sugar and 2 tbsp. of pistachio paste to top the pie once cooled. Sprinkle some chopped up pistachios for crunch.