Melba Wilson is the owner of Melba’s Restaurant and Catering in Harlem, New York City. Melba's was voted Top Southern Restaurant by Zagat and by New York.com for 2015. Melba is a recipient of The Entrepreneur Award presented by Congressman Charles Rangel, The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce Award, and many others. Wilson has a cookbook slated for a spring 2016 with Simon & Schuster.
This fluffy, souffle-like sweet potato pie appears in Melba Wilson's forthcoming cookbook "Melba's American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen." To get a more pronounced sweet potato flavor, steam your sweet potatoes instead of boiling them. And if you're really running short on time, you can always use a store bought frozen crust.
For the Sweet Potato Pie Filling
- 1 ½ pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 stick (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, cut up
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 large eggs, well beaten
- 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 Pie Crust (homemade or frozen)
For the Pie Crust - Makes 1 (10-inch) pie crust
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- 3 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed
To make the pie crust:
Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or two small knives until loosely incorporated into the flour mixture
Add the vegetable shortening and cut some more, until you have a loose, chunky dough with pieces of shortening the size of small peas. (Alternately, place flour mixture in the bowl of a food processor, add the butter, and pulse about five times. Then add the vegetable shortening and pulse another five times, until the dough forms.)
Lightly flour a clean work surface. Add the water to the dough and toss to moisten, pressing the dough lightly with your hands or a rubber spatula. Add an extra tablespoon of water if the dough doesn’t readily moisten or come together.
Place the dough on the work surface and form it into a ball, then press it into a disk about 4 inches in diameter.
Wrap the dough in wax paper or paper towels and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
Place a large sheet of wax paper on a clean work surface and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough on the wax paper and roll it out to a circle 12 to 13 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick.
Place a 10-inch pie plate centered upside down on the dough circle and carefully turn the paper and pie plate over so the dough is in the plate. Fold the overlap underneath the edges to form a thicker rim.
If you like, you can crimp the edges of the rim with the tines of a fork to form a pattern. Refrigerate for ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the pie pan from the fridge, cover the empty, uncooked crust with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang.
Fill it with uncooked beans to keep it from rising and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the beans and foil, and prick the surface of the crust with a fork at 1-inch intervals.
Return it to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until golden brown. Allow it to cool before proceeding with the pie recipe.
For the pie filling:
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Cook the sweet potatoes in a large pot of boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. Remove from the heat and drain the potatoes, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking water.
Return the potatoes to the pot with the hot cooking water. Stir in the butter, mashing the potatoes with a fork or a hand-held blender, until well combined.
Stir in the vanilla extract, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon, eggs, and condensed milk. Finally, stir in the sugar and continue stirring vigorously until all ingredients are combined into a smooth pie filling. Feel free to alter the amount of sugar, depending on how much (or how little) of a sweet tooth you have.
Spoon the filling into the pie crust and smooth the top.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the pie cool a bit before you try to cut it. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!