It’s KCRW Pie Contest season. Our 8th, if you can believe it. It takes a village to put the day together for the thousands who show up to appreciate and gorge on pie so this year we reached out to sponsors. We found a perfect one. Universal Pictures came on board in honor of their upcoming film Almost Christmas which has an elusive sweet potato pie recipe threading through the plot. Sweet potato pie is often the pie of choice instead of pumpkin in African American homes. The reasons are historical, geographic and surprising. Here’s a great article in the Washington Post by Adrian Miller titled How Sweet Potato Pie Became African American’s Thanksgiving Dessert. We’ve carved out a separate category this year for the rich-in-lore dessert. Sweet Potato Pie will have it’s own 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ribbons. So up your odds of winning and enter your family recipe.
Preheat oven to 400º. Scrub the sweet potatoes. Make a cross in the top with a paring knife to prevent them from exploding in the oven. Bake the potato on aluminum foil lined small cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan for approximately 45 minutes or until very soft. Remove from oven and let cool. Turn oven down to 350º.
While the potato is roasting make the Brown Butter. Use a light colored skillet so that you’ll be able to easily monitor the color of the butter as it cooks. Heat the butter so that it melts. Let it keep cooking. The melted butter will go from light colored and foamy to darker yellow to a rich nutty brown. Be patient. But as soon as the butter reaches the nut brown stage take it off the heat and pour it through a sieve into a cup or bowl or else it will go from brown to burnt very quickly. Discard the dark solids left in the sieve if you wish.
Once the sweet potato is cool enough to handle peel off the skin, allowing the soft flesh to fall into a bowl. Add the maple syrup and whisk together to a soft puree. Add the pinch of salt and brown butter into the sweet potatoes and whisk slowly until blended. Add the eggs and slowly whisk to mix. Add the milk and whisk again until blended.
Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pie shell. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until filling is set when you gently move the pan. Remove from oven and let cool.
You can dress up the pie by sifting powdered sugar over the edge of the filling in a circle, leaving some of the orange filling to show in the center. You can also pipe rosettes of whipped cream to mark each serving. Serve with additional unsweetened whipped cream.
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