Rum-Laced Sweet Potato Pie

I made you pie. Good, old-fashioned, shortening, butter, and sugar pie. Sometimes, it just needs to happen. I found this recipe when I was flipping through Joyce White’s cookbook Brown Sugar which focuses on desserts from the African-American community, which I was doing as part of my burgeoning interest in the African-American/Canadian part of my ancestry. In my opinion, what better way to explore a culture than with food!

I tried to make this pie as traditionally as possible, using butter, and shortening in the crust (which I almost never make by hand), and by not using any substitutions to make it healthier. The result was a rich, earthy, slightly caramel flavoured pie which was great on its own but I imagine, would also be great with whipped cream. It’s lighter than a pumpkin pie with a kind of spicy, custard flavour.

I would have to say though, that if you don’t have at least half a day to make this pie (and are feeling incredibly ambitious), just buy a 9 inch crust and then make the sweet potato filling. This will cut out a ton of work, that I didn’t realize was necessary until I was 2 hours into the process with flour, butter, and sweet potato scraps strewn around the kitchen.

I also used, what we call in Canada, yams which are the more red-coloured cousins of the yellow sweet potato. They can be interchanged with each other, although they do have slightly different flavours.

Once you have your sweet potato filling finished, you pour the mixture into a partially-baked store bought or homemade pie crust. The crust will seem quite full, but don’t worry, it doesn’t rise at all during baking.

Although, this was one of the more time-consuming recipes I’ve made it was definitely worth it, and an interesting and fun way to explore part of my ancestry. Given how quickly it flew out of the kitchen, I don’t think anyone was complaining!

Rum-Laced Sweet Potato Pie

Pastry:

8 Tbsp butter, chilled
6 Tbsp vegetable shortening, chilled
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
5-8 Tbsp ice water, or as needed (I used about 10)
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 lightly beaten egg white
Cut the butter into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a large, shallow mixing bowl. Add the vegetable shortening. Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix well.
Chill the flour mixture for 30-40 minutes.
Cut butter and shortening into the flour using a pastry cutter, then gather the chilled flour mixture in the palms of both hands and rub handfuls together briskly, letting the mixture drop back into the bowl through your fingers, alternating rubbing the dough with your fingertips. Continue doing this until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This should take no longer than 5 minutes.
Place 5 Tbsp of ice water in a small bowl. Stir in the vinegar. Sprinkle the ice water over the dough 1 Tbsp at a time, lifting with a fork to dampen all over. After adding 5 Tbsp of the water, squeeze a little of the damp dough with your finger tips; if it doesn’t hold together add more water, a Tbsp at a time, until the dough just clings together but is not mushy and wet.
Quickly stir together the damp dough with a fork and gather into a a disk or ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using the heel of your hand, smear the dough 2 or 3 times in a forward motion to evenly distribute the butter and shortening.
Form the dough into a ball, dusting lightly with flour if it sticks. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
To form the pie crust, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide into two parts. Lightly dust the rolling pin with flour. For best results always roll outward. For a 9-inch or 10-inch circle and as thin as possible, no more than 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin again, and carefully roll the circle of dough around the pin, lift up, and unroll the dough onto the pie pan. Use your fingers to fit the dough snugly into the pan. Chill at least 30 minutes or longer.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover the crust with a sheet of foil, and then fill the pan with about 3 cups  of beans, rice, or pastry weights (I just place a heavy pot on top). Set the pie crust on the lower oven shelf. Bake for 15-16 minutes, or until the crust is set and dry. Carefully remove the weight, including the foil or paper. If there are air bubbles, gently prick with a fork to deflate.
Bake the crust 3-4 minutes longer or until just slightly brown. Remove the crust from the oven, cool for a few minutes, and then brush liberally with egg white.
(This recipe will yield enough pastry for 2 single-crust pies.)
Sweet Potato Filling:
2 pounds sweet potatoes (this was an American book so I used Yams)
4 Tbsp butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp allspice
2 Tbsp dark rum
1/2 cup evaporated milk, or half and half (I used half-and-half)
Scrub and rinse the sweet potatoes. Cut away the eyes or sprouts and discard. Place the un-peeled sweet potatoes in the top of a steamer and cook over boiling water for about 30 minutes or until tender.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the cooked potatoes from the pan and drain. Peel while still warm. Place in a large bowl and roughly mash with a potato masher. Using 2 cups of the mashed, beat on low speed until they are light and fluffy (The author suggests you use any leftovers for biscuits or pancakes- I used mine for muffins). Add the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, ginger, allspice, and rum.
Beat on medium-high for 2-3 minutes until the filling is smooth and creamy and well blended. Add the milk or half-and-half and beat on low until well blended.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and spread evenly with a knife or spatula. Set the pie on the lower shelf of the preheated oven and bake for 40-45 minutes (mine took 45) until the pie is lightly browned around the edges and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Don’t over bake.
Cool the pie completely on a wire rack before serving. For best flavour and to set the filling, chill the pie 30-40 minutes (I totally forgot this step and mine still turned out well!). However, many sweet potato pie lovers prefer the pie served at room temperature.
(Adapted from Brown Sugar by Joyce White)
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