Sweet Potato Pie (with a Kiss of Likker)

All this talk about pie during the last few weeks while cajoling family, friends (we are still friends, right?), and colleagues to buy pies for the Food & Friends fundraiser brought to the forefront of my attention one sad fact: I’ve never actually tried sweet potato pie, which was one of the pies on offer during the “Buy Pies!” campaign.

Then the Universe, by way of our dear friends down the road, delivered unto us a sign that it was time to try sweet potato pie. A hard-to-resist sign. A huge sign. A really huge sign: a sweet potato larger than a spaghetti squash. See for yourself!

Crazy big, right? These sweet potato and spaghetti squash, along with 2 other of the squash’s siblings, were delivered this weekend by the same folks who challenged us earlier to deal with the over-abundance of their CSA order. They also gave us a bagload of green tomatoes, but more on that next time. Of course, I washed and roasted everything — the sweet potato was roasted unpeeled and whole with a few well-placed piercings, and the squash were cut in half and de-seeded, and placed cut-side up on a baking sheet and drizzled with oil. After a little over an hour, everything was roasted and ready to keep. The sweet potato weighed in at a gob-smacking 1420g before roasting, and yielded over 7 cups of flesh scooped from shells! So not only did we have sweet potato pie this week, but we will also have mashed sweet potatoes as a side dish later this week, too!

This was a true sweet potato, as opposed to a yam — with firm, dense flesh even after roasting. Our favorite way to enjoy mashed sweet potatoes is with a kiss of liquor — whether it’s bright purple Okinawan sweet potato mash with awamori or regular sweet potatoes with bourbon. So I couldn’t resist slipping a little sour mash into the puree mix for this pie as well. The bourbon flavor was quite strong the first 24 hours after baking, but mellowed considerably after that. With fresh whipped cream, this was a scrumptious pie — perfect breakfast food! (Think about it… Pop Tarts are just toaster pies, aren’t they?)

When looking up recipes for sweet potato pie, I was intrigued by ones that used buttermilk instead of evaporated or regular milk. We liked what buttermilk did for corn soup and thought this would be add a nice tang to this pie — it really didn’t, or maybe the buttermilk tang was obscured by the bourbon. Either way, we could not taste the difference using buttermilk made, so I would say use evaporated milk, almond or soy milk, or whatever you have — but do try the bourbon! The crust, I confess, was not only commercial, it was pre-formed too! Pie crust and biscuits are 2 things which have largely eluded me — even after 9 months in a culinary institution. So I focus on the filling and leave the pie crust to the experts. (Yesterday, however, while handing out pies for the F&F fundraiser, a fellow volunteer shared her unusual pie crust recipe which she swears is fool proof. More on that soon, too.)

Serves 8-10 persons
While vaguely following the recipe on the back of a can of pumpkin puree, we were really trying for a pie that could not be confused with pumpkin in either texture or flavor. This is a dense pie whose sweet potato flavor really stands out — undertones of molasses and, of course, bourbon lightly sweeten and highlight the tuber’s flavor.

1 prepared pie crust (use your favorite)
4 cups (about 700g) roasted sweet potato flesh, mashed well
2 eggs, beaten well
1 cup buttermilk, evaporated milk, almond milk, etc.
1/4 cup bourbon
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 TBL blackstrap molasses
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pre-heat oven to 350F/180C.
Combine all ingredients and blend well, about 2 minutes on the medium setting on your mixer. The mixture will be very thick and not really like a custard. Pour into prepared pie crust, and bake in middle oven for 45-55 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes back clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

Highly recommend large dollops (or two) of homemade whipped cream when serving.

More desserts for the Holidays: Pumpkin Cheesecake