Brown Butter Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pie
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Anyone who has had my baking will tell you I LOVE to bake with brown butter. In fact I almost called this the Brown Butter Blog, where it was going to be all brown butter, all the time! I eventually realized that there is, in fact, more to life than brown butter, but like… is there? It makes everything better in a deliciously subtle way. And my favorite thing about it is how it can take a dish from delicious to unbelievable. Case in point: brown butter sweet potato pie. This is one of the recipes where brown butter truly shines. It makes SUCH a difference in the flavor.
Sweet potato pie is the only dessert I HAVE to have at Thanksgiving. My Grandma made the best sweet potato pie, and nothing will come close, but this is my attempt.
This recipe began its life as the Deep South Sweet Potato Pie recipe at one of my favorite food blogs, DivasCanCook.com. I started making the majority of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner when I was in college, and that site has always been a huge go-to for amazing soul-food dishes! From that recipe, I made a few changes and incorporated the “black-bottom” technique that makes Patti Labelle’s pies so famous, and found my favorite sweet potato pie recipe ever!
Sweet Potato Pie, Step by step…
This recipe has a a few important steps– nothing too intense, but it’s important to not skip any. I would recommend gathering your ingredients a few days in advance, and taking your time with each step. Steps 1-3 can be done a day or two ahead of time, so you won’t be stuck doing everything on the same day! Ok, here we go…
Step 1: Get your pie crusts ready
The key to the black-bottom technique is to blind bake the pie crust with butter and brown sugar. Blind baking is a technique of pre-baking a pie crust to ensure a fully cooked crust, and in this case it also gives us a nice brown sugar layer on the bottom of our pies! The best way to ensure that the crust doesn’t shrink during blind baking is to chill the crust in the pan for at least an hour before your blind bake. I like to put mine in the freezer to be extra safe.
If you’re using a store-bought pie crust that comes in its own pan, you’re one step ahead. Just keep them in the fridge until you’re ready for the blind bake!
For this technique, we’ll just brush the chilled pie crust with butter and sprinkle it with brown sugar. Then pop it in the oven for 15 minutes!
When you remove the pie from the oven, it may have shrunk a bit, but it should still have kept its shape. If necessary, carefully press the pie back into place with a spoon.
Step 2: Brown your butter
This is a step that is a bit daunting at first, but once you’ve mastered it, you’ll feel like you have a baking superpower! It’s definitely a cheat code to make baked goods (and savory dishes) absolutely amazing!
I have a full post on how to brown butter where I go into detail and share images of the process — if you’re new to browning butter, I’d recommend checking it out!
To brown the butter, we’ll just place the cubed butter in a light-colored saucepan and cook it on medium heat until it’s bubbly and the milk solids are starting to separate. That means it’s almost ready. Once the butter smells nutty and fragrant (you’ll be able to tell, trust me — it smells amazing) and it’s starting to look golden brown, scrape it into a heat-safe container to cool.
Step 3: Bake your sweet potatoes
This is one of my favorite variations for sweet potato pie! I’ve had a lot of great pies made with boiled sweet potatoes, but baking them brings out the natural sweetness so much! It’s a game changer.
To do this, you’ll just prick them with a fork and bake them on a foil-lined pan until they’re nice and soft.
Step 4: Prepare your filling, and bake!
I love it when a plan comes together! This is the moment when the prep work pays off. You’ll first want to scoop out the flesh of your cooled potatoes, and purée them — I like to use a hand blender. Then you’ll mix in the cooled brown butter and the rest of your filling ingredients.
Finally you’ll pour it all into your pie pans, and bake!
Sweet potato pie definitely does not need to be served warm or anything, so feel free to complete the pie a day or two in advance, according to your schedule. It also freezes very well! I always make holiday pies several days, if not weeks in advance and then freeze them, and they turn out great! Just wrap them very well with plastic wrap and foil to freeze. Then, a day or two before you plan to serve it, allow the pie to thaw in the refrigerator, still wrapped. To serve them, let them sit on the counter and then come to room temperature, still wrapped.
This brown butter sweet potato pie is definitely best suited for a holiday meal, since it’s so decadent and has several steps. But once you master it, you’ll go back to it again and again for your family gatherings!
Equipment you may need
- 2 pie crusts – store-bought or homemade (see note**)
- 2 cups unsalted butter (4 sticks) – cut into cubes or slices
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter – melted
- 4 lbs sweet potatoes – about 4 cups once puréed
- 1 cup light or dark brown sugar – packed
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar – packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 5 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 2 pinches ground cloves – optional
- 4 tbsp orange juice
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs – room temperature
Prepare Pie Crusts
- If using a homemade or roll-up pie crust, roll pie crust into pan and crimp sides, and let chill in fridge or freezer at least 1 hour (this is important — see note**)
- Brush 2 tbsp melted butter in each pie crust. Sprinkle ¼ cup of your brown sugar into each and bake for about 15 minutes. Set aside.
Prepare Sweet Potatoes
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork several times.
- Place on foil-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 1 hour or until very tender.
- Let cool while preparing the brown butter.
Prepare Brown Butter
- Add the 4 sticks butter to a heavy-bottom light-colored skillet over medium heat.
- Once butter has melted it will begin to foam a bit, whisk continuously while scraping the bottom of the pan.
- The butter will begin to turn golden and form golden brown bits on the bottom of the pan, keep whisking.
- Once the aromas become nutty (almost like the smell of caramel) and the solids in the bottom of the pan are deep golden brown, remove from heat.
- Pour into a glass dish, scraping the pan to get all the brown bits, and set aside to let cool.
- In a large bowl, scoop out the flesh of the cooled sweet potatoes.
- Using your preferred mixing tool (see note*), mix until creamy and smooth, if necessary adding a few splashes of water(or milk) until you have the texture of a very thick puree
- Mix in the cooled brown butter until smooth.
- Mix in the brown sugar, white sugar, evaporated milk, eggs (see note before adding***), vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove (if using), juice, and flour until well combined.
- Pour filling into pie crust shells and smooth the top. Don’t overfill — pies will rise a bit in the oven!
- Bake on middle rack in preheated 350°F oven for 55 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely until the middle is firmly set. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
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This brown butter sweet potato pie is just the beginning — safe to say that brown butter is my favorite ingredient for an irresistible result every time! Check out my other brown butter recipes here!