Stoked about Sweet Potato Pie

My mother was one of those bakers that used "a little bit of this" and "a little bit of that". So when my sister and I bought our first house together —and we realized that we had no idea how to make Thanksgiving dinner "like Mom"—we used the tech available to us at the time...the telephone.

We called Mom and drilled for recipes. Recipe after recipe, we were met with a chuckle and a little of this and a little of that. So with what amounted to a list of ingredients, my sister and I began to methodically track our measurements and figure out what Mom meant by "mix it well, but be sure not to over mix it! And be sure to use a wooden spoon or it doesn't come out right!"

One of my favorite Mom based recipes is her Sweet Potato Pie. Recently, a student of mine shared an article that she found about Stokes Potatoes (purple sweet potatoes) and that she hoped to find some and bake a pie with them. I logged it in the recesses of my Foodie brain and no more than two weeks later I found myself standing in front of a bin of Stokes Potatoes! Of course, I tossed three in my basket. I walked around the corner and while I was looking for the coconut milk for my Curried Apple and Butternut Squash Soup, I noticed a can of Evaporated Coconut Milk. Wait...what?! The Foodie Goddess had truly set the stage for my first Purple Sweet Potato Pie. I was #stoked! Ba-dum-bump.

Purple Sweet Potato Pie (makes two pies)

Set the oven to 350 degrees.

Ingredients:

2-3 medium-large Stokes Sweet Potatoes

1 stick of butter, unsalted

3/4 cup of evaporated milk (or evaporated coconut milk)* see note

1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

1.5 tsp cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

dash of salt* see note

3 whole eggs (or 4 egg whites)* see note

1 tsp madagascar vanilla

Over the years, I discovered the beauty of braising potatoes rather than boiling the 'sweet' out of them. To braise your potatoes, peel and then cut them into approximately 1/4-inch-thick pieces (small and uniform reduces the cooking time). Toss them into a large pot. Cut the stick of butter into 8 - 10 pieces and add them to the pot. Add just 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk. Set the heat on low. Cover the pot. Let it braise for approximately 25 - 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you notice the potatoes are soft and fall apart. Now, you're ready for mashing and mixing.

Add evaporated milk to the pot. Blend in with a handheld mixer. Add brown sugar. Lately I've been adding it 1/4 cup at a time. Braising maintains more of the sweetness of the potato, often I find I don't need as much sugar to get the flavor that I want. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Oh and for those who wonder how much is a dash exactly? To me, it's a bit more than an 1/8 of a teaspoon but way less than a 1/4 teaspoon. 

Add the eggs. Add the vanilla. Blend until a thick, smooth, and creamy consistency. Spread equally into two pie crusts. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until the top sets and a toothpick comes out clean.

THINGS I LEARNED

1) Stokes Sweet Potatoes are a bit more dry than orange flesh Sweet Potatoes and they are a tad floral in flavor. I believe they could handle up to a cup of evaporated milk to get an even smoother texture without compromising the body. I used evaporated coconut milk because someone in my family has a shitty relationship with dairy...literally. So I try to substitute when I can. The evaporated coconut milk did not rise above the rich, floral sweet potato flavor. I was tots happy with this.

2) I absolutely LOVE the deep rich purple color of this pie, when I added the eggs I felt the color diminished a bit. Not enough to be able to tell in the photos. I mean, that purple has some staying power. But the next time I bake this pie, I plan to use egg whites only to see if I can keep even more of the color.

3) In my traditional sweet potato pie, I do not add salt. However, I think the addition of the salt helped to brighten this whole pie and really pulled all the flavors together nicely.