Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I've been eating a lot of baked sweet potatoes lately. There's something comforting about them, maybe because I'm from the South and remember eating them as a child. Except, it happened to be my mom who gave them to us as treats. Koreans love sweet potatoes too.

I don't know about you but I can't figure out the difference between sweet potatoes and yams. People use these terms interchangeably but it turns out, the two aren't even related. And get this, they aren't even potatoes at all but tubers.

Yams are native to Africa and Asia, and are drier and starchier than sweet potatoes. Yam comes from an African word, which means "to eat." They are usually found in international markets.

Sweet potatoes, originated in South America, and come in many varieties, with skin color ranging from white to yellow, red, purple or brown. U.S. sweet potatoes come in two main varieties, classified as either 'firm' or 'soft'. One has golden skin with creamy white flesh and a crumbly texture. When cooked, this 'firm' variety remains firm. The other has copper skin with an orange flesh that is sweet and soft. When cooked this 'soft' variety becomes soft and moist. This 'soft' variety is often mistakenly labeled a yam, an error perpetuated by the U.S. government. It may go back to colonial times when Africans referred to sweet potatoes as yams because of the similarities between it and their own native yams. What you find in regular grocery stores is more than likely, sweet potatoes. Zoe Bakes got in on the sweet potato vs. yam debate and came up with some interesting results.

I found this recipe for sweet potato pie from she simmers, who in turn adapted Chef Leah Chase's recipe of Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans. That recipe can be found in the book, In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs. I haven't actually tried the below recipe but I'm willing to bet it's absolutely delicious. I like the addition of pecans to the pie crust and the fact there's only a 1/2 cup of sugar. I would swap it to brown sugar, and maybe roast/bake the potatoes in the oven (skins on) instead of boiling them. I find you get more flavor out of sweet potatoes that way. After they've cooled slightly, just enough to handle, the skin peels away easily. Here's another Southern Sweet Potato Pie recipe from a previous blog entry.

The Best Sweet Potato Pie
(adapted from Leah Chase's recipe)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup finely-chopped pecans
1/2 cup cold butter *(original recipe/vegetable shortening)
1/4 cups ice-cold water, or as needed
  1. In a food processor, pulse together all the dry ingredients plus butter in short bursts until mixture forms pea-sized lumps. Add water through the feed chute as you pulse until the mixture forms a stiff dough that pulls away from the sides of the food processor bowl.
  2. Form dough into a 6-inch disk and wrap in plastic; chill for one hour.
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp melted butter
pecan halves for decoration
  1. Preheat oven to 375º F.
  2. Roll out the chilled dough into a 12-inch round and press into a 9-inch pie pan. Flute the edges. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is set and begins to brown slightly. Remove the pie pan from the oven and let cool.
  3. Put the sweet potatoes into a medium pot and cover them with water by an inch. Bring to a boil. Boil slowly until the potatoes are tender with absolutely no resistance at the center when pierced with a fork.
  4. Drain off the water and mash the potatoes with a potato masher. Do not use a potato riser or food processor.
  5. As you mash the potatoes, add the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; then whisk in the eggs, milk, and vanilla. The butter goes in last.
  6. Once the filling is well-mixed, pour it into the baked pie crust. Arrange pecan halves around the outside edges and sprinkle the top of the pie with more cinnamon.
  7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the filling is set and the edges of the crust have browned.
  8. Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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