Where I hail from, Thanksgiving tables see more of sweet potato pie than pumpkin pies, and the fact that I preferred pumpkin pie left me in something of a minority within my extended family. Preferred is actually a bit of an understatement; insisted might be more accurate? Since sweet potatoes are classified as vegetables – ugh, the horror – I typically refused to even try a bite of sweet potato pie. Never mind, of course, that pumpkin is also – horror of horrors – a vegetable.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties I realized my stupidity, not to mention complete hypocrisy, and baked myself a sweet potato pie to try. I think it was July. No matter! The important thing is, I took one bite and realized further how utterly moronic I’d been for so long, as sweet potato and pumpkin pies are extremely similar. They are about identical in texture and creaminess, with sweet potato pie being a slightly darker color, slightly less sweet, and having a little more intensity of flavor than pumpkin pie.
I completely understand the appeal! Fortunately I now count myself among sweet potato pie’s legions of fans, and I knew I wanted to finally share one on my blog this Thanksgiving season. So then the question became, do I make the classic with just whipped cream, or something beyond that?
Then I got to thinking about that traditional side dish/dessert/I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-it-is,-even marshmallow-topped sweet potato dish; the one I’ve never liked or even understood, and frankly still don’t. But it got the idea of marshmallows on top stuck in my head, and I thought, yeah I could make marshmallows from scratch myself, and then I thought more about sweet potato pie being from the South and I remembered seeing a Lee Brothers recipe for sorghum marshmallows and at that point it was all over. I’m making sorghum marshmallows and topping a sweet potato pie with them!!! And of course blasting them with a blowtorch to toast them!
And here it is. It’s truly one of the best pies I’ve ever tasted. There is such a vast difference between homemade and store-bought marshmallows they hardly resemble each other, and yes, of course homemade is far superior. They lack chemical stabilizers, so when you hit them with the high heat from the broiler or blowtorch, they run all over the pie’s surface. Embrace it. It’s a lovely thing. As is this whole pie! Enjoy!!
Source: marshmallows and pie adapted from First Prize Pies by Allison Kave
1 tbs unflavored gelatin
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup sorghum syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pie dough for 1 (9-inch) pie
1 lb. sweet potatoes
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 large egg
2 tbs all-purpose flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
2 tbs bourbon
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
First, make the MARSHMALLOWS:
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 2/3 cup lukewarm water, then sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Fit the stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
In a large, clean, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, sorghum syrup and another 2/3 cup water. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring only at the beginning to dissolve the sugar, and boil it until a candy thermometer registers 250-260 F.
When the sugar is close to reaching this stage, turn on the stand mixer to low and let it incorporate the softened gelatin and water. Once the sugar mixture has reached the appropriate temperature, make sure the mixer is on low speed, then carefully pour the hot syrup in a steady stream into the gelatin while mixing. Try to avoid the sides of the bowl and aim for the space between the beater and the side. When all of the syrup has been poured in, gradually increase the speed to high (but gradually, to avoid being splashed) and continue to beat until the mixture is very thick and has tripled in volume, about 5 to 10 minutes. Visual cues work well here – it will look like marshmallow fluff when it’s ready.
Grease an 8×8” glass baking dish and pour in the marshmallow mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap doesn’t touch the surface of the marshmallows. Let it set up, either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Mine took around 8 hours to completely set up; if you can’t or don’t want to wait that long, you can spoon the marshmallow fluff into a pastry bag and pipe it onto the pie, then hit it with the blowtorch as directed.
Make the PIE: Preheat your oven to 425 F. Grease a 9” pie plate. On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to a circle 11-12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plate. Tuck the overhang under and crimp the edges decoratively. Chill in the refrigerator while the oven fully preheats.
Place the pie plate on a rimmed baking sheet and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper. Fill with pie weights or dried beans. Blind bake until partially baked, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Keep the oven at 425 F. With the skin on, prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Put them on a lightly greased oven-safe baking dish and roast about 45 minutes, until a paring knife can be inserted into the thickest part with no resistance. Allow the potatoes to cool, then split them in half and scoop the flesh out into the bowl of your food processor. Discard the skins.
To the food processor, add the brown sugar and maple syrup. Puree until smooth. Add the egg and puree again. With the processor running, add the flour, cinnamon, ginger and salt, followed by the bourbon, milk, and finally the cream. Process the cream until just combined as you do not want to whip it.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Bake in the center of the oven for 40-50 minutes, until the edges are set and the center is still a little wobbly, like Jello.
Allow the pie to come to room temperature before adding the marshmallows.
Run a sharp paring knife around the edges of the marshmallows and tip them out onto a clean work surface. Cut them into squares, about the size of store-bought large marshmallows. Use a large, sharp knife for this.
Grease your hands lightly with cooking spray, then transfer the squares to the top of the pie. Wash your hands thoroughly, then use a blowtorch to char and brown the tops of the marshmallows. They will start to melt and run onto the pie. This is not a bad thing. For best results, let the pie firm up in the refrigerator at least a couple hours and up to overnight. Oh, and you will have leftover marshmallows. This is not a bad thing.