This pie begins in a total fail. It ends in triumph.
I forgot to put the sweet potato into this sweet potato pie. I had prepared the sweet potatoes the day before I baked the pie. I was thinking ahead and using my time wisely. Good on me. I was trying to impress Karen. I’ve got this pie under control, dear. Completely under control.
I had wanted to make a pie from the infamous Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn. They are pie masters, and if I was going to make anyone’s pie, a sweet potato pie, it had to be theirs. Bourbon is used liberally in this pie, as it should be used in most things. When I went to Gary’s Wine in Madison to get some bourbon, the guy on the floor asked me what I was making (I had grilled him about small-batch vs. big label bourbon, the differences in quality, and taste). When I told him it was for a bourbon sweet potato pie, he stood very still, looked a bit into the distance, and said, “Oh. Wow. That sounds incredible.”
And so I made the Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ crust, beautiful flakes of butter throughout the dough. It was going to be great. Then I mixed what would be the pie guts, heavy with bourbon and spice. Par-baked the crust, just as the recipe said. It looked like a winner. I put the filling into the crust, slid it into the oven, closing the latch with a certain satisfaction.
As I was cleaning up the kitchen, my eye spied a medium-sized bowl. Wait, why is that bowl sitting there? That’s the sweet potato bowl. And there they sat, their orange surfaces turning brown, slowly, as if they knew they’d been left behind.
There were expletives. The kids were taking naps. So there were expletives.
Grabbing the hot pads, I flew to the oven, undid the safety latch, and saw the beautiful crust being swallowed up by the bourbon sugar pond in the middle. Game over, pie crust.
Until I remembered I had made extra pie crust from Melissa Clark. You know, that perfect pie crust? With the duck fat? Even in failure, I still had this situation under control. I poured the bourbon sugar pond into the sweet potatoes, threw away the now-soggy pie crust, and began rolling out Melissa’s crust. It behaved perfectly like it had heard the expletives from inside the refrigerator. Par-baked it just as instructed in the Four & Twenty Blackbird recipe. I whisked together the sweet potatoes with the bourbon and sugar (which is noticeably thicker with sweet potatoes included, go figure).
And the pie was perfect. Set up just right and tasted of depth and caramel sweetness. And a little kick of bourbon.
After that adventure in failure, I needed more bourbon. So I made some bourbon whipped cream (cream whipped without sugar, some bourbon splashed in). And that was a great touch.
But I needed more bourbon.
I looked at Karen and said, “I want to dip this in warm bourbon.” Which has to make a wife proud. A bit of bourbon in a small bowl. Ten seconds in the microwave. A dip into the rich brown liquid with the tip of the pie, then a plunge into the whipped bourbon cream.
And this is pie. A triumph out of failure. A boozy victory. A perfect pie.
- Mash up the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients, one at a time, beating with an electric mixer between additions ensuring the mixture is smooth.
- When all ingredients are added, beat the whole thing on medium for 2 minutes.
- Pour into an unbaked pie shell (see recipe options above).
- Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
- Cool completely. Top with whipped cream.