5-spice sweet potato pie

Chinese 5-Spice Sweet Potato Pie |A Brown Table

If there's one dessert that I look forward to every Thanksgiving, it is the sweet potato pie. Over time, I've learned to equate sweet potato pie with comfort food because of its simplicity yet complex delicious flavors that with every bite invokes a pleasurable experience that reminds me of all the great seasonal flavors that come with fall weather. It should come as no surprise that with the Thanksgiving holidays right around the corner, I am sharing my favorite pie recipe with you. This filling is special, it has a mix of Chinese 5-spice powder and ginger to give it that extra boost of flavor that you will fall in love with. 

Chinese 5-Spice Sweet Potato Pie |A Brown Table

Chinese 5-spice powder is a blend of fennel, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and sichuan peppers, that's a great mix to have in stock at all times in your kitchen pantry. Imagine yourself whisking all those delicious aromatic spices into the sweet potato, warm whiskey with vanilla and ginger and then the sprinkling of the 5-spice powder, followed by the molasses. That, in my opinion, are fall comfort flavors at their best!

Chinese 5-Spice Sweet Potato Pie |A Brown Table

One feature that I always look for in a pie crust is the flaky and light texture that sets it apart from other pastries. This crust uses whole-wheat pastry flour and a little bit of vodka to create that flaky texture but yet it provides the goodness of whole-grain. Both the pie and the filling have a little bit of alcohol but the alcohol evaporates during baking and there are no traces left, so this is not one of my usual boozy recipes. Another reason why I like using this pastry dough recipe to create the crust is its forgiving nature when it comes to lining the pie pan, you can glue and seal any cracks with any left over bits of unused dough. However, since the dough is rather moist it does absorb and take up a lot of flour during the rolling out process. I normally make the dough the night before and line my pie pan and then bake it the next day with the filling. Another tip, if the dough starts to get too sticky and warm, stick it back in the refrigerator and then work with it. As far as possible avoid using your hands to touch it too much, a pastry scraper works wonders here. 

The sweet potato puree here is really simple to make. I normally bake a couple of sweet potatoes in their jackets for 40-45 minutes at 350F. Once they are cooled, I peel and discard the skin, I think process the flesh of the tuber in a food processor to get a smooth puree.

I like to eat this pie warm or cold and sometimes with a little bit of creme fraiche on the side that's been lightly sweetened and whipped. 

This recipe was modified and adapted from

The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

Chinese 5-Spice Sweet Potato Pie |A Brown Table

5-spice sweet potato pie

pie crust

yields:

one 9" pie crust

ingredients

1 1/4 cup ( 5 1/4 ounces) whole-wheat pastry flour and a little extra flour for rolling out the dough

1 tablespoon raw brown sugar 

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces) unsalted butter, chopped

2 tablespoons vodka, chilled

2 tablespoons ice water

1. Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor until completely combined. 

2. Drop the chilled butter pieces into the processor and pulse until evenly distributed and combined. You might need to occasionally rub the sides of the processor down to allow the butter to combine with all the dry ingredients. 

3. Transfer the contents to a large mixing bowl (preferably chilled) and sprinkle the vodka and water over the flour. Fold and bring the dough together to form one large ball, using a silicone spatula. 

4. Cover the dough with cling film and refrigerate for one hour before use. 

5. Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to sit on the counter for 10 minutes. 

6. Preheat the oven to 350F and place a rack in the center over the oven.

7. Roll out the dough into a 12" circle and carefully transfer over a pie pan. Gently press the dough to fit the pan and trim off any excess dough that is hanging over the edges. With your fingers, crimp the edges of the pastry. Cover the pastry with loosely with cling film and refrigerate for 15 minutes. 

8. Just before baking the pie, line the edges of the pastry with aluminum foil. Place a piece of parchment paper (cut to size) in the center of the pan and place the pie beads/weights/chain/ dried beans. Bake the shell for 15 minutes. 

