Both are rich and warmly spiced. Both go wonderfully with whipped cream (particularly whipped cream that has been hit with a splash of bourbon). And both ooze warmth and family celebration. But for me, sweet potato pie is just a bit more complex, a bit more satisfying, and a whole lot more Southern.
The only trouble with sweet potato pie is that it can be a bit more trouble to make, and the night before Thanksgiving that can be a problem. So I set out to make a 1-2-3-easy sweet potato pie that tastes every bit as good as the most complicated versions I've made in the past.
The key to a great sweet potato pie is using fresh sweet potatoes. You can't skip this step. Canned sweet potatoes do not work well in this pie. Furthermore, don't boil your sweet potatoes. Boiling produces a pie filling that is watery and diluted. You want to roast the potatoes, which concentrates the natural sugars and intensifies the flavour.
Once the potatoes are baked, they need to be processed in order to produce a silky texture. In the past, I peeled the hot sweet potatoes and ran them through a food mill to remove all the tough fiber. But these days few people own food mills. I also thought that it was a pity to remove the nutrient-rich fiber from the potato.
So I decided to try the food processor, which also let me add the other filling ingredients at the same time. It was so easy and fast, I loved it. Not only was the pie filling made in no time, the fiber was intact, but pureed so that you didn't notice it. Better yet, the food processor created an ethereal fluffy texture, and it was the best sweet potato pie I'd ever eaten or made!
FLUFFY SWEET POTATO-BOURBON PIE WITH GINGERED WHIPPED CREAM AND TOASTED PECANS
Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)
2 to 3 large sweet potatoes (1 1/2 to 2 pounds)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 generous teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground dry ginger
Pinch ground cloves
10-inch graham cracker pie crust, homemade or store-bought
For the topping:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dry ginger
Toasted pecans, to garnish
Heat the oven to 425 F. Wash and dry the sweet potatoes, then pierce them on top with a fork. Set the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until soft, about 1 hour, or until you can see juices bubbling where you pricked the potatoes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Measure out a generous 2 cups of the flesg, then transfer to a food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until very smooth.
With the processor running, add the melted butter, eggs, cream, bourbon and vanilla. The mixture should begin to look light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add both sugars, the cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Process again to combine and fully incorporate the final ingredients.
Place the prepared pie crust on a baking sheet, then transfer the sweet potato mixture into it. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the filling jiggles just slightly at the centre. Let cool to room temperature.
When ready to serve, prepare the gingered whipped cream. In a large bowl, combine the cream, sugar and ginger. Use a whisk or electric mixer to whip until stiff peaks form. Mound the whipped cream over the cooled pie, then sprinkle with toasted pecans.
Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories; 290 calories from fat (55 per cent of total calories); 32 g fat (16 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 135 mg cholesterol; 56 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 35 g sugar; 6 g protein; 290 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pitmaster at online retailer Barbecue Shack and author of three books, including "Taming the Flame."