Saturday, November 28, 2009

Alton Brown's Sweet Potato Pie

Joey really likes Alton Brown's show and DVRs it at his dad's house for future watching. Recently, he saw a video of Alton making sweet potato pie which he describes as a better pumpkin pie--it tastes similar but is so much fresher since it doesn't use the canned stuff. The best part is that fresh sweet potatoes are a whole lot easier to work with than fresh pumpkin because all you do is peel, slice and dice. With pumpkins you have to scoop out the guts and deal with the thick peel.

I agree that this pie was super easy. The only problem was that it wasn't a huge hit at Thanksgiving because everyone went for their favorite classics as fast as possible. I think though if we hadn't brought a pumpkin pie as well, and we removed the toasted pecans from the top, people would've eaten the Sweet Potato and not really noticed a huge difference. I think that this was one of the prettiest pies we brought to Thanksgiving, of the five.

I learned that at Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes are suddenly synonymous with yams even though they aren't really the same thing. The first time I bought yams with a yellowish flesh. The second time (after one got moldy from improper storing techniques)I purchased red yams which were on special and they were really more sweet potato-esque with orange flesh. I'm kind of glad the first set went moldy cause otherwise the color would have been way off.


* 1 pound 3 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
* 1 1/4 cups plain yogurt
* 3/4 cup packed, dark brown sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
* 5 egg yolks
* Salt
* 1 (9-inch) deep dish, frozen pie shell
* 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
* 1 tablespoon maple syrup
* Special equipment: steamer basket


Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer basket into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Mash with potato masher and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place sweet potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment. Add yogurt, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, yolks, and salt, to taste, and beat until well combined. Pour this batter into the pie shell and place onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle pecans on top and drizzle with maple syrup.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees. Remove from oven and cool. Keep refrigerated after cooling.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Alton Brown's Super Apple Pie

Joey and I watched a video of Alton Brown's take on apple pie and were hooked on trying it out. Of course, it requires all sorts of things we didn't have so it was quite the shopping list to get it all taken care of. The result? An apple pie that tastes like apples--not the traditional spices--with a hint of rye bread. Perhaps if we had reacted earlier to the grocery list, we would've gotten the Grains of Paradise and then not had that hint of rye bread involved. We made two apple pies Alton style, one following the recipe and one with traditional spices. Both were eaten and well liked. Different strokes for different folks I guess. The liquids in the pie made it more of a sticky pie like peach pie than your typical apple.

We got a lot of use out of our kitchen scale for this recipe. We also bought the 2 inch deep tart pans so that the sides could come off for easy slicing and serving. Those worked really well, but if you want to stick with the fall-apart slice from a traditional pie tin that's your prerogative. Alton used a 12-slice apple cutter, but you could just cut your apple slices in half. We got a 16 slicer from William-Sonoma and it wasn't as great as we hoped it would be.

We didn't have a pie bird. For one pie we just cut the slits in the top. For the other, Joey constructed a pie bird (or funnel) out of tin foil. It was quiet the topic of conversation but it let the steam escape so that we didn't have to slice the top. The glaze on the top is from the apples but I don't think it looks that pretty--although it did taste good.

The addition of crisco and brandy in the pie crust made it so easy to work with when I rolled it out! I couldn't believe how easy it was. Usually any kind of dough fights me for the last word and wins. The crust didn't really even taste like the brandy at all.

Alton Brown's Super Apple Pie
For the crust:

* 6 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 2 ounces vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
* 5 to 7 tablespoons applejack
* 12 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 3/4 cups, plus extra for dusting
* 1 teaspoon table salt
* 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
* This must sit in the fridge at least 1 hour or overnight

For the filling:

* 3 to 3 1/2 pounds apples, mixture of Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn and Golden Delicious, about 6 large apples
* 1/2 cup sugar, divided
* 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
* 2 tablespoons apple jelly
* 1 tablespoon apple cider
* 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
* 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise


For the crust:

Place the butter, shortening and applejack into the refrigerator for 1 hour.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt and sugar by pulsing 3 to 4 times. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until the texture looks mealy. Add the shortening and pulse another 3 to 4 times until incorporated.

Remove the lid of the food processor and sprinkle in 5 tablespoons of the applejack. Replace the lid and pulse 5 times. Add more applejack as needed, and pulse again until the mixture holds together when squeezed. Weigh the dough and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
For the filling:

Peel and core the apples. Slice into 1/2-inch thick wedges. Toss all of the apples with 1/4 cup of the sugar, place in a colander set over a large bowl and allow to drain for 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the drained liquid to a small saucepan, place over medium heat and reduce to 2 tablespoons. Set aside to cool. Toss the apples with the remaining sugar, tapioca flour, jelly, cider, lime juice, salt and grains of paradise.

For assembling and baking the pie:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Remove one disk of dough from the refrigerator. Place the dough onto a lightly floured piece of waxed paper. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Place into a 9 1/2 to 10-inch tart pan that is 2-inches deep. Gently press the dough into the sides of the pan, crimping and trimming the edges as necessary. Set a pie bird in the center of the bottom of the pan.

Place the apples into the unbaked pie shell in concentric circles starting around the edges, working towards the center and forming a slight mound in the center of the pie. Pour over any liquid that remains in the bowl. Roll out the second pie dough as the first. Place this dough over the apples, pressing the pie bird through the top crust. Press together the edges of the dough around the rim of the pie. Brush the top crust with the reduced juice everywhere except around the edge of pie. Trim any excess dough. Place the pie on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake on the floor of the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer to the lower rack of the oven and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until the apples are cooked through but not mushy. Remove to a rack and cool a minimum of 4 hours or until almost room temperature.