Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Case of the Lost-and-Found Recipe

The first time I ever heard of a “Sweet Potato Pie” was in Lima, when I was in my early 20s. After so many years I can’t recall where I got the recipe from, but I’m guessing it had to be from an American magazine, since the copy I jotted down on a piece of paper was in English . . . so, I’m guessing the magazine wasn’t mine either! What I do clearly remember is that every time I prepared this pie it was just delicious and got rave reviews from everyone! I even remember that sometimes I would bake several pies at the same time so I could leave a couple at home and take one to the office! Even though I made this recipe innumerable times and knew the ingredients and preparation by heart, every single time I whipped it up, I would have my well-used, batter-splashed copy of the recipe in front of me. Eventually, I just got tired of preparing the same dessert, put the recipe away somewhere, and moved on to try other recipes.

In my late 20s I decided to move out of my house and share an apartment with a couple of roommates . . . something unheard of back then, specially in Lima. However, three years later, it made smart economic sense to move back in with my parents. You know how packing and organizing are among the trivial parts of moving, yet, when unpacking time comes, certain things inevitably get lost or misplaced . . . and I think that’s how my recipe for the sweet potato pie simply disappeared! Fortunately, my mom—for some reason I will never know, but I’m glad for—had her own copy of the recipe, translated by her into Spanish. That’s how I got back the recipe in my hands and brought it with me when I moved to the States.

Two weeks ago, when I wrote my posting “Before It’s Too Late”, I started scouring through my extensive collection of recipe clippings (four file storage boxes) for my sweet potato pie recipe, all to no avail! I got sad and thought that, once again, I had lost the recipe for good! Earlier today I ended up throwing away around two full garbage bins of paper that was taking up room in my filing cabinets and then, all of a sudden, I got across a folder with old recipe clippings . . . and wouldn’t you know it . . . the famous pie recipe was right there! :)

During all these years I constantly remembered about the recipe (and, obviously, didn’t remember where I put it!) and so, every now and then, I would look up on the Internet for sweet potato pie recipes, trying to find one similar to mine. Yes, I know there are hundreds of recipes for sweet potato pies on the Internet . . . but the one I used to prepare called for grating the raw sweet potatoes, as opposed to all the recipes I’ve seen so far, which use cooked and mashed sweet potatoes!

So . . . after some years the case of the lost-and-found sweet potato pie recipe is finally solved. Of course, I had to translate it back into English! I’m posting a provisional photo from the Internet for this pie—since I don’t have the ingredients to prepare it right now—but I promise I will bake it some time soon and will post my own photos! :)

Sweet Potato Pie (Pie de Camote)


For the crust
• 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold
• 5 tablespoons warm water
• 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the filling
• 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
• 1 cup evaporated milk
• 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
• 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 2-3 medium size sweet potatoes, grated


Mix the sugar into the flour, and then add the butter. If you have a pastry cutter, great, but if not, two dinner knives work just as well. Cut the butter into small pieces, sliding the knife blades across each other to catch all the pieces. The pieces don’t all have to be completely mixed into the flour, but they should be roughly the same size and you should end up with a crumbly texture. Add water and vanilla and mix with your hands to form a ball. Roll out to fit a 9” pie dish. Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool down. Start preparing the filling in the meantime.

Mix together all ingredients and pour mixture into the pie crust. Place pie dish in the oven, centered on the middle rack. Bake at 325 degrees F for 50 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve as is, or with whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!


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