Pies and Tarts

This recipe for sweet potato casserole comes from my mother-in-law, Debbie, who I believe got it from her mother.  I was never a big fan of sweet potatoes in any form, but this casserole made a believer out of me.  This is now a favorite dish at my family’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter holidays.  This is the only sweet potato dish my sister will touch. 

This is the traditional recipe.  I’ve also lightened the recipe, which I think came out amazingly.  But, for now I’ll stick with the tried and true.

Sweet Potato Casserole
4 1/2 cups Sweet Potatoes (canned)
3/4 cup sugar
3 beaten eggs
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 stick of butter
1 ½ tsps real vanilla
Mix all of the above ingredients together (works well in the mixer) and pour into a 13 x 9 casserole dish or an extra large pie plate.
1 cup of brown sugar (half light half dark)
2/3 cup flour
1 stick butter
1 cup nuts (I use pecans)
Crumble evenly over the sweet potato casserole and bake at 350° until hot and bubbly, usually between 30 & 40 minutes.  Serve warm.


I hate to admit it, but this recipe actually comes from the book that came with my food processor.  Now, I’ve had more flavorful crusts, and more tender crusts, but they are almost always very delicate and difficult to work with.  This crust has good flavor and a good flakiness, but is pretty user-friendly.  I make it in my food processor, but you could use a pastry cutter and do it by hand if you wanted to.

One Crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold shortening
1 Tbs. cold butter, cut up
2-4 Tbs. ice water

Two Crusts
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold shortening
3 Tbs. cold butter, cut up
5-7 Tbs. ice water

Combine flour and salt in bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.  Add shortening and butter.  Pulse 3 to 4 times, 2 to 3 seconds each time, or until crumbly.  Sprinkle minimum amount of water evenly over mixture (or stream in using the tube of your processor).  Pulse 1 to 3 times, 2 to 3 seconds each time, or until mixture pulls away from sides of bowl and dry ingredients are moistened.  Add additional water if necessary.

On a lightly floured surface, shape into a ball (2 balls for 2 crust pie), I roll mine out on a silicon mat, which makes clean up easy and makes moving the crust around easier.  Roll each ball into a circle 2 inches larger than inverted pie plate.  Fit into pie plate; avoid stretching.  Proceed as directed in pie recipe.

To bake single crust shell, flute edges of crust.  Prick shell thoroughly with a fork.  Weight with dry beans, pie weights, or heavy duty aluminum foil.  Bake at 425 degrees for 9 to 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. 

This is my all-time favorite apple pie.  I know the all-American version is supposed to be a double crust, but in my mind, this crunchy, buttery topping just can’t be beat.  I got the recipe from a long-time family friend – Mrs. Terri, who spent years bringing this pie to holiday events at our house because it was my favorite.  Thanks so much!  When I moved out and got a place of my own (and my own oven), she bought me a beautiful extra large pie plate to make this pie in [picture to come]. 

Mrs. Terri’s Apple Crumble Pie
5-7 medium baking apples
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. lemon rind (optional; orange rind is also yummy, but use less)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbs. butter

To Prepare: Peel and slice apples, place in a large bowl.  Stir in lemon juice, sugar, flour, zest, and spices.  Pour into prepared crust in a 9 inch deep-dish pie plate, or an extra large pie plate.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Cut in butter until crumbly (this can also be done in a small food processor).  Sprinkle over pie. 

Cover crust with a ring of foil to protect it from over-browning.  Remove foil for the last 15 minutes of baking to allow crust to brown.

Bake for 45-50 min at 400 degrees.

*Mrs. Terri makes an extra large crust to fold over pie.  I always follow her lead and make a double crust.  If you have extra, use it for pie art – leaves look particularly pretty on this pie.

*Variation: Melt a handful or so of caramels in a heavy saucepan, adding 1-2 Tbs. heavy cream to loosen the caramel.  Spread caramel mixture in the bottom of pie crust before adding apple mixture.  You can achieve a similar taste simply by serving the pie with store bought caramel sauce.

This recipe is as authentic and down-home as it sounds.  I actually got the recipe from a friend of my grandmother’s named, you guessed it: Ivalou.  She brought little pecan tartlets to an event in Tennessee, and I begged her for the recipe.  It arrived in the mail a few weeks later, and apparently it was written out by her husband, who titled it “Ivalou’s Mama’s Pecan Pie.”  It will always go by that name in my house.  It has a great rich flavor and a good texture.  It’s very sweet, so be prepared!

Ivalou’s Mama’s Pecan Pie
1 cup white Karo syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 cup pecans (I use chips because it’s easier to eat that way, especially if you make tartlets; use pecan halves if you want a prettier presentation)
1/2 stick of butter
3 eggs

Stir together Karo, sugar, and butter in a heavy saucepan.  Heat over medium-low heat until butter melts, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs well.  Add vanilla.  Temper egg mixture by adding sugar mixture a little bit at a time, stirring as you add.  If you rush this part, you get scrambled eggs.  Spread pecans in the bottom of a 9 inch pie shell.  Pour mixture over pecans.  

Bake for 1 hour at  350 degrees.

 *Ivalou says you can increase all ingredients by 1/3 to make 24 tarts.

[picture to come]