Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie

I have never made, had, or wanted to have sweet potato pie.  Mushy potatoes baked into a pie?  No thanks.  But as Thanksgiving creeps towards us, I kept seeing recipes pop up.  I have been trying to broaden my culinary horizons, so I decided to try it.  Plus I still had some of the giant sweet potatoes our neighbors gave us remaining.  Deciding to make a sweet potato pie was easy.  Deciding which sweet potato pie recipe to make was not so easy.  I suddenly found myself knee deep in variations of this traditional dish.  Traditional pie crust, graham cracker crust, ginger streusel, different spices, different fillings.  My head was spinning! 

I decided on a graham cracker crust.  I'm not a huge fan of traditional pie crust, and I had some graham crackers that I needed to get rid of anyway.  I did add some chopped pecans to the crust.  For the filling, I went with a recipe I found from Baking Illustrated.  It was a little more involved than some other recipes I considered, but I knew it would be a winner.  They don't mess around at Baking Illustrated.  I did make a few minor changes to the filling just based on ingredients I had at home.  And their filling called for whole milk.  I don't do whole milk.  Even though this isn't a Makeover Monday recipe, I did use Splenda instead of sugar.  I have to cut all the calorie corners I can with the holidays upon us!

Even as I was preparing this pie, I was pretty sure I wan't going to like it.  I was wrong.  Sweet potato pie is probably not going to unseat pumpkin pie as my Thanksgiving favorite, but it actually was pretty good.  As I did with my Guiltless Pumpkin Pie, I topped this treat with a dollop of lite Cool Whip spiked with about a teaspoon of maple extract and probably about 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  Delicious!
I was glad I went with the graham cracker crust.  It provided nice flavor, and adding the pecans gave the pie a little crunch.  That was a nice contrast to the filling, which had a really creamy texture.  I will say the thickness of the filling was better than pumpkin pie.  I am guessing that is because I use canned pumpkin when I make pumpkin pie, and for this recipe I made my own sweet potato puree.  And making the sweet potato puree was really easy.  Here's a close up so you can see how beautifully rich this filling is.
To make this pie, start by preparing your sweet potatoes.  Put about 2 pounds of sweet potatoes in the microwave and nuke them until they are soft.  This took me about 10 minutes.  While the sweet potatoes are doing their thing, prepare the crust.  Put your graham crackers in a food processor.
And crush 'em up until they are fine crumbs.  If you don't have a food processor, you can put the graham crackers in a Ziploc bag and crush them with a rolling pin or a can.  Now that I think about it, that might have been more fun.
Transfer the crumbs to a medium bowl and add melted butter, salt, ginger and chopped pecans.
Stir until you have a moist crumb mixture.  I stirred my crust instead of using the food processor because I didn't want it to end up gummy.  Spread the mixture in a pie pan, covering the bottom and going up the sides.
Bake for about 5 minutes and then let it cool while you prepare the filling.
Now back to the sweet potatoes.  When they are soft, remove them from the microwave (carefully!) and cut them in half lengthwise.
Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and discard the skin.  Put the sweet potato in the food processor with margarine and puree until smooth.  If you don't have a food processor you can mash them with a fork or potato masher.
Looks yummy!
To prepare the rest of the filling, whisk eggs, yolks, Splenda, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl.
Add the bourbon (you can't taste this in the pie if you are not a bourbon drinker), vanilla, pancake syrup, and evaporated milk.  The evaporated milk is what I used instead of whole milk because I had some leftover from my Guiltless Pumpkin Pie that I needed to get rid of.
Whisk the sweet potatoes into the egg mixture.  I had a little more than the 2 cups of sweet potato suggested in the recipe.  I kept these and plan to eat them as mashed sweet potatoes.  I'm thinking with cinnamon, brown sugar, and pecans. 
Sprinkle brown sugar over the bottom of the pie pan.  This makes a sugary, gooey, yummy layer on the bottom of your pie.
Then pour in the filling and bake. 
Now pat yourself on the back for finally making a Sweet Potato Pie.

Sweet Potato Pie
For the crust
8 graham crackers
1/2 tsp salt
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup chopped pecans
For the filling
2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 Tbsp margarine
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup Splenda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp lite pancake syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup fat free evaporated milk
1/4 cup dark brown sugar.
To make sweet potato puree: Prick sweet potatoes several times with a fork and place on a double layer of paper towels in microwave.   Cook at full power for 5 minutes.  Turn each potato over and continue to cook at full power until tender, but not mushy, about 5 minutes longer.  Cool 10 minutes.  Halve each potato lengthwise and with a spoon, scoop flesh into food processor; discard skins.  You should have 2 cups of sweet potatoes.  While potatoes are still hot, add margarine and process until smooth.
To make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pulse graham crackers in food processor until fine crumbs form.  Transfer to medium bowl and add ginger, melted butter, salt, and chopped pecans.  Stir until a moist crumb forms.  Move to pie pan and spread over bottom of pan and up along sides.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.
To make filling:  Whisk together eggs, yolks, Splenda, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl.  Stir in bourbon, pancake syrup, and vanilla.  Then whisk in evaporated milk.  Gradually add egg mixture to sweet potatoes, whisking gently to combine.
Assembly: Sprinkle dark brown sugar over bottom of pie pan.  Pour sweet potato filling into pan.  Bake about 45 minutes or until filling is set around the edges, but center jiggles slightly when shaken.  Check halfway through and cover crust if browning too much.  Transfer pie to wire rack and cool to room temperature. 

Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated and Bake at 350.

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