Wondering why not pumpkin? Well, if you have ever tried to peel and cook down one of those, it is not easy. I cooked one Mexican-style. After six hours, the pulp was still very fibrous. With 10 other dishes to cook, sweet potatoes are easy and fast. Besides, pie would just about put me into complete victory in Battle Orange.
Next thing I know, the editor wanted me in the Thanksgiving 100-mile diet section with the pie — the pie that had not yet been created. And they needed said pie in a few days for a photo. Nothing like a little heat to get the oven going.
The first worry was the crust. My pastry is edible, often tasty, but rarely a thing of beauty worth gracing James Beard award-winning pages. Try as I might, I can never make those nice little fluted edges work. What to do? I cheated. I bought one of those fluted-edge pie pans, ceramic and expensive. I highly recommend these for others who are crust-deficient. Now, how in the world am I going to get pies made in the middle of a work week and full-time parenting in the evenings?
Fortunately, I have an understanding boss. Unfortunately, I have a demanding job. I found myself trying to create and prepare a new recipe while on a conference call defining “content type items” with web site developers. This is not advisable. Multi-tasking is much easier when at least one of the tasks can be performed on autopilot. Otherwise it can go like this:
Uh, yeah, in the, uh, main section template, you would have the title item, subtitle … OUCH! (actually, it was an expletive, not an ouch, and a very unprofessional one at that).
“No, it’s okay, I just shoved the food processor blade into my hand … it’ll be fine once I stop bleeding, don’t think it needs a stitch … so, the subtitle item and then of course, on this template you would have … Oh [expletive] … can I put you on hold a moment?
“Uh, you still bleeding?”
“No, but there are eggs and cream running out of the food processor and down the cabinets. Give me a moment here.”
Crashing sounds. Food processor running. A few more expletives.
“Okay, back now, where were we?”
It was not pretty. When I hung up, I had to recount the eggshells, sure enough, I had missed one egg. I took one more look at my hand-scratched out recipe. Let’s see … brown sugar? Did I put that in? Oh, man … how do you miss a whole cup of sugar?
Somehow the pies made it into the oven, and one of them even looked good enough to photograph. I was VERY worried about how they would taste. Fortunately, they tasted great and the recipe actually tested well when the food editor tried it. I’ll be making this recipe again for the holiday. I just hope it will turn out half as well when I have a whole brain devoted to it! Well, as much of a brain as I have left, anyway.
I can't say my photo turned out well in the article, but Jill Silva's Thanksgiving feast is absolutely beautiful and inspiring. For anyone looking to go local for the holiday, this is a great source of recipes and ideas:
Happy, Local Thanksgiving!
Recipe follows, local ingredients sourced were pecans, butter, cream, sweet potatoes, and eggs.
Vanilla-Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan-Brown Sugar Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup pecans
3 tbs. Brown sugar
1 stick butter
1/3 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 tsp. Salt
4-5 tbs. Ice water
1 and 3/4 lbs. Sweet potatoes (2 large, red-skinned with dark orange flesh)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Ceylon cinnamon (Ceylon has a softer, fruitier flavor without harsh bite)
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out with back of knife
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 egg white beaten for crust
For the crust, put the pecans in food processor and pulse to chop fine. Add the flours, salt and sugar to the food processor next and pulse to combine. Add cold butter one tablespoon at a time and pulse a few times until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water one tablespoon at a time and pulse just until dough starts to come together. You may not need all the ice water. Less water is best. Try not to overmix. Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a flat disk. Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour and up to a day.
Roll the dough out between sheets of plastic wrap to about a 14-inch round. Peel off top layer of wrap and then invert dough into pie dish, remove wrap. Trim the edges to 3/4 inch overhang and crimp. Cover crust with plastic wrap. Place dish with crust in the refrigerator to chill while you make filling.
Place rack in bottom third of the oven. Preheat oven to 400°F.
Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Steam potatoes for about 20-30 minutes until fork tender. Allow to cool a bit and mash with potato masher until smooth. (You can also use a food processor and pulse a few times). Measure one and one-half cups of puree for the pie, placing this into the food processor. Add brown sugar and pulse to combine. Add three eggs pulsing to combine, drizzle in cream while blade is running to mix in. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and the seeds from the half of vanilla bean, reserving the pod for other use. Pulse to combine well.
Remove crust from fridge, remove wrap and brush with beaten egg white. Add filling. Cover crust edges with foil to prevent over-browning for the first 30 minutes of baking. Bake until the center is set and the edges puff up, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the foil from the crust halfway through baking so the crust will brown.
A few notes:
The dairy, eggs, sweet potatoes and pecans can all be sourced locally.
Don’t panic. The crust will be browner than a normal piecrust because of the brown sugar and pecans.
You can find the Expat Chef in her kitchen. Or, just for this holiday, in the newspaper along with the eatlocalchallenge information.
More dessert ideas from other Crazy Hip Blog Mamas can be found here.