This was another pie I wanted to revisit, as I’ve come a long way since I first started cooking, so given my southern Thanksgiving theme, I had the perfect opportunity. Based entirely on my anecdotal experience, sweet potato pie seems to be one of those things that doesn’t seem to have spread very far outside of the south, and I really can’t see why. Pumpkin pie is certainly popular, and sweet potato pie is similar in style, but it brings a unique, amazingly vibrant flavor. Combined with a sticky, pecan crust on top and a scoop of sweet (but lightly spicy) ginger ice cream, and you’ve got yourself one heavenly dessert.
Given the aforementioned similarity to pumpkin pie, the approach to this pie is in keeping with my recent experimenting with pumpkin pie. I made a fresh graham cracker crust, a seductively spiced, delicious, creme fraiche & cream mashed sweet potato mixture, and a maple syrup pecan topping. Unfortunately, I forgot to carry a one somewhere or something because I had just a bit more filling/topping than my pie tin was happy holding, so there was a bit of overflow in the oven (which I happily took as a cue to sample the pie without leaving any evidence like a scoop missing from the pie itself). And oh how phenomenally delicious this was–I mean, we all love pie, but this was one complex tasting pie–aromas of cinnamon, bourbon, maple, cloves, sweet flavors, creamy custard, crunchy nuts–served with a brandy, bourbon, or Port, and you’re good to go.
And while whipped cream commonly makes an appearance with pie, I thought I could do one better to go with this one. So given the line-up of spices and aromatics in the pie, I thought ginger would make a great foil to this, so I churned up a batch of ginger ice cream (per The Perfect Scoop). This is an ice cream flavor that will get you raised eye brows when you describe it, but the flavor is like no other–creamy, sweet, spicy, and simply gingery. It was the perfect palate cleanser.
- 1 graham cracker crust
- Spiced cream
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 6 cinnamon sticks
- 5 cloves
- Optional: pinch saffron
- 1/2 cup creme fraiche
- ~1 cup mashed sweet potato
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter (melted)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Optional: 2 Tbsp cognac or bourbon
- 2 eggs
- Spiced cream
- 1-1.5 cups pecans
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- ground cinnamon
Begin by infusing the cream with spices. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and sugar, adding the spices (the whole ones coarsely smashed into pieces). Just before the cream starts to simmer, cover the pan and remove from heat, allowing this to infuse for an hour.
Next, peel and boil the sweet potatoes until tender. Figure at least 20 minutes.
Once the potatoes are done, let them cool a bit before you mash them up.
Purée the strained, spiced cream, potatoes, and all of the remaining pie filling ingredients.
Bake the empty pie crust blind at 325°F for 5 minutes before pouring in the pie filling, baking that at 375°F for 20 minutes.
While that bakes, prepare the pecan topping. Crumble the pecans with your hands and mix them in with the rest of the topping ingredients (which should be mixed well).
With the pie filling somewhat baked, drop the temperature to 325°F and carefully pour the pecan topping evenly over the pie filling. Bake for 30-45 minutes more or until set.
Let the pie cool down a bit before digging in.
- ~3 oz fresh ginger
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cup sugar
- dash salt
- 6 egg yolks
- Optional: 1 Tbsp appropriately flavored liquor (I used an Italian walnutty, molassesy liqeur)
Begin by thinly slicing the ginger, blanching it in boiling water for 2 minutes (don’t bother peeling it!). While this step seems counter-intuitive (like you lose ginger flavor to the water), as David explains, ginger (like pineapple) contains a chemical that can interfere with custards setting properly, and since ice cream is a custard, that could obviously pose problems. Blanching gets around this issue.
With the ginger slices blanched, discard the water and transfer the slices back into the saucepan along with the milk, 1 cup of cream, sugar, and salt. Scald the this over medium heat, stir things up a bit, and then remove from heat and cover, letting the ginger infuse its flavor into the mix for about an hour.
Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks until lightened in color. Strain the ginger pieces out of the infused milk and warm the mixture back up over medium heat. Set up a bowl with the remaining 1 cup cream over an ice bath and put a strainer on top.
Temper the yolks with a bit of the warm milk and then scrape the yolk mix back into the pan. Stir and scrape this constantly until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (5-10 minutes) before pouring through the strainer into the cold cream.
Whisk this a bit to promptly cool things down and give it 2-5 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and transferring to the fridge. Let it chill for at least 4 hours before churning in your ice cream maker for 20 minutes and then give it several hours to chill in the freezer, preferably overnight.