Butter, lard, shortening: The debate about which type of fat makes the best pie crust rages on.
I kept things simple for my Southern-inspired sweet potato pie, using only butter and ground pecans for the twice-baked crust. It's got a nice bit of crunch to offset the pie's silky filling, and the crust's nutty flavor plays well with the filling's warm spices.
Some other tips: Keep the butter, flour and water for your dough very cold. After you cube the butter, chill it in the freezer. Make sure to ice down your water and keep that bowl of flour cold, too.
You'll need a rolling pin, and a pastry cutter will come in handy, too: It will be your go-to tool to cut the butter into the flour mixture for the crust, creating that crumbly texture and pea-size bits of butter everyone talks about.
And finally, instead of a stand mixer or mixing by hand, use a food processor not only to get your dough started, but also to purée your filling to make it super smooth. I made a version using the stand mixer, and the filling was still a bit stringy. So it's food processor all the way.
One slice of this, and you may say "later, tater" to other pies.
To learn more, read "Come Pie With Me."
Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Crust
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: One 9-inch pie
Prep Time: 1 hour, plus chilling time
Cook Time: 1 hour and 50 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes, plus chilling time
For the Pecan Crust:
3½ ounces pecan halves
6 ounces (1 ¼ cup) all-purpose flour, chilled in the freezer
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, kept very cold
2 ounces ice water
For the Sweet Potato Filling:
4 small sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground clove
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons bourbon
1. Make the pecan crust: Place the pecans in a food processor and pulverize until finely ground. Add the flour, ginger, salt and cinnamon and pulse to combine. Transfer the flour mixture to a mixing bowl.
2. Cut the the butter into ¼-inch cubes and chill in the freezer for 5 minutes.
3. Add the chilled butter into the flour mixture and, using a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is mealy with pea-size pieces of butter. Add the ice water and mix using a rubber spatula until a loose dough forms. If the dough seems too dry, add a little more ice water.
4. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour or overnight.
5. Make the sweet potato filling: Preheat oven to 350°. Place the sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined sheet tray and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven; let cool. Peel and scrape out the flesh, discarding the skin. You should have 2 cups of cooked sweet potatoes.
6. Transfer the sweet potatoes, along with the remaining ingredients, into the bowl of a food processor and purée until smooth; set aside.
7. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to an ⅛-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch nonstick pie pan and trim excess dough around the edge of the pan; crimp edges of the crust decoratively. Poke a hole in dough at the bottom of the pan using a fork and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
8. Remove the dough from the fridge. Place a large piece of parchment over the pie dough and fill with dried beans or rice (to weigh down the crust).
9. Bake dough until fragrant and light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Remove the dough and discard the beans and parchment; let cool.
10. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pie and bake until the filling is just set, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing, about 2 hours.