As many of you have figured out, I’ve got a megawatt crush on Southern food. It comes out with a vengeance all summer when I want nothing more than to dry-rub ribs, make corn bread and buttermilk dressing salads, dive headfirst into tomato pie and douse pretty much everything in bourbon then usually goes into a soft hibernation over the winter save a fried chicken or chicken and dumplings run-in or two.
Given this infatuation, it seems only right and proper that I’d get in a recipe for sweet potato pie at a time of year when sweet potatoes are exactly everywhere. But while I do love me some sweet potato pie, there’s a heaviness about it that is exactly what some people like about it but leaves me feeling kind of lukewarm. So you can imagine when I spied this fluffier, tangier and [here’s the part I think you’re really going to remember] almost cheesecake-like version of it a cookbook written by and I’d like to believe for Manhattanites with a thing for Southern home cooking, I bookmarked it instantaneously and then sat on my hands/tapped my feet impatiently until sweet potato season came around.
[Can you tell I went a little overboard with the sweet potatoes at the market? I have so many, I’m even tepidly considering cooking, pureeing and freezing some for that seemingly far-off time a few months from now sobpleasestopgrowingsofast when this fist-eater theoretically moves on to more nutritional solids.]
This recipe is a total win, especially if you were looking for a brighter, lighter alternative to a traditional sweet potato pie. Just be sure to warn folks because it may look like tradition but it tastes like “surprise!” and you know, not everyone likes to be surprised when they cut into their Thanksgiving dessert. Which, frankly, just means more for you.
One year ago: Chocolate Toffee Cookies, Chickpea Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Meyer Lemon and Fresh Cranberry Scones, Winter Fruit Salad and Mushroom and Barley Pie
Two years ago: Creamy White Polenta with Mushrooms, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and Pecan Cookies an Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts in Brown Butter
Three years ago: No-Knead Bread, Tomato and Sausage Risotto, Sundried Tomato-Stuffed Mushrooms and Jacked-Up Banana Bread
Sweet Potato Buttermilk Pie
Adapted only slightly from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook
Whipped egg whites give this pie a frothy texture, buttermilk gives it a tangy flavor and together you end up with a sweet potato pie that’s less leaden and more cheesecake-like than the tradition. Yes, I know you read that whole sentence and only registered the word “cheesecake”!
Oh, and Alex and I don’t see eye to eye on the lemon juice in this recipe. I find the lemon distracting, and slightly clash-y with the cinnamon and warm spices in this pie, and possibly overpowering the sweet potato flavor. Alex likes the extra tanginesss. I’m going to leave it up to you depending on where you want your pie to be on the acidic scale. I believe the buttermilk alone will give you some brightness but the lemon will take it a step further.
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium potatoes), peeled and chopped into a 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpoe flour
3/4 cup full- or lowfat buttermilk (or, you can make your own)
1 All-Butter, Really Flaky Pie Crust (a half recipe will yield a single crust), prebaked (instructions below)
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Pour 1 1/2 inches of water into a 3-quart stock part with a strainer basket suspended over it and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Place the steamed sweet potatoes in a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Mash them into a smooth puree with a fork or potato masher (though I suspect that a potato ricer would also do a great job). You should have 1 1/4 cups puree; discard any excess (by topping with a pat of butter, sprinkling with salt and making yourself a most-excellent snack). Add the butter, lemon juice if using, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a whisk, about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until they’re a creamy lemon-yellow color, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add the egg mixture to the sweet potato mixture and stir until the eggs are thoroughly incorporated and the filling is a consistent bright orange color. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring after each addition until thoroughly incorporated. Add the buttermilk and again stir until smooth and even.
With a cleaned whisk (or electric hand mixer), whisk the egg whites to soft peaks in a clean, dry bowl. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the sweet potato-buttermilk mixture until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into the prebaked crust and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the center is firm and set, 35 to 40 minutes.
Remove the pie from the oven and cool completely on a rack. Serve at room temperature (or cold from the fridge; you can cover it with plastic wrap before chilling) with a dollop of whipped cream.
To pre-bake your pie crust, choose a method: “Proper” method — Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the dough and carefully scatter pie weights, dried beans or pennies over it. Bake on the middle rick of your oven at 325°F for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pie weights and the foil, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake for 10 minutes more.
Deb’s “Cheater” method — Freeze your rolled-out pie shell for 20 to 30 minutes until solid. Press a piece of buttered foil, buttered side down, very frozen shell and blind bake it at 325°F for 20 minutes, then carefully pull back the foil, press any part of the crust that has bubbled up gently back with the back of a spoon, prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, and bake for 10 minutes more.