The Brass Sisters

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Food historians Marilynn and Sheila Brass cook up the past by using abandoned recipes of long ago in their book, Heirloom Baking. The Brass Sisters have amassed a collection of heirloom recipes that transcend the ingredients to become living histories of the people who created them.

Lannie's Lord Have Mercy Sweet Potato Pie (1920's)
The recipe for this outstanding Sweet Potato Pie comes from Yvette Gooding. It is the pie her maternal grandmother, Lannie Waters Edmondson, made for special family gatherings. Mrs. Edmondson, a native of Kinston, North Carolina, taught Yvette how to bake when she was just seven years old. The late Mrs. Edmondson is remembered for having a saying for every occasion and a wonderful sense of humor too.

Makes 2 pies, 8 – 10 slices per pie

  • 2 unbaked pie shells
  • 2 1/2 lb raw sweet potatoes
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Place prepared sweet potatoes in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With mixer running on low, add butter. Add brown sugar and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Add heavy cream and vanilla. Do not overbeat. Add cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.

3. Pour batter into pie shells. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a tester inserted into pie comes out clean. The center of the pie should wiggle a bit. Cool 2 to 3 hours on a rack. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Store covered with a paper towel and plastic wrap in the refrigerator.

How to Prepare Sweet Potatoes for Pie

  • Preparing the sweet potatoes for Mrs. Edmondson's pie is worth the effort. Select large sweet potatoes, prick them with a fork, and place them on a foiled-covered (shiny-side up) metal baking pan that has been coated with vegetable spray. Bake in a 400°F oven for 1 hour.
  • Place the baking pan on a cooling rack. Carefully cut the hot sweet potatoes in half lengthwise so that they will cool more quickly. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides (discard the skins) and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Weigh the sweet potato pulp after scooping it, since the size and weight are hard to discern with your eyes alone. Process until the potatoes are soft and fluffy.

  • For two pies, you will need 2 ½ lb. or 40 oz. raw sweet potatoes to make 22 oz of processed cooked sweet potato--approximately four large potatoes to start. Do not use canned sweet potatoes because freshly baked potatoes still retain some of their fiber.

Grandma's Secret Warm Banana Meringue Pudding (1950's)
Yvette Gooding learned to make this pudding when baking in the kitchen with her grandmother Lannie. Marilyn and Sheila doubled the recipe, and were rewarded with a dessert that tastes—and looks—spectacular! Guess the secret is out!

Makes 16 generous servings
For the Custard

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 10 ounces vanilla wafers
  • 6 to 8 ripe bananas, sliced crosswise

For the Meringue

  • 8 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1. Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch by 13-inch ovenproof glass baking dish with vegetable spray.

2. To make the custard: Sift sugar, flour, and salt into a large heavy pan. Add milk and heavy cream and mix thoroughly. Add egg yolks one at a time, blending well after each. Cook mixture over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, for about 10 minutes, or until thickened. Remove from heat and strain through sieve. Add vanilla to cooked custard.

3. Spread a small amount of custard on bottom of baking dish. Swirl to cover evenly. Cover with half of vanilla wafers. Cover wafers with half of bananas and press down gently with your palm.

4. Pour a generous layer of custard on top of wafers. Add remaining wafers and bananas in two layers. Pour remaining custard on top, smoothing with spatula so that all wafers and bananas are covered. Press down again gently with the palm of your hand. Bake pudding in oven for 10 minutes.

5. To make the meringue: Add egg whites and cream of tartar to bowl of standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on low speed. Gradually increase speed to medium until soft peaks form. Add sugar in thirds while increasing speed of mixer to high. Beat until stiff peaks are formed. Meringue should not be dry.

6. Remove pudding from oven and mound meringue on top, spreading until entire surface is covered. (Be sure to seal edges.) Return pudding to oven for about 20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to be sure it does not burn. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool. Serve when slightly warm. Store leftover pudding in the refrigerator.

Both recipes courtesy of Heirloom Baking with The Brass Sisters

Music break: Raunchy by Ernie Freeman