I’m knee deep in recipes for the festive season this week for the Brixton Blog and Bugle so my own cooking has been simple recently with nothing blog-worthy (unless you want to read about cheese on crackers of course?) So I’m pretending to be prepared for the US Thanksgiving by giving you the recipe I made for Canadian Thanksgiving for people in Brixton…who knew sweet potato pie could be so multicultural, eh?
This is a very easy recipe with a terrible photo and a set of kitchen tales I’ll probably never forget. I made a pastry inspired by Nigella’s latest book using buttermilk instead of egg and it made the lightest, shortest pastry possible. All of which meant when I dropped the unfilled pie shell the night before I was meant to serve the pie, there was no room for manoeuvre with its fragility.
Ho hum, I thought, these things happen. I simply made another batch of the pastry and lined my pie tin again. I froze it overnight and blind baked it in the morning. Back on track. Until I took the baking beans out and accidentally turned the oven temperature up not down.
Meh, it’s a bit browner than I intended. No need to panic. So the entire box of eggs are off. You have spares. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, dropping the filled pie against the oven the door 15 minutes into baking it is pretty close. Three hours before I had ten people round for dinner and my glossy spiced sweet potato custard looks like I’d reversed a car over it.
In real life I shoved some pastry stars on the top, egg washed them to oblivion and tweeted about it to turn it into an amusing anecdote we could all laugh about. Even I finding it funny until I lifted out the tub of creme fraiche I planned to serve with it about 15 minutes before everyone arrived, discovered it was mouldy, rolled my eyes at my life and chucked it in the bin.
Whereupon it hit the bottom of the bin and exploded violently upwards into my face, mould and all. I now know why they perfume cheap dry shampoo so heavily. The only thanks I was giving was that if anyone noticed an odd dairy related odour from me as I served the pie they were too polite to comment.
It might have driven me to the brink, but the pie went down so well there wasn’t a scrap to show by the end of the evening, so I recommend you make it if you want to make people very happy and then smugly show me on Instagram how well you did. I won’t notice of course. I’ll still be washing my hair.
Sweet Potato Pie (makes one 9 inch pie)
For the pastry:
- 240g plain flour
- 120g cold butter, cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons yoghurt or buttermilk
For the pie filling:
- 250g sweet potatoes, peeled and boiled
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- 25g butter
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 25g sugar
- 250ml evaporated milk
- 2 eggs, separated
Start by making your pastry as it needs time to chill well. Put the flour in a large bowl and add the butter. Using a potato masher, break the butter up into the flour. This keeps the butter colder and therefore the pastry lighter and crumblier. When the butter is almost totally broken up, use your fingertips to rub it in completely so it looks like fine breadcrumbs.
Add the yoghurt or buttermilk a tablespoon at a time, bringing the mixture together with your hand to form a soft, slightly sticky pastry that comes away cleanly from the bowl. You may not need all the yoghurt as you don’t want wet pastry or you’ll get the dreaded soggy bottom on the pie.
Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, flattening it out into a disc and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. When you are ready to roll it, put it between two sheets of greaseproof paper first. The softness of the pastry makes it impossible to roll even on a floured surface.
Roll the pastry out to about 1/4 inch thick and use greaseproof paper to lift it up and into a 9 inch loose bottomed tart tin. Cut a bit of the excess pastry off and use it to press the pastry into the edges of the tin. Pop the lined tin in the freezer for 30 minutes to chill again. Keeping the pastry cold and not handling if possible keeps it from shrinking in the oven.
Line the pastry filled tin with one of the sheets of greaseproof paper and fill it with raw rice or dried beans and bake at 180℃ for 25 minutes. This is called blind baking and means the pastry is nice and crisp before you add the filling. After 25 minutes, take the pie out of the oven, remove the greaseproof paper and allow to cool.
You can now turn your attention to the filling. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes. Add to a large pan and boil for 15-20 minutes on a medium high heat and then drain well. Put back in the pan and mash well. Beat the golden syrup and butter too and then add all the spices. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and use a stick blender to get the whole mixture as smooth as possible.
Keeping the sweet potato mixture just warm, add the sugar, vanilla, evaporated milk and the egg yolks to it, beating well until you have a gorgeous smooth custard that smells amazing. Take off the heat and set aside.
Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks and then fold them into the sweet potato mix. Use small quick motions instead of stirring to keep the air in and make the custard light and fluffy. Pour the custard mix into the pie shell and bake for 25 minutes on 180℃ until it is just set and smooth and shimmering on the surface.
Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature for best results. The pie can be made the day in advance and stored in the fridge and any leftovers will keep for a day or two. I had no leftovers from mine, just a few crumbs and a lot of appreciative guests. This is a much better winter warmer than a pumpkin spice latte for sure!