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Sweet Potato Pie

I hadn't heard of it either. In Texas, Kansas and Connecticut, sweet potato pie may seem a bit alien. But in the Carolinas, it is a fine delicacy, adored just as much -- if not more -- than pumpkin pie; in fact, the two have plenty in common. Their textures, their spices, the season in which they are both praised... pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie may be siblings in the land of pie, but there is something more exciting about sweet potato, a bit unexpected -- a wild card, almost. In Greenville, South Carolina, there is the most incredible bakery and restaurant across from the Drive stadium: Brick Street Cafe, which was the place for any special occasion in college: birthdays, family weekend, graduation weekend, THE dessert-after-having-dinner-somewhere-else place. And Brick Street has an astoundingly delicious sweet potato pie, but what truly stole my heart was the bakery's sweet potato cake. The secret ingredient? Sweet potato pie.

Yes, an entire sweet potato pie (minus the crust) in the cake batter. Because why not? Have your cake and eat your pie, too. Literally: you are eating a cake and a pie, simultaneously. I was addicted.

Sweet potato cake/pie may be somewhere in my baking future, but we must ease into it. We can't be too over-eager. So I'll start with sweet potato pie. The filling recipe is Nicole Price's from Food52, which you can find here; or if you'd rather read it here, I am flattered.

Sweet Potato Pie

Yields one 9-inch pie

For the dough:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-vegetable shortening

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup ice-cold water (you won't need all of it)

For the filling:

2 medium sweet potatoes, mashed

1/2 cup evaporated milk

6 tablespoons butter, softened & at room temperature

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

3 eggs

1 tablespoon graham cracker crumbs

Note: This pie dough recipe makes two 9-inch crusts. For sweet potato pie, you only need one. Halve this recipe to only have enough for your pie; or, if you're like me and love to bake, freeze the second disc of dough until you make your next pie.

Make the crust: Fill a measuring cup with 1/2 cup water. Plop a few ice cubes in the water and place measuring cup in the freezer while you make the dough.

Whisk flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut your shortening and butter into 1/2 or 1 tbsp. sized cubes, and toss them into the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, pick up fingerfuls of fat and flour, and press together the fat, dropping it back into the bowl. Continue until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, with a few larger pieces strewn throughout.

Grab the measuring cup from the freezer, and pour a thin, steady stream of water into the fat and flour for about 4 seconds. Using the same technique as before, toss the fat and flour together. The mixture should feel tacky and slightly damp, with a few coarse crumbs still there.

Take a handful of dough, form it into a ball and toss it into the air, letting it land back in your palm. If the dough holds its shape in your hand, it is done. If not, continue adding water by the teaspoon. (Shortening is so soft and easier to manage compared to butter; you should not need more than 1/4 cup of water.)

Divide the dough roughly in half, form each half into a ball, and shape each ball into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap, and roll the wrapped dough along its side like a wheel to make a perfect circle. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour before rolling.

Assembling the Pie: After the dough has chilled, grab one of the discs from the fridge. If it has been chilling for more than 2 hours, let rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch circle. Fold the dough in half, then in quarters, and place in pie plate. Unfold, trim overhang and brush the bottom of the crust with the lightly beaten egg white. Place in the fridge while you make the filling.

Making the Filling: In a stand mixer or handheld mixer, blend sweet potatoes, sugar, evaporated milk, butter, lemon extract, vanilla extract, cinnamon and flour until fully incorporated. Add eggs and mix until the filling is smooth, and taste for seasoning. Retreive the chilled pie crust from the refrigerater, and sprinkle the graham cracker crumbs over bottom of the crust.

Spoon the filling into the crust and bake for 1 hour or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

Enjoy and pretend like you're in South Carolina.

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