This recipe from Gourmet Magazine, November 1998 is a great alternative to pumpkin pie for those among us who don't like traditional Thanksgiving fare (you know who you are). We used a purchased pie crust from Star Dough, because nowadays there are some decent ones on the market (we also like Trader Joe's and Wholly Wholesome Organic pie shells), and as much as we do like to make crusts from scratch, we sometimes have to make compromises during the busy holidays. The Gourmet version includes a crust recipe, so if you have the time, go for it.
When making the filling of this pie, it is very important to follow the instructions that tell you to mix in the crystallized ginger after pureeing the other ingredients. Otherwise, the ginger becomes bitter and you don't get the little bursts of gingery flavor throughout the creamy filling. It is likewise important to follow good meringue-making practices. This fluffy Swiss meringue with warm, spicy cinnamon perfectly compliments the smooth sweet potato base and it is an incredibly tasty and somewhat unique addition to a holiday pie. Be advised that the meringue does spread quite a bit during cooking and then shrinks back down. Therefore, please heed the warning to not spread the meringue all the way to the crust.
Of course, if you are really pressed for time or just don't feeling like dealing with the whole meringue business, (we won't think less of you) you can omit the meringue altogether, bake the sweet potato portion of the pie for a total of 50 to 60 minutes or until the filling is set, and serve with lots of cinnamon whipped cream.
1 purchased, unbaked pie crust
2.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3-4 medium)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp orange zest
1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
a pinch of ground cloves
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 large egg whites
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. and line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Prick sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and on baking sheet bake in middle of oven until very soft, about 1 hour. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve and scoop out enough flesh to measure 2 cups, reserving remainder for another use.
3. In a food processor purée sweet potato with all remaining filling ingredients except ginger, until smooth. Stir ginger into filling. (Filling may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring filling to room temperature before proceeding.)
4. Preheat oven to 375°F.
5. Place pie crust dough fit a 9-inch (1-quart) glass pie plate. Trim dough, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang, and crimp edge decoratively. Chill shell 30 minutes, or until firm. Pour filling into shell and put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes.
6. Make meringue after pie has baked 30 minutes: In a large metal bowl stir together sugar and cinnamon until combined well. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add whites, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl from heat and with an electric mixer beat whites until they hold stiff, glossy peaks.
7. Mound meringue in center of hot filling and spread almost to edge of pie. Bake pie in middle of oven until meringue is golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes more. Serve pie warm or at room temperature.
Prep Time: 1hr 30mins
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2hrs 30mins