Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey Sweet Potato, I could eat you with a spoon!

When I was a little girl, Helen, or Gramma as I called her, would hug me tight and declare that I was so sweet, she could eat me with a spoon. Which, looking back, was very loving and wonderful in that way that only grandmothers can convey; but, at the time, it frightened me. I had all sorts of mental images of my grandmother, who was a tall, big-boned German woman, wielding a giant grapefruit spoon and plunging it into my short, small-boned American body like a deranged zombie.

I assumed it had to be a grapefruit spoon as it needed sharp edges and a point to really dig into my my flesh. Unfounded fear is all in the details. 

But we're here to talk about pie, aren't we? Thanksgiving is in exactly a week. And I am scheduled to work that day. Which does not please me. So let's pout and make sweet potato pie. With bourbon, some in the pie and a slitch on ice for the baker.

Sweet Potato Pie is similar to pumpkin pie in the fact that is indeed orange and uses similar spices and flavorings in its recipe. But a sweet potato is a tuber while a pumpkin is a squash. As an aside, sweet potatoes are not yams but were mislabeled as such by growers who thought we were too stupid to know a sweet potato was not the same as regular potatoes. Because there is nothing worse than baking what you think are russets and discovering that your chives and bacon bits are useless. Yams are a completely different genus and species, are native to Africa, popular in Latin American dishes, and very sweet. They can also grow over seven feet long which would be damned difficult to manage in my kitchen.

To my taste buds, sweet potatoes are richer and slightly more sugary than pumpkins. But canned pumpkin puree is ubiquitous this time of year and one actually has to bake and mash sweet potatoes. How inconvenient. We're making pie with them regardless.

Or irregardless as Helen would say. She loved collecting malapropisms and using them for her own amusement so that someone, meeting her for the first time, would not realize that she knew the correct word or phrase.

Let's bake!

This recipe is courtesy of Paula Deen and FoodNetwork.

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie

Recipe courtesy Paula Deen

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
1 hr 55 min
6 to 8 servings


  • 2 cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup milk
  • 9-inch unbaked pie crust
  • 3 egg whites


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the filling, using an electric hand mixer, combine the potatoes, 1 cup of the sugar, the butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices. Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and continue to mix. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pie on a rack and cool to room temperature before covering with meringue.
For the meringue, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is glossy and stiff, but not dry. With a rubber spatula, spoon the meringue onto the pie, forming peaks. Make sure the meringue touches the crust all around. Sprinkle with a pinch of granulated sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until delicately browned. Cool and serve.

What I did right: I added extra vanilla, a dollop of bourbon and a generous pinch of nutmeg. It seemed sacrilege to not use nutmeg. When beating the meringue, I added a 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar, doubled the amount of egg whites, and beat them to soft peaks with a hand mixer in my clean copper bowl. Nice and high, that's how I like my meringue.
What I did wrong: See Butterscotch Cream Pie.
What I thought of it: Yum. More complex than pumpkin pie, different in that it's topped with meringue instead of whipped cream. It's lighter and better for you. After all, nutritionists at the Center for Science and the Public Interest ranked sweet potatoes #1 in nutrition, outscoring the next highest vegetable by over 100 points.
How I'll tweak it next time: I think I'll make two. Teenage boys, you know.

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