Southern Sweet Potato Pie
History Of a Southern Dessert Staple
During the sixteenth century, Europeans brought with them the tradition of making pumpkin pie to West Africans. This tradition made its way to America during the slave trade. Slaves having limited access to certain ingredients, modified the dessert using yams first, and then on to sweet potatoes. Yams were commonly fed to slaves during the Middle Passage.
To end any potential confusion; yes, there IS a difference between a yam and a sweet potato in case you are wondering. The yam and sweet potato come from two different types of plants. The word yam in African dialects is either “Yam Yam, Tuber Crop or Oyame.” Yams are monocots from the Dioscoreales family. Sweet potatoes are from the Morning Glory plant family.
Fun fact: One of history's greatest inventors George Washington Carver released over 100 uses for the sweet potato.
Variations Of Sweet Potato
Flesh, Flavor, Texture and Skin Variations
There are over 400 varieties of sweet potatoes. Skin color can be red, yellow, white, brown or purple, while the flesh can be orange, white, yellow or a mix of orange-red. The shapes are usually similar with pointy ends.
Among the numerous varieties of sweet potatoes grown in the U.S., the two types we will focus on are as follows:
- Firm sweet potatoes: has golden skin with a more pale flesh
- Soft sweet potatoes: has copper brown skin with orange flesh.
Firm sweet potatoes are more firm and even after cooking, while the soft sweet potatoes becomes fluffy and creamy. For the purposes of a sweet potato pie, we prefer to use the soft sweet potato.
This is a tool best used for mashed potatoes, or in this case our sweet potato filling. I have been using this tool for multiple recipes throughout my career as a chef. The end result is a much lighter, fluffier potato.
- 3 (1 lb.) each Soft Sweet Potato
- 3 cups White Sugar
- 1 1/2 cups Unsalted Butter, Softened
- 6 Eggs
- 1 1/2 cups Milk
- 1 teaspoons Nutmeg, Ground
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Cinnamon, Ground
- 2 each Fresh Vanilla Bean or 1 Tbsp. Vanilla Extract
- 3 Unbaked Pie Shells, Thawed
- 8 ounces Unsalted Butter, Melted
- Prep- 30 minutes Cook- 1 hour 50 minutes Ready In- 2 hours 20 minutes
- Scrub sweet potato with vegetable scrubber, and rinse with cold water. Pat dry. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large pot of boiling water, place potatoes in whole for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Use a small pairing knife to pierce the potato, if it slides out easily, its done. Rinse sweet potatoes with cold water and remove the skin. It should slide off easily. Place the ricer or food mill over a bowl, place sweet potato in the food mill and crank them through. Remove as much potato as possible. In bowl of milled sweet potato, add softened (but not melted)butter, and mix well with a handheld or stand up mixer. Stir in eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla(if using fresh, take a small pairing knife and slit the vanilla bean right down the middle. Use the back of the knife and press down on the vanilla bean to slide out the insides. Discard the pods) Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Using a pastry brush, butter the pie crust with the melted butter.
- Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife pierced in center of the pie comes out clean. Don't worry if the pie puffs up like a souffle, it will go down as it cools. Once cooled, slice and serve with candied nuts, whipped cream or as is.