The seasonable temperatures have finally arrived, and with them the fall harvest of all things orange. From pumpkins to squash to sweet potatoes. These naturally sweet vegetables with their harder flesh arrive just in time for their longer roasting times to warm kitchens cooled by the falling temps. Baked pies, roasted medallions and simmered purées festoon the autumn-inspired dinner table, their caramelized sugars scenting the air and whetting the appetite.
But upon closer inspection, the pie isn’t quite what you expected. It’s not pumpkin but sweet potato pie. If you’re making your pies from scratch, the sweet potato is by far the easier vegetable to use. Unlike the pumpkin, the only roasting preparation needed is a quick wash of the skins. There is no lid to remove, no seeds to disgorge, no fingers to slice, knick or chop while trying to cut the pumpkin into manageable roasting sizes. Sweet potatoes are so simple to roast that they don’t even require pricking. In fact, keeping the skins whole makes the peeling process effortless. Sweet potatoes also have less water in their flesh so there is little chance of ending up with a watery pie.
The sweet potato has long been known as the perfect food, ages before buzzwords like “superfood” and “antioxidants” arrived on the scene. A roasted sweet potato needs no dressing up. It is delicious right out of its skin. And it’s this natural sweetness that we’ll be taking advantage of for this pie. When choosing sweet potatoes, look for specimens with a consistent diameter; this will help the potato roast evenly and completely. Of course, all the potatoes should be roughly the same size so they can roast in the same amount of time.
As far as why it could fill in for any of an entire day’s meals, dishes or accompaniments; it is the perfect breakfast food, with vitamins and minerals aplenty, protein from eggs and buttermilk, and sweet enough to stand in for most breakfast fare. Stored at room temperature, it’s quick to eat and even quicker to satisfy. It works perfectly as a stand-in for any sweet potato side dish. And like its breakfast identity, is sweetly satisfying as a dessert.
The sweet potato also works well in other shells that speak more to how the pie will be used: side dish or dessert. Plain pastry shells might be best when the pie is served alongside meats and other vegetables for dinner, but a sweeter tart dough or even cookie crust would make this hardworking and versatile root vegetable shine for breakfast or dessert. Whichever you choose, you can’t go wrong when it’s sweet potato inside.
Sweet Potato Pie
- 2 cups mashed sweet potato
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup buttermilk
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 9-inch pie crust, tart dough or sugar cookie crust
Turn the oven on to 350°F. Rinse any dirt or debris off the sweet potatoes taking care not to rub or peel away the skins. Arrange the potatoes on a non-stick foil-lined baking sheet. Place the potatoes in the oven (it doesn’t need to be preheated) and roast the potatoes for an hour and twenty minutes. The potatoes are done when sugars begin to bubble out from the potatoes and they are soft enough to pierce through with a sharp knife. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them to cool completely, about 2-3 hours. The skins will have completely separated from the flesh and will easily peel away. Gently mash the flesh in a bowl. Reserve any leftover mashed sweet potato. This can be reheated or eaten at room temperature without adding anything to it.
For the Pie
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Mix all the ingredients, except the crust, in a large mixing bowl until the ingredients are well combined. Ease the pastry crust into a 9-inch pie plate, or alternately gently roll out the dough to 1/8 inch and press the tart dough or cookie crust evenly into the pie plate. Place the pie plate on a baking sheet to catch any spills. Fill the crust with the sweet potato filling and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes with the convection fan on if you have it. Allow the pie to cool at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving it. It can also be cooled completely before serving. Store leftovers, if any actually remain, at room temperature.