Sweet potato pie makes a nice change from pumpkin pie when you’re looking for a fall dessert to serve at a family dinner or to bring to Thanksgiving. Similar to pumpkin pie, sweet potato pies are made with pureed sweet potatoes and spices that are mixed into a custard with eggs, milk and sugar before baking. Also like pumpkin pie, many sweet potato pies tend to be a little on the bland side. To remedy this in pumpkin pie, I’ll add more spice to boost the flavor, and I do the same thing when making my sweet potato pies.
This Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie has a lot of flavor and it mostly comes from a relatively small amount of cardamom. Cardamom is a spice with a very strong and slightly citrusy flavor. It pairs very well with earthy sweet potatoes and really brightens up the overall flavor of the pie, not to mention that it is a slightly unusual spice for this type of pie and will set yours apart from a typical pie. The other flavor element here is the brown sugar, which adds a rich sweetness to the pie. Canned sweet potato puree is a very reliable base for this type of pie. If you are using homemade sweet potato puree, you might consider pressing it through a strainer before using to keep the pie as smooth as possible. When baked, the pie should have a creamy texture that is a bit lighter than your usual pumpkin pie and that makes a lovely contrast to the graham cracker crust.
In addition to the brown sugar in the sweet potato pie mixture, there is also a layer of brown sugar added to the bottom of the pie plate before baking. I actually got the idea to add this layer to the bottom of the pie from Cook’s Illustrated. Their recipe ends up giving you a layer of melted syrup on a pastry crust, but since I like to do my sweet potato pies with a graham cracker crust, I ended up using a slightly different technique. I add a thin layer of brown sugar to a cooled graham cracker crust, the pop the crust in the oven before I add the filling to warm up the sugar layer. This keeps the sugar sticking to the bottom of the crust, rather than mixing in with the filling when the sweet potato mixture is poured in. The sugar doesn’t form a truly distinct layer in the pie, though it does add some additional sweetness. What it does do is help keep the graham cracker crust crisp and helps prevent the filling from soaking in and making it soggy before the pie is even served.
Pie pans will vary in depth. Try to resist overfilling your pie crust for best results, even if that means you need to discard a few tablespoons of sweet potato pie filling.
Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie
1 9 or 10-inch graham cracker pie crust, prebaked or store bought
1 cup brown sugar, divided
1 1/4 cup cooked, pureed sweet potato
3 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350F.
Place graham cracker crust onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle 1/4 cup brown sugar evenly over the bottom of the crust. Bake sugar-lined crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
Press sweet potato puree through a wire strainer to make it as smooth as possible, adding a tablespoon or two of water if you are working with leftover potatoes to make them a bit more pliable.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a food processor), whisk together all ingredients except the flour. Whisk until very smooth. Sift flour over the sweet potato mixture, and whisk until fully incorporated.
Slide brown sugar-filled crust out of the oven and pour filling into pie crust (do not overfill crust if your pie is slightly shallow, just discard excess filling), then return pie to oven.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until pie is set and jiggles only slightly when the pan is bumped.
Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, before serving.