Sweet Potato Chess and Meringue Jar-Lid Pies
By Rebekah Turshen
This pie is my offering to both sweet potato and chess pie obsessed folx, with meringue as the finish to give that “here’s a little something extra special for you” vibe. This is not the pie dough recipe of either of my grandmothers’, but I think of them when I make it. The one and only rule of pie crust making is to keep your chosen fat as cold as possible so when the hot oven air hits the cold butter, the flaky magic happens! Other than that, there is really no right way to make pie crust. Baking pies in Ball jar lids is an accessible and affordable solution to the mess and stress of cutting and dividing larger pies. You can share these at home or deliver to porches, stoops, and truck beds across town without losing any of those covetable crumbs along the way.
Thanks to a couple of our local favorites, Rocky Glade Farm and Bells Bend Farm, we’ve had several beautiful varieties of sweet potatoes at City House this year. They are shelf-stable for months. Here I’ve used ginger, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and lemon for some bright spring energy. Feel free to wing it in whatever month the craving hits you as you take some time to make, bake, share, and enjoy!
Yield: 24 wide-mouth jar-lid pies or 2 nine-inch round whole pies
3 ¾ cups or 468 grams all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons flaked kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons white sugar
1 ½ cup (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
¹/3 cup ice water
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Combine flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl big enough to fit both hands. Cut cold butter into pat-sized pieces and toss into dry ingredients, then squash each pat between thumb and forefingers using the tips of your fingers. Grab loose handfuls till you get a sandy mix with ½" butter bits.
Make a well in the middle, pour in the ice water and vinegar, and turn gently with a wide spatula till you have a shaggy mass of dough that mostly holds together. Begin squashing dough together with your hands till dough is more cohesive.
Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface, and dump out the dough. Fold dough against work surface and onto itself ten or twelve times or more till you feel it smoothing out a bit. Cut dough in half and pat each one into a circle or square, folding a few extra times if needed to until it’s about 1" tall and 6" across, smoothing out the edges as you go. Wrap both pieces of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate till firm, several hours or overnight.
Prepare your baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper and mist it with a layer of cooking spray before traying up your jar lids. (Keep second piece of dough cold while working with the first piece.)
Sprinkle flour onto work surface before rolling out to about ¹/8" thickness. I like to whack my dough with the rolling pin several times to get it started. Cut rounds ½" or so larger than your jar lids. Press dough circles firmly into the lids. Freeze till firm, 30 minutes or overnight.
Repeat process with second dough, and save scraps to reroll or bake for snacks.
Sweet Potato Chess Filling
2 cups or 16 ounces sweet potato puree (2 or 3 large sweet potatoes)
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons flaked kosher salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger or ½ teaspoon powdered ginger
6 whole eggs (or 1 ¼ cup eggs)
12 egg yolks (or 1 ¼ cup egg yolks), reserving whites for meringue
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup whole buttermilk
1 lemon’s zest and juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake whole sweet potatoes in their skins till soft and oozing a little. Set aside to cool down enough to handle. Remove skins and puree sweet potato.
Combine sugars, salt, flour, baking powder, and ginger before whisking into eggs by hand. Whisk cream, buttermilk, lemon zest and juice, vinegar, and vanilla into egg mixture. Whisk in cooled sweet potato purée.
Pour just under rim of frozen pie shells, and bake 25–35 minutes till centers are puffed and set and bottom crust is evenly browned.
Begin meringue after pies come out of the oven.
¾ cup egg whites (use reserved whites)
¼ teaspoon flaked kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¹/3 cup white sugar
Pour egg whites into pristinely clean and dry bowl of an electric stand mixer with salt and cream of tartar. Whisk on medium high till whites turn opaque and show a slight trail of the whisk, then add sugar a few tablespoons at a time before turning the mixer up high to achieve those stiff glossy peaks.
Dollop meringue onto pies with a cookie scoop or spoon and spread with a tiny offset spatula or butter knife to touch edge of crust. Pop in oven 5–10 minutes till meringue is toasty golden.
When pies have cooled, carefully remove lids. Some will come right off, but some may need unscrewing from the shells.
Pies will keep overnight at room temperature or up to a week refrigerated.