I came to pie later in life. My people were cake people you see, skilled in the language of layer cake pans, 10X sugar and sprinkles. My first cake was carrot cake, made from a recipe in the venerable, verdant Farm Journal cookbook. There were forays into pound cakes, with detours through sour cream, chocolate and lemon before deciding on my standard shattery-crust cream cheese pound cake. Rich cheesecakes would follow, chock full of candy, eggs and dairy goodness. But pies eluded me until marriage, when my husband presented me with a set of hand-turned walnut rolling pins. An angled pastry pin, perfect for rounding out a disk of pie dough. The too-pretty-to-use decorative pin with the lovely rounded ends. And my favorite, the Clydesdale of the kitchen, ideal for thwopping a resistant pizza dough or pounding out super-chilly puff pastry.
Rolling pins. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
The gift of the rolling pins, seen here in their display case in my kitchen along with grandma's red-handled rolling pin (perfect for Kitty's Beaten Biscuits) and Little Bit's pint-sized pin, gave me the encouragement I needed to tackle pastry crust. At my husband's suggestion, I made a buttermilk chess pie from Southern Living magazine, and have been turning out pies ever since. Apple pies, peach pies, blueberry pies. Lemon meringue, French silk, and the pie my family looks most forward to each January, Bellwether's Kumquat Pie.
So what pie should I bake for my friends, the monthly #LetsLunch crowd? I intended to bake up a Southern peach pie with the late season fruit I bought at an interstate off-ramp vegetable stand. Those peaches became roasted peach jam instead, so I turned to my second favorite pie, sweet potato pie. Truth is, every Thanksgiving, I'd rather have sweet potato pie than pumpkin or pecan pie. This recipe is adapted from Damon Lee Fowler's charming and reliable cookbook "Beans, Greens and Sweet Georgia Peaches."
Sweet Potato Custard Pie. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
These are instructions for making pie crust in a food processor, my favorite way to blend the fat into the flour. I keep a small can of Crisco in the bottom drawer of my refrigerator, so it’s always well-chilled for pie crust making. No excuse not to make pie, right?
2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening, very cold
About 1/3 cup ice water
1. 1. Place the flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse five times to mix the dry ingredients. Add the shortening, pulsing until the flour resembles coarse meal or grits. Add a few tablespoons of ice water and pulse. Continue adding ice water until dough comes together.
2. 2. Lightly flour a clean counter top and remove dough from bowl of food processor. Using a light touch, press dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least an hour or overnight. After chilling, the pie crust is ready for rockin’ and rollin.’
About five or six medium sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
A pinch of salt
1 generous tablespoon vanilla
1. To roast sweet potatoes: rinse off tubers, place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and prick the tops with a fork. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Let the sweet potatoes cool, then remove the pulp from their jackets. Mash the pulp.
2. Stir together the sweet potato pulp, sugar and softened butter in a bowl. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla, stirring well. Pour into a pastry-lined pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Let cool, then slice and serve.
For more recipes and stories, please visit my blog, A Cook and Her Books.
Lisa's Sweet Ricotta Noodle Pie at Monday Morning Cooking Club.
Anne Marie's Apple Pie Sandwich at Sandwich Surprise!
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