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10/24/2011

~ From a Potato to My Southern Sweet Potato Pie ~

PICT3129Sweet potato pie is a Southern tradition.  Similar to pumpkin pie in its texture, it too is mostly served in the Fall, when sweet potatoes (as well as pumpkins) are in season, and, is the star of the Southern Thanksgiving dessert table.  It is a simple-to-make pie, consisting of mashed sweet potatoes, milk, sugar, eggs and sometimes spices.  Like pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkin puree (any type of canned "stuff" not included), the custard filling varies from silky to dense, depending upon the ratio of mashed sweet potatoes to milk and eggs.  As for the spices, it seems to me that too many recipes for sweet potato pie try to make it taste just like pumpkin pie, adding things like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc., to the sweet potato mixture.  "Why", I ask, "would anyone want to or try to make both of these pies taste alike?"  Pumpkin is naturally bland and boring and benefits from fragrant spices.  On the flip side, sweet potatoes are flavorful, and, well, naturally sweet.  All they require is a bit of enhancement.  In the event both pies find themselves side-by-side on my Thanksgiving dessert plate, I want each one to be at their very best.  My recipe, if I do say so myself, will turn the heads of even the best Southern cooks!

PICT3080Over the past few days, I've exposed my adoration for sweet potatoes by using them in and posting a few of my favorite recipes:

~ "Winner, Winner, Crockpot Dinner":  A Scrumptious, Slow-Cooked, Sweet Potato & Ground Beef Chili ~ found in Categories 2, 3, 13 & 19;

~ Sweet Potato & Apple  Stuffing for Poultry or Pork ~, found in Categories, 4 & 18; 

PICT2473~ Sweet Potato & Apple Stuffed Pork Chops w/Sauteed Apples & Onions ~ (pictured above), in Categories  3 & 19; and, 

my recipe for ~ Smashed Maple Sweet Potatoes ~ (pictured here), in Categories 4 & 18, are all year-round Preschutti family favorites!

I baked and served my very first sweet potato pie back in 1992:

PICT3140Our son, who was attending Penn State and living in a downtown apartment, became friends and roommates with a Texan by the name of J.E. Allen, III.  James was/is a very big guy with a very big appetite and was most appreciative of the food I would "sneak" into their apartment refrigerator while they were at classes.  Because of Penn State's Fall football schedule, going home to visit his family in Texas for Thanksgiving each year was impossible.  So, as well as becoming family at our dinner table, for a period of about six years, James was a regular at our Thanksgiving table too.  After the second year, he expressed one problem he was having with my Yankee feast and made a request:  

"Mel, would you PLEASE make a sweet potato pie like my grandmother Mimi's!?!"

PICT3160I am pleased to report that James earned a Master's Degree in Education from PSU.  He is a teacher, football coach, father and very close friend of ours.  His entire family flew to Happy Valley for his graduation and after the ceremony, the party was held in our downstairs Penn State room.  Amongst the guests, I got to meet Mimi, who on that day gave my Northern sweet potato pie her seal of approval!

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For the pie pastry:

1/2 of my recipe for ~ Making Pate Brisee:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, found in Categories 6, 15 or 22, or, your favorite pie pastry, rolled and fitted into a 10" pie dish

For the pie filling:

3 1/2-4  cups mashed/smashed sweet potatoes, from about 5 large, orange, sweet potatoes, warm

6  ounces butter, at room temperature, very soft (1 1/2 sticks)

1 1/2  cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

4  large eggs

3/4  cup evaporated milk

1/4  cup Frangelico (an Italian hazelnut-flavored liqueur)

1 1/2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract, not imitation

PICT3089~ Step 1.  In oven or microwave, bake sweet potatoes until soft.  Set aside until they are cool enough to comfortably handle with your hands, about 15-20 minutes.  Using a paring knife, an ordinary tablespoon and a fork, slice the potatoes in half, scoop out the soft centers, transfer them to a measuring container and mash them with a fork.  Set aside.  Note: Many recipes instruct to peel, cube and boil the sweet potatoes until soft.  I find this makes them watery.

PICT3093~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, on medium-speed of hand-held electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and salt, until light and fluffy, constantly scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, about 1 minute.  Add and beat in the eggs.

 

 

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~ Step 3.  Add  the evaporated milk, Frangelico, vanilla extract and sweet potatoes.  Increase mixer speed to medium-high and continue to mix until ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.  Mixture will not be perfectly smooth.

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~ Step 4.  Transfer/pour all of the pie filling into the prepared 10" pie pastry.  Bake pie on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  Do not over bake. Center of pie will be puffy but not completely set.  The pie will continue to cook and set as it cools. Remove from oven and cool completely, on rack, prior to slicing and serving:

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From a Potato to My Southern Sweet Potato Pie:  Recipe yields 10-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  10" pie dish; rolling pin; kitchen shears; paring knife; tablespoon; fork; 1-quart measuring container; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; cake tester or toothpick; cooking rack

Roasted Pumpkins of Tussey Mountain #2Cook's Note:  The difference between a pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin and freshly roasted pumpkin puree is night and day.  It's really easy to make too! To read my method/recipe for making ~ Roasted Pumpkin Puree ~ from scratch, just click into Categories 15, 18 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011) 

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