9. Remove and discard the aluminum foil. Then lift the pie beads out using the parchment paper. 

10. For the sweet potato filling and final pie preparation read instructions below. 

5-spice sweet potato pie filling

yields:

one 9" pie

ingredients

2 cups sweet potato puree

3 large eggs and one large egg yolk

3/4 cup raw dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark unsulphured molasses

1 teaspoon madgascar bourbon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons whisky

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon 5-spice powder mix

1/2 teaspoon ginger powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the ingredients together to form a smooth mixture. The sugar should be completely dissolved.

2. Transfer the filing into the partially baked pie crust, tap gently to level the filling and to remove any trapped air bubbles. Return the pie to the oven and bake for another 35-40 minutes or until the sides of the pie are firm and the center is slightly soft (The center should jiggle slightly when the pie is gently shaken). Remove and allow to cool to room temperature. The pie can be served warm by itself or with a dollop of lightly whipped sweetened creme fraiche. 

hot and sweet cornbread stuffing

Cornbread Stuffing

It's the week of Thanksgiving, I am not hosting my own dinner but rather heading off to my friend Tyler's parents' home. His mother, Susan, is a load of fun and over time we have bonded over important topics such as food and T.V. shows. I will admit that getting invited to someone else's home for the holiday dinner lifts quite a bit of work off your shoulder and for that I am thankful once again! Although I am making an appetizer and dessert for Susan's dinner, I am thrilled that I don't have to make a huge turkey and all the other sides and desserts that are a staple of this fall tradition. However, a few items were requested at home and one of them is this cornbread stuffing that I make every year, for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

Carrot and Fennel

Thanksgiving is a time for family traditions. Some people love sausage and bread in their stuffing, while others make theirs hot or sweet. Every family that I know of takes their favorite recipe and improves on it, year after year, making it more personal and special. The sharing of good eats and of course the long holiday break is what I love most about Thanksgiving.  For me, I like my stuffing a little hot and sweet, here the cornbread serves as the base and I infused it with the rich flavors and colors of fall vegetables. The sweetness of the cornbread, apples, carrots, orange juice, and cider complement the heat of the chopped jalapenos to give a delicious fusion. Since Thanksgiving menus are generally long with several dishes to be prepared, I try to keep this recipe simple and flavorful but delicious. On these particular days a few minutes saved goes a long way.

Jalapenos and barberries

If you can't find barberries, use sweetened cranberries. They both impart a rich red color, yet very different flavor working very well in this stuffing.  If you've started to notice, I am always looking for ways to use wine, and I've successfully done so in this recipe.  Used properly, if not consumed first, wine makes a fabulous alternative for vegetable/fruit stock.  Also, feel free to use your favorite plain cornbread recipe to prepare this stuffing, giving it your own unique and personal touch. Have a wonderful, Thanksgiving holiday!

Sauteed Veggies

hot and sweet cornbread stuffing

servings: 10-12

ingredients

4 cups cornbread, coarsely cubed
1 cup diced white onion
1 medium size fennel bulb, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup barberries or sweetened cranberries
1 Granny Smith Apple, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pickeled jalapenos, chopped
1/4 stick frozen butter, diced into small cubes
1/2 apple cider juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup white wine ( I used a Pinot Blanc)
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large pan or pot, heat the olive oil on a medium flame. Add the onion, fennel, carrots, and barberries. Saute the vegetables until they are tender but not brown. This will take about 10 minutes.
2. Add the apples and jalapenos to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3. Season with salt and pepper according to taste. Switch the flame off.
4. In a large bowl, mix the cornbread with the sauteed vegetables. Pour in the juices and wine and fold gently.
5. Preheat the oven to 350F.
6. Layout the mixed cornbread and vegetables along with the liquid in a baking pan. Randomly, sprinkle the cubed butter over the top of the stuffing. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or till the crust is golden brown. 
7. Once baked the crust will be golden brown and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve warm.