I know you’ve heard of pumpkin pie. You might have even heard of sweet potato pie and if you have the sweet potatoes were probably roasted then pureed. The pureed sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie are so similar that some are not even aware when one has been switched for the other. Enter, country cooking.
My family does reunions. They do reunions for the entire month of October in North Carolina. I don’t. Well, sometimes I do. And when I do there are usually delicacies or foods of which I see nowhere else but there. My mother claims that the first time she had sliced sweet potato pie was at one of these reunions. The pie was most likely made by a great aunt who’d been making or eating that pie since the beginning of the 20th century. I’m sure if we really tried hard, we could find the origins gong back to the Civil War, probably further even.
Knowing about a sliced sweet potato pie may change the way you understand how important texture is in delivering the distinctive flavor of an ingredient. Purees are great for making things a bit easier and smoother, but what happens to sweet potatoes when they are pureed for a pie is, well, sad. Sweet potatoes deliver fat and sweetness, but all of that gets dispersed and muted when sugar and butter and milk mix with the puree. Keeping the sweet potato intact allows you to bite into a piece of velvet sweet potato and get all that the plant can give up. When done well, the sliced sweet potato pie is dense, sweet, and luscious. It tastes like sweet potato and shines with whatever supporting flavors the baker has chosen. It is distinctively different than pumpkin pie. The trick to the velvety luscious quality is slicing the sweet potatoes to the perfect thinness. 1/8 inch is best. Too thick and you loose the support of the other ingredients like brown sugar and spices. To thin and you lose the point of what I’ve been talking about.
I’ve used rosemary here and caramelized onions to turn this pie into a main dish for dinner. Even smaller versions would be amazing as appetizers or compliments to a cheese plate (before or after dinner). I’m still working on the my pie crust skills, but this one is substantial enough to handle the heavy ingredients, but flaky enough to remind you that you love crust. You can always substitute your favorite or (gasp) buy a packaged one. If you choose to forgo my crust then you’ll need to weed out the ingredients used within the tart. I hope you make this this Fall. I hope you explore sliced sweet potatoes in pastry. Oh, I just had a thought- hand pies!
- 12½ tbsp butter (1½ sticks +1/2 tbsp), divided
- 1 yellow onion sliced, about 2 cups
- ½ tsp salt, divided
- 1¼ c + 2 tbsp AP flour, divided
- ¼ tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp vegetable shortening
- 2 tbsp very cold water
- 2 cups peeled and sliced sweet potato (1/8 inch half moon sliced)
- 1½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary, divided
- Make the pie crust. Mix the 1¼ cup AP flour, ¼ tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, and ¼ tsp rice wine vinegar in a food processor for about 3 seconds. You're just getting the salt, sugar and flour to blend.
- Cube 8 tbsp (1 stick) of very cold butter and have have 1 tbsp of vegetable shortening ready. With the food processor one, add cubes or butter a few at a time and the vegetable shortening until the mixture is crumbly then add the 2 tbsp of very cold water and process for just a few more seconds until the dough comes together. Be careful to not over process or heat the butter. Under processing is actually preferred.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
- Heat ½ tbsp of butter over medium high high. Once melted add the sliced onions and ¼ tsp salt. Cook these down until brown, wilted and luscious. You'll need to watch this and stir as the onions begin their caramelization. It can take about 20 minutes. If the pan seems dry and things are moving too fast, but not caramelizing, add a few tablespoons of water, consider reducing the heat, and stir more often. Once done, set aside.
- Heat your oven to 375.
- Mix 2 tbsp AP flour with ½ tsp chopped rosemary. Set aside.
- Mix 2 tbsp. melted butter and 1 tsp. chopped rosemary. Set aside.
- After chilling, let you dough rest at room temp for a few minutes. Flour a work surface and a rolling pin. Roll your dough to your desired size. Here I made 4 small tarts, but one large tart would be beautiful. Alternately, you could use a pie pan as well. A shallow pan would be best.
- Lay your dough in your desired pan(s) making sure to push the crust into the bottoms firmly and trim excess from edges.
- To make the tarts/ pie: Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with half of the flour and brown sugar mixture. Follow this with by the caramelized onions then another spring of the flour mixture. Layer the sweet potatoes in. I stood them on their straight cut ends and alternated left and right to "fill" the small tarts. If you are using a larger pan I would do this in rows as well. Then using pastry brush, spread the melted butter and brown sugar mixture on the sweet potatoes.
- Place on a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour. Begin checking them at 45 minutes. You are looking for a nice golden crust and soft sweet potatoes.
- Serve warm or cold. They are delish!
Tip- If you want to slice your sweet potatoes before you are ready to use them, keep them in water, or else they will turn brown.