After spending 6 years in Atlanta, this is my first Fall back in the California Bay Area. One of the things I really enjoyed about living in the South was the abundance of sweet potato pies. Unfortunately, out in California, they always seem to be considered the ugly stepsister to the classic pumpkin pies. Not any longer! I created these mini sweet potato pies and elevated them to superstar status! Even if you swear you don’t like sweet potatoes, I beg you to try these. They will convert you!
When I was developing this recipe and making test batches, I brought all the pies into work. My co-worker Donald instantly fell in love with them. I mean, SERIOUSLY in love with them. So much so that he begged me to teach him so he could make them for his mom’s birthday in November. How could I say no to a man wanting to cook for his mom? So I held an impromptu pie making class for him and a few other co-workers and they were very successful in making these pies 🙂
***This recipe also can be used to make a 9-inch deep dish pie (note: you will have some left over filling. If you double the filling recipe, it will be enough for 3 pies). If you are going to make a whole pie with this recipe, I suggest using a different pie crust, one that is more sturdy. One that works very well is an all butter crust by King Arthur flour. It makes 2 pie shells. The URL is here (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/all-butter-pie-crust-recipe). The marshmallow meringue will only be enough for one 9-inch pie, so if you are making 2 pies, you will need to double the recipe.
Cheers to Donald and his mom!
The pies (without the meringue topping) can be made a day in advance, but only make the meringue the same day you will serve them.
Makes (12) 3.25 inch mini pies or (24) 2.5 inch mini pies or (1) 9-inch deep dish pie
** Use 3.25 inch or 2.5 inch aluminum tart pans. I suggest buying 12 individual pans (for 3.25 inch pies) and 24 individual pans (for 2.5 inch pies). They are very inexpensive (less than a $1 each) and can be found at places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. DO NOT put these pans in the dishwasher because they WILL rust. Hand wash them and dry them immediately.
Cream Cheese Pie Crust (recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour) – use only for the mini pies. Use this recipe for a whole 9-inch deep dish pie (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/all-butter-pie-crust-recipe)
**This pie crust recipe is very forgiving and is hard to overwork!
6 tablespoons – cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons – unsalted butter
1 teaspoon – sugar
1/4 teaspoon – salt
3/4 cup – all purpose flour
Sweet Potato Pie Filling
29 ounce can – cut sweet potatoes/yams (well drained; yields about 1.5 packed cups or so). – I prefer canned for these pies because it produces the most consistent results. You can use fresh roasted (1.25 pounds flesh) sweet potatoes/yams, but you have to make sure it isn’t stringy, so use a food mill.
1/2 cup – unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
3/4 cup – granulated sugar
1/2 cup – evaporated milk (approximately a 5-ounce can) or whole milk
2 – large eggs
1 teaspoon – pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon – vanilla extract
Toasted Marshmallow Meringue (recipe adapted from the Urban Baker)
**Only prepare the meringue right before you want to top the pies. This meringue is pretty similar to the marshmallow fluff you can buy in jars, except better! You can spoon any leftover meringue into a hot mug of cocoa!
4 – egg whites (large eggs) room temperature – (save egg yolks for up to 3 days and use for something else like custard, ice cream base)
1 cup – granulated sugar (I prefer superfine sugar, not to be confused with powdered sugar, but you can use regular granulated if you want)
1/8 teaspoon – cream of tarter
Make the pie crusts first:
Using a mixer or food processor (my favorite), or by hand, cream together butter, cream cheese, and salt. Mix in flour (on slow if using a mixer or gently pulse if using a food processor) until everything comes together. Remove dough and flatten into a 1-inch disk, tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to 3 days).
Remove dough from fridge. For 3.25 inch tart pans, form walnut-sized balls. For 2.5 inch tart pans, form large marble-sized balls. Roll out dough and gently place into tart pans (do not butter pans – there is no need). Using the palm of your hands to remove excess dough. Save the excess dough scraps, you will need to re-use them. After all dough is used, place tart pans on a large baking sheet with a silicon mat on it and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up.
Then make the sweet potato pie filling:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the sweet potatoes in a food processor and pulse until sweet potatoes are broken down. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Remove the baking sheet from the fridge (with the chilled pie shells on them). While still on the baking sheet, fill the pie shells ¾ full. Put the baking sheet with filled pies in the oven on the middle rack and bake for 30 – 35 minutes (50 minutes for a 9-inch deep dish pie). The pies will puff up and will fall a bit after removed from the oven. If the pies crack a bit, that is fine. The cracks will reseal once they cool and will be covered with meringue anyway. Cool the pies (in their pans) on a baking rack. After the pies are cooled for a minimum of 1-hour, pop the pies out of their pans. I use the tip of a very thin knife blade to gently coax them out. The pies should not stick at all.
Finally, make the marshmallow meringue:
Combine all ingredients into a large metal or glass bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl). Continually whisk until the mixture is approximately 145 degrees (6-8 minutes – you are want to melt the sugar but not cook the eggs).
Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to your stand mixer bowl (or just use the same bowl if you are using your hand mixer). Using your whisk attachment, beat on low speed until the mixture becomes foamy, then increase the speed until the mixture becomes stiff and glossy peaks form (when you pull your whisk attachment off, the mixture should firmly stay on the whisk when turned upside down) approximately 8 minutes.
**Make sure the pies have been cooled to room temperature (at least 1 hour) before topping with marshmallow meringue.
Place the meringue mixture in a large pastry bag (or sturdy plastic zip-type bag) with a plain tip or star tip (if using a plastic zip-type bag, take scissors and cut ¼ inch tip off). Pipe a 3 to 4 layer swirl on top of the cooled pies (don’t completely cover the pies with the mixture, you want to see some of the filling so folks can see what they are eating). Use a hand held torch to gently toast the marshmallow meringue. Use short bursts doing one side at a time. If you don’t have a hand held torch, you can place the pies on a baking sheet and put them under your ovens’ broiler for approximately 2 – 3 seconds or so (watching carefully as every broiler is different). The pies can be stored a room temperature and is best eaten the same day as prepared.