Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sweet Potato Pie with a Touch of Lemon

The Recipe: Sweet Potato Pudding

About the Recipe

Sweet Potatoes and Maryland
In the nineteenth-century, sweet potatoes were an important part of the Maryland diet but were particularly integral to the diet of enslaved African-Americans. Michael Twitty asserts that the sweet potato was “second in importance to corn as a starch,” and they were stored in the floors of the cabins of the enslaved and acted as “a telltale sign in many parts of the Chesapeake of the presence of the enslaved.” The rationale explaining the importance of sweet potatoes to the African-American diet could be, in part, that they are similar to the edible tuber known as the African yam (genus Dioscorea; family Dioscoreaceae). However, they are completely different species. This confusion is further compounded by the fact that in America sweet potatoes are often called yams. The other reason sweet potatoes may have become central to the diet of African-Americans, particularly those who were enslaved in the south, is because they grow well in warm climates and are easy to cultivate which makes them an efficient and reliable plant to tend when time is limited (which was often the case for people who were forced to do work for others before they could tend to their own needs). 

About this Recipe
The recipe for this early 19th century recipe for a sweet potato pudding comes from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph (1824). Randolph was born into Virginia aristocracy and was a distant cousin of Thomas Jefferson. She married a first cousin once removed, named David Meade Randolph, and together in 1807 they opened a boardinghouse in Richmond known as ‘the Queen’ to supplement their income. The Randolph’s built a reputation for being great hosts, and it became the most popular places in the city. They closed the boardinghouse in 1820, moved to Washington, DC where Mary wrote her cookbook which was published just four years later.

Historically, pies that were filled with custard of any flavor and made with a bottom crust only were called puddings in a paste. Pumpkin, sweet potato, white potato, applesauce, etc. are all well-known versions of these types of puddings cooked in pastry cases. In this recipe, the sweet potatoes are scented with classic flavors typical of that time-period, including nutmeg, brandy, and lemon.

Modern Recipe Adaptation: Sweet Potato Pie

  • 1 Sheet Puff Pastry Dough
  • 1 1/2 Pounds  Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 Cup Butter (2 Sticks), Softened
  • 2 ¾ Cups Confectioner’s Sugar
  • ½ Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
  • Grated Peel of One Lemon
  • ¼ Cup Brandy
  • 6 Large Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Candied Lemon Peel

  1. Peel the sweet potatoes, place in a medium pot, and cove with cold water. Bring to a boil uncovered, reduce heat to low, cover and cook until soft but not mushy. 
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, line a deep-dish pie plate with the puff pastry dough and refrigerate until needed. 
  3.  Then, heat the oven to 350ยบ F.
  4. When the potatoes are done, drain the water and place back in the cooking pot. If you have a food mill, pass the potatoes through the insert with the smallest holes. If not, mash until no lumps remain.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, place the butter and the hot mashed sweet potatoes. Add the butter and mix until it melts into the potatoes. Then add the confectioner's sugar, nutmeg, lemon peel, and brandy. Whisk together well. Finally, add the eggs and whisk until the eggs are completely incorporated.
  6. Pour the potato mixture into the prepared pie plate. Place the pie on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake one hour or until the pudding is set and does not jiggle when lightly shaken.
  8. Immediately after the pie is removed from the oven, sprinkle it with the granulated sugar and candied lemon peel.

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