From the people who brought us BBQ and Cornbread…
The idea of making a sweet potato pie was appealing to me the moment I came across the recipe in the cookbook America’s Best Lost Recipes. I have had grocery store sweet potato pies that failed to be mediocre at best. My hope was that this recipe, from the trustworthy “America’s Test Kitchen,” would result in a delicious version of a Southern classic dish.
There are very few Southern recipes that I don’t find to be intriguing.
This recipe required a partially baked pie crust. Following the directions in the above mentioned cookbook (click here for the pie crust recipe I used), I covered my freshly chilled pie crust with a double layer of aluminum foil, being careful to cover the edges so that they would not burn. I then poured in a bunch of dried beans. I pushed the beans up against the edges of the crust as the book warned me that a failure to do so could lead to devastating structural crust issues.
While the crust was spending 20 to 25 mins in the oven at 375 degrees I got to work on the filling.
I started by washing and stabbing 5 sweet potatoes that weighed in just above the recommended 2 pounds. 10 minutes in the microwave, with the usual flipping and rearranging in the middle, resulted in some hot potatoes. I cut them in half to let them cool and to allow for Sarah to take a picture like this one:
In a medium bowl I mixed together 3 eggs (everyone uses large eggs, right?) 2 yolks, 1 cup of sugar, ½ tsp of nutmeg, and ¼ tsp of salt. This might be the low sodium version of the pie.
Once this was combined and stirred in 2 Tbs of whiskey, obtained from friends who have that kind of stuff, as I did not have any bourbon available. The recipe called for bourbon. Then I put in a tsp of vanilla extract and a Tbs of molasses that the recipe said was optional, but I think it is probably a sacrilege to leave molasses out of a Southern dish. It was probably someone from Cambridge that decided to make the molasses optional. ⅔ of a cup of milk finished up this mixture.
Once the steam stopped pouring out of the potatoes, I worked on scraping the orange filling out of them and into a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of butter in it. I managed to do this without burning my fingers too much, and then with a fork I mashed the potatoes and butter together. The more thoroughly that you mash at this stage, the less “rustic” the texture of your finished pie.
Pour the sugar, egg and milk mixture into the bowl with the mashed sweet potatoes. Hopefully you have chosen a big enough bowl, or else you might be in trouble at this point.
I mixed this together well but it never became very homogeneous. That did not worry me but if you were very concerned about this, an immersion blender might save your day.
If you have executed everything correctly you will take the partially baked crust out of the oven, pull out the beans and aluminum foil and sprinkle ¼ cup of dark brown sugar in the crust. Then pour the warm potato mixture on top of the brown sugar.
Puting the warm potato mixture into the still hot pie crust is supposed to be critical to keeping the crust from getting soggy. The thin layer of brown sugar underneath the potatoes has an interesting visual effect for those who look carefully at their slices before devouring them.
At this point I turned the oven down to 350 degrees, as instructed, and slid the pie in for around 40 mins. I pulled out the pie when it seemed well set around the edges and seemed just a little moist in the center
This pie is not one that I would serve to children or chocoholics as they are sure to be disappointed and riot. Those who can appreciate the subtle richness of the sweet potato will most likely not riot, but enjoy this pie. Not only could it be served as a dessert, but with a cup of coffee it would make a great breakfast… or even lunch.