A delicately spiced Southern pie with creamy sweet potato custard, topped with a fun marshmallow-like Swiss meringue. A nice alternative to pumpkin pie.
This year for Pie Week, I wanted to stretch my pie-making chops with one that I wouldn’t normally bake–the sweet potato pie.
Comfortably Domestic Confession: Up until a year ago, I’ve never in my Pie-Lovin’ days eaten so much as a tiny sliver of sweet potato pie. Not once. What can I say? I’m a Northern Girl, and here Up North, the only harvest orange pies are of the pumpkin variety. In fact, my informal poll of willing respondents (read: people that don’t run for cover when I ask a food related question) uncovered a shocking truth–Northerners, it seems, think that they think that they don’t like sweet potato pie.
Pumpkin pie reigns supreme Up North. So much so, that I couldn’t even scare up a sweet potato pie at any of the local bakeries. After insisting that no, I wasn’t looking for the casserole with marshmallows on top, I was told sweet potato pie was too regional, only a Southern thing, or just plain weird.
You want me to run full-on toward something? Tell me it’s weird. I like weird.
I knew that I couldn’t consider myself a self-respecting Pie Girl without at least dabbling in the starchy southern favorite–with or without a willing panel of taste testers. Project Sweet Potato Pie was launched as any good culinary project is in my house–with research.
Sweet potato pie is a classic with deep Southern roots stemming from grievous beginnings. African slaves are credited with adopting the sweet potato into commonality due to its similarity with the tuberous yam that was a dietary staple in Africa. Early sweet potato pies contained only the sweetness inherent in the potatoes, and often graced supper tables as a vegetable side dish rather than a dessert. In wealthier estates, sugar was added to make the otherwise savory pie a dessert.
The first published recipe for sweet potato pie was in the book, What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking by Abby Fisher. Mrs. Fisher and her husband traveled from Alabama to California in search of prosperity. It was there that they started a pickling and preserving business. Abby became very well known in the area for her cooking skills, for which she won many awards. So in 1881, several white women helped her write and publish cookbook. Quite an accomplishment at that time for a former slave turned entrepreneur who could neither read nor write very well.
After discovering Abby Fisher in my research, I knew that I had to perfect a sweet potato pie to convert all my pumpkin-biased friends. Abby’s published recipe read as one of my grandma’s would–with a list of ingredients, few measurements, and just about no tangible baking instructions aside from the words “bake quickly.”
I love recipes like that! I consider it a personal challenge to decode them.
So based loosely on Abby Fisher’s recipe, I went to work. I used fewer eggs, sprinkled in a blend of warm spices, and added way more sugar than Mrs. Fisher probably ever intended. And because I am a Northern Girl, I drizzled in some local maple syrup.
And it was good! I loved the basic Maple Sweet Potato Pie! But I was in a bit of a conundrum because there was no way that I was going to get my friends & neighbors to cheerfully sample a naked sweet potato pie. To make that happen, I knew that I had to put something white, fluffy, and toasted on top.
Consider it a nod to my Northern neighbors that are only accepting of sweet potatoes when marshmallows are involved. (Forgive me, my Southern Friends!)
So I topped off the whole affair with toasted Swiss Meringue, which acknowledged the idea of marshmallow topping, but in a far creamier, less cloyingly sweet kind of way. And it was really, really good! Best of all, I made 6 different pies, and each and every one of them was devoured before I had the chance to mention what type of pies they were eating.
Woo-hoo! Victory! Move over pumpkin…Maple Sweet Potato Pie with Swiss Meringue is coming to challenge your northern reign!
Maple Sweet Potato Pie with Swiss Meringue
Yields One 9-inch Pie
A delicately spiced, creamy sweet potato custard, topped with a fun toasted marshmallow-like Swiss meringue. My take on the Southern classic is a nice alternative to pumpkin pie.
Prep Time: 1 hour, Cook Time: 45 minutes, Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
For the Pie Pastry:
One recipe No Excuses Pie Dough, or enough of your favorite all butter pie pastry for a double crust, 9-inch pie
Aluminum foil and dried beans or pie weights
For Sealing the Pastry:
1 large egg
1 Tbs. water
For the Filling:
2 medium sweet potatoes, baked, peeled, and finely mashed
¼ C. pure maple syrup
¼ C. granulated sugar
½ C. brown sugar, packed
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 C. 2% milk
For the Swiss Meringue:
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ C. granulated sugar
¼ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. clear vanilla extract
For the Pie Pastry-
Prepare the No Excuses Pie Dough according to directions. Once dough has sufficiently chilled, roll out pie dough on a lightly floured surface, large enough to line a 9-inch pie plate with 1-inch overhang of dough. Fold the overhang under and crimp the edge as desired. Prick the bottom and sides of the pie dough with a fork. Freeze the pastry lined pie plate for 30 minutes. (The pastry lined pie plate can be frozen overnight.)
