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Recipe: Hazelnut Streusel Sweet Potato Pie

Flickr user, Liji Jinaraj (CC BY-2.0)

Hazelnut Streusel Sweet Potato Pie

Greg Patent writes:

Sweet potato pies were very popular with 19th century cooks. Here's one with a terrific hazelnut streusel topping that is a great contrast to the smooth, creamy filling. This is one of the pies I make for Thanksgiving. Make it anytime sweet potatoes are in season.


1 baked 9-inch Graham cracker crust: prepare the crust and set it aside.

By baking the crust in a foil-lined pan, then freezing the crust and removing the foil, the crust simply cannot stick when you cut portions of your completed pie. This is a handy little trick I learned from Maida Heatter's "Book of Great Desserts." Note that there’s much less butter in this recipe than in more traditional Graham cracker crust recipes.

18 graham cracker squares (4 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chilled butter
1 large egg white
Additional sugar, if needed

Streusel Topping

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (spooned into the cup and leveled)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts (see SIDEBAR below)


1 2/3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes (15 ounces), from 1 1/2 pounds raw sweet potatoes
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream


1. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Line a 9-inch ovenproof glass pie plate with a square of aluminum foil (shiny side facing you), pressing the foil so that it fits snugly on the bottom and sides of the pan. Use potholders if your fingernails are long to avoid tearing the foil. Fold the excess foil down and away from the rim of the pan.

2. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the Graham crackers until they are fine crumbs, about 10 seconds. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and butter, and process for 10 to 15 seconds, until the butter is broken up into very small bits. Add the egg white and pulse very rapidly about 10 times only until the crumbs are moist-looking. Careful to not overdue it: stop processing before the mixture forms a ball.

3. Coat the foil-lined pie plate with cooking spray and turn the crumbs into the pan. Press crumbs evenly on the sides first, then the bottom, to make a compact crust. Make sure the crust is not too thick where the bottom meets the side. Sugar your fingers as necessary if the crumbs seems sticky.

4. Bake for 8 minutes or until the crust is lightly browned and smells aromatic; cool completely on a wire rack. Freeze for 1 hour. Unfold the edge of foil that you folded down earlier, and lift the foil-encased crust from the pan. Carefully peel the foil away, supporting the crust with one hand as you go along. Do this slowly to avoid breaking the crust. Replace the crust in the pie plate. It is now ready to be filled.

5. To cook the sweet potatoes, either use the microwave oven or a steamer. If you're microwaving, prick each one generously with a fork, and microwave on high until completely tender, following the instructions of your microwave manual. If using a steamer, be sure there's enough water in the pan, and steam them, covered, until completely tender, 30 to 40 minutes. I do not recommend boiling sweet potatoes since they become waterlogged and will result in a watery, runny pie. As soon as the sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in half, scoop out the flesh, and mash with a fork or potato masher. The sweet potatoes don't have to be completely smooth at this point, since the filling will be made with a food processor. The sweet potatoes may be prepared a day or two ahead and refrigerated, covered.

6. Adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

7. To make the topping, combine the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a small bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in the butter until you have coarse crumbs. Stir in the hazelnuts.

8. In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process all the filling ingredients for 20 seconds. Scrape the work bowl and process for 15 to 20 seconds longer to make a smooth purée. Pour into the prepared Graham cracker shell. Sprinkle evenly with the streusel topping, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the center of the pie jiggles when you move the pan but the sides are puffed and set.

9. Cool completely on a wire rack until the filling firms up, at least 2 to 3 hours. Cut into wedges and serve. You can also refrigerate this pie for about 1 hour before serving to insure that the filling is set
before cutting.

Makes 8 servings.
By Greg Patent © Copyright 2015 from his cookbook, “Baking in America.”

SIDEBAR: About Hazelnuts

In the book, "A Prize-Winning Treasury of Filbert Recipes," I learned that filberts (or hazelnuts or cobnuts) have been cultivated for over 4,500 years. Oregon is one of the major filbert growing areas in the
United States. The industry began there in 1857, and according to this book, published in 1973, 97 percent of all the filberts grown in America come from Oregon. To use the nuts and to bring out their
rich flavor, they must be roasted to a golden brown color--the aroma will perfume your kitchen--and the skins should be rubbed off with a towel. These "skinned" nuts can then be chopped and put into cakes and cookies or ground up and used in all sorts of fillings for yeast breads and cookies. And many, many, other things. The book has recipes for filberts in every course of the meal!

(Broadcast: "The Food Guys," 12/27/15, 12/31/15 and 12/31/17. Listen weekly on the radio at 11:50 a.m. Sundays and again at 4:54 p.m. Thursdays, or via podcast.)

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