Pumpkin is undoubtedly the king of American pies, but very few people ever use an actual pumpkin to make their pie. Instead, they use processed pumpkin out of a can. I can't complain too much about that (I've used the canned pumpkin and enjoyed the resultant pies on many holidays). But I'd like to suggest that if you want the home-made feel there is a pie you can make that is no less delicious than a standard American pumpkin pie, but that starts with a main ingredient you can break down yourself without ending up covered in pumpkin guts.
If the pumpkin pie is King at Thanksgiving time, I think the sweet potato pie is at least the Duke and maybe even the Prince of Pies.
This particular sweet potato pie is infused with what I think of as Thai flavors. I don't add glangal or bird peppers (though believe me, the temptation was there), but instead of cream, I used coconut milk and spiced it with not just cinnamon and nutmeg, but with a little cardamom and ginger. Of course there's a little brown sugar on top, but I also added some finely crushed macadamia nuts. The crust is made from down-home graham crackers, sugar, and butter. It all comes together to make one of the more delicious pies you'll ever have.
The only question is whether you should serve this filling pie hot or cold. I like the pie cold where I can take my time savoring the flavors, my wife prefers to warm up her slice of pie before eating so she gets the full effect of the aromatics. Bake this pie and you can help resolve the debate about the best way to serve a slice.
Oh, and at the end of the recipe is a mystery you can help clear up if you're the detecting type.
Spiced Sweet Potato Pie
1 1/2 packs of graham crackers (7.7 oz)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
3 large sweet potatos (about 2 1/4 pounds)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 can coconut milk (5.6 oz)
one whole egg plus two egg whites beaten together lightly
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup macadamia nuts, smashed well
You'll need a fairly deep pie plate for this recipe. Otherwise, you may end up with extra filling. If you don't have a deep plate, either reduce the proportions of the recipe or bake the extra filling in a separate bowl.
Mix all the crust ingredients together in a food processor and pulse until well mixed and the graham crackers have been reduced to a large crumb size. Pack into the bottom of a deep 9" pie plate to form a crust. Refrigerate.
In a large pot of water, boil the sweet potatoes until tender, but not falling apart. Start checking at 20 minutes and every five or ten minutes after that until done. Peel the sweet potatoes while hot. The skins should just about fall off. Look for and remove any eyes or dark spots in the flesh.
Empty the pot of water out and either return the potatoes to it for mashing or place the potatoes in a large bowl. Add all the filling ingredients to the pot with the potatoes. You may want to hold back a little of the coconut milk until you can judge the consistency of the filling. Mash all the ingredients together until you have a uniform mush. It should be about the consistency of oatmeal, maybe just a little looser.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour as much of the filling as you can into the crust. Don't overflow the top. Sprinkle two tablespoons of brown sugar and the crushed macadamia nuts evenly over the pie. Place the pie plate on a foil lined cookie sheet (trust me on this) and bake for 45 minutes.
After 45 minutes, check the pie. If you wish, you can broil the top for a minute or so to melt and crystalize the brown sugar topping. Remove from the oven. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before cutting. Serve by itselt or with a dollop of whipped cream.
And now for the mystery. The pie did not seem to have overflowed at all, yet the foil and the bottom of the pie plate were covered with a thin oily residue. I can't decide if this is fat from coconut milk steam or from the butter in the crust. If you make this pie and experience the same problem, let me know what you think it is and why.