The pie was first inspired by a friend who grew huge sweet potatoes in an organic garden. More recently, my own small garden has offered up enough sweet potatoes to warrant a pie filling, which I have to believe my young boys would appreciate, given their personal efforts to dig up the knobby roots.
This classic recipe from a Soul — and soul-food — icon calls for shortening, which I use only every few years or so, but does make a delicious pie crust. I also might consider using a store-bought crust, which I usually have on hand. Consider this for your Thanksgiving feast or anytime sweet potatoes are in abundance.
Patti Labelle’s Sweet Potato Pie
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter-flavored vegetable shortening, chilled
1/3 cup ice water
3 large orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 21/2 pounds), scrubbed
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted, divided
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon ground
Whipped cream, for serving (optional)
In a food processor, pulse the flour and salt a few times. Add the shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few pea-sized bits. (Or mix in a bowl using a fork or pastry blender). Gradually add enough of the ice water until mixture clumps together (you may need more or less water). Gather up dough and press into a thick disc. If desired, wrap dough in wax paper and refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
On a floured work surface, roll out dough into a 13-inch circle. Fold dough in half. Transfer to a 9-inch pie pan and gently unfold dough to fit into pan. Using scissors or a sharp knife, trim dough to a 1-inch overhang. Fold dough under itself so edge of fold is flush with edge of pan. Flute edge. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while making filling. Crust may be made up to 2 days in advance.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil over high heat. Add the sweet potatoes and reduce heat to medium. Cook until sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife, for about 30 minutes. Drain and run under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel sweet potatoes and place in a medium bowl.
Mash with an electric mixer on medium speed until very smooth. Measure 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes, keeping any extra for another use, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Uncover pie shell and brush interior with about 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the brown sugar evenly over bottom of shell. Bake in preheated oven until pie dough is set and just beginning to brown, for about 15 minutes. If pie shell puffs, do not prick it. Remove pie shell from oven and cool while you finish making filling.
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, mix mashed sweet potatoes, remaining melted butter and brown sugar, the granulated sugar, eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread into partially baked pie shell, smoothing top.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 F. Bake until a knife inserted in center of filling comes out clean, for about 1 1/2 hours. Cool completely on a wire cake rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve with the whipped cream.
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.
Recipe adapted by the Detroit Free Press from www.epicurious.com.