Once the pie shell is frozen, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Move the oven rack to the middle of the oven.
Whip the egg with water to make an egg wash. Line the pie shell with a double thickness of aluminum foil and then fill it with dried beans or pie weights. (Ensure that there is plenty of foil to grab to easily lift both the foil and pie weights out of the pie shell later.)
Bake for 13 minutes. Briefly remove the pie shell from the oven. Firmly grab the aluminum foil and lift it and the pie weights out of the pie shell. Brush a thin layer of egg wash on the bottom of the pie shell to seal it and keep the crust from becoming soggy later. Bake for an additional 2 minutes to set the egg wash. Remove from the oven and cool while preparing the filling.
For the Filling-
Prepare the filling by pulsing the baked, peeled sweet potatoes, granulated sugar, brown sugar, pure maple syrup, and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor until very smooth. Add the eggs, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt. Pulse until combined. With the processor running, slowly pour the milk through the feed chute until it is incorporated and the filling is smooth.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Pour the filling into the par-baked pie shell. Bake the pie for 40-45 minutes, or until the filling is slightly cracked around the edges and puffy and set in the center. Transfer pie to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Swiss Meringue Topping-
Once the pie has cooled and is ready to serve, prepare the Swiss Meringue topping. Fill a medium saucepan with 1-inch of cool tap water. Bring the water to a simmer (tiny bubbles but not boiling) over medium heat. While the water is coming to simmer, whisk the egg whites with the sugar and cream of tartar in a tempered-glass bowl until frothy. Set the bowl of egg white mixture over the pot of simmering water, ensuring that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. (Double-boiler style.)
Gently whisk the egg whites continually as they warm over the simmering water until the sugar completely dissolves and the egg whites are warm (about 5 minutes.) The egg whites will be white and foamy. Rub a bit of the foam between your fingers—it should feel smooth. If the mixture feels grainy, the sugar hasn’t melted completely, so keep heating it until melted.
Transfer the warm egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. (To test for stiff peaks, remove the whisk attachment and invert it. The peak should stand upright for several seconds before partially falling back onto itself.)
Spread or pipe the meringue onto the cooled pie. If you own a kitchen torch, get it out now to brown and set the meringue. If not, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F to brown the meringue in the oven. Use a kitchen torch to dry the exterior of the meringue and brown it to your liking. I prefer to use the torch to quickly dry the meringue all over, and then brown just the edges of the textures created with the spreader. The same affect can be accomplished by placing the cake into a 400 degree F oven until the meringue has dried and browned to your liking.
Serve the pie immediately.
Be sure to come back around on Saturday when I share my new favorite pie in the entire world–Very Berry Cherry Pie!
But until then, I recommend taking a few minutes to peruse all of the mouthwatering Pies of Pie Week:
I’m here with my Mile High Apple Pie!
Katie / The Hill Country Cook – New Mexico Apple Pie
Anne / From My Sweet Heart – Cranberry Cherry Ricotta Pie
Haley / The Girlie Girl Cooks – Coconut Cream Pie
Jeanne / Inside NanaBread’s Head – Black and White Coconut Tart
Mads / La Petite Pancake – Pineapple Pie
Monica / The Grommom – Papaya Pie
Carrie / Bakeaholic Mama – Chocolate Cream Pie
Kat / Tenaciously Yours – Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
I’m back with my twist on a Southern Classic – Maple Sweet Potato Pie with Toasted Swiss Meringue
Shanna / Pineapple Coconut – Boozy Pumpkin Egg Nog Pie
Carrie / Bakeaholic Mama – Sweet Potato Tartlets
Madeline / Munchin in the Mitten – Sweet Potato Pie
Allison / Decadent Philistines – Refrigerator Pumpkin Porter Chocolate Pie with Toasted Pumpkin Marshmallow “Meringue”
Lauren / Climbing Grier Mountain – Mini Butternut Squash Pie Stacks with Marshmallow Frosting
Megan / Wanna Be a Country Cleaver – Biscoff Pie with Whiskey Mallow Fluff
Shanna / Pineapple Coconut – Persimmon, Pear and Brandy Pie with Vanilla Bean Crumble
Christina / Buffy and George – Deep Dish Apple Pie
I’m back again to wrap up Pie Week with twist on the typical berry pie – Very Berry Cherry Pie