I never tried a sweet potato pie until 2004. Every Thanksgiving found pumpkin pie in the kitchen, pumpkin pie on the table. No matter where I went, East Coast or West, it was always pumpkin. Then I found a recipe in a magazine, so on the holiday, I ran to the store to purchase sweet potatoes. Four days later, the attic of the house we were renting caught fire, and life turned upside down. It seemed that the recipe took on some extra importance to me because when I went back into the house to rescue some belongings, the magazine was no longer there. I lost the recipe to the best pie I’d ever had (amongst other things.)
I searched through back issues, I surfed the internet, I even wrote the editor all in hopes of finding that recipe again. No luck. It was strange because I remembered that it contained orange juice, and none of the recipes I found did. Each holiday was a disappointment as I dumped a can of evaporated milk into the Libby’s solid pack pumpkin. Then, I decided I would reconstruct the recipe on my own.
There is no white sugar in this recipe, and no dairy milk. I found a gluten-free Deanna’s pie crust at the grocery store that baked well and didn’t crumble. For me, the difference between pumpkin and sweet potato pie is the texture. Pumpkin is custardy and slippery smooth. Sometimes after sitting for several hours, it tends to deflate or sink down. Sweet potato is lighter, fluffier and has a slightly grainier texture, though it goes down smooth as velvet. Sweet potato has a naturally sweet flavor that pumpkin does not. It also has more calories. Both are high in betacarotene, and can be stored in the refrigerator for several days after baking.
Many people speak of sweet potato pie as being sweetened by molasses. While I don’t see this in my review of the recipes, I used this idea when I decided to sweeten my pie partially with grated piloncillo, which boasts a natural subtle molasses-like flavor. Piloncillo is the least processed sugar product available. In Mexico, the sugar cane juices are placed in cones, or pilons, and left to evaporate. The result is the piloncillo.
A simple pie to make and bake, the taste will have your family smiling.
(makes 1 pie)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup piloncillo, grated with a fine grater
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup coconut milk from a can
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
prepared gluten-free pie crust (I used Deanna’s frozen crust distributed by GNI)
1. Preheat the oven to 425 °.
2. Slice three sweet potatoes into 1 1/2 inch rounds. Boil until tender. (You may only need one and a half or two of them, but since sweet potatoes vary in size, I always boil three.) When the potatoes are soft, lift the skin off of them and place them into a measuring cup, mashing down as you go until you have two dense cups of sweet potato measured.
3. In a large glass mixing bowl, place the beaten eggs and melted butter. Stir.
4. Add the sugars, coconut milk, orange juice and spices. Combine.
5. Spoon the sweet potato into the mixture. Blend on a low speed with an electric blender, gradually increasing to a medium speed until the ingredients are smooth and well combined.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 °. Place the gluten-free pie crust on a baking sheet. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the pie crust, filling it as full as possible. Carefully place the pie on the baking sheet on the top rack of the oven.
7. Bake for 55-75 minutes, or until you can insert the tip of a knife or toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.
Note: Walnuts or pecans make a lovely garnish that have more nutritive value than whipped cream or ice cream. If you are really watching calories, skip the crust all together and spoon the pie into muffin cups. Decrease the baking time to 20 -25 minutes or until obviously cooked.
I feel I must add that while we are offering up some incredibly delicious and healthier dessert recipes for the holidays, all sugar-added foods should be eaten in small portions and infrequently if you are eating for optimal nutrition and long-term health.