Ever have one of those moments that you wish you could take back? One of those moments that become part of your family fabric, one of the stories that gets told at family gatherings and leaves people rolling on the floor in laughter? The retelling of my regrettable moment starts with…”Remember when Lynette made that Sweet Potato pie for Thanksgiving??!!”
Let’s go back. This was circa 1984 – 85ish. I’m living in my first solo apartment. No roommates. Just me. And for some reason, I have the brilliant idea of hosting Thanksgiving Dinner. Why? I don’t know. I have never cooked Thanksgiving Dinner before this brilliant idea, but hey…what could possibly go wrong?
Apparently, I can’t stop at just one brilliant idea, no, I gotta have two. My family is going to make the 2 1/2 hour drive to my apartment and so I want to do something special. Especially for my Daddy. One of his favorite desserts was Sweet Potato pie, so, seriously…how hard can that be?
1984 is before we had internet and it was definitely before I had a food processor. Those are two known facts for which I am going to blame this disaster on. These were the days when recipes were cut out of the Food section in the Sunday paper or passed down from family members. I have no idea where I got the recipe back then but it called for sweet potatoes and about 20 other ingredients! Apparently, we all had time on our hands back then!
Walking around in the produce section I come upon sweet potatoes, sitting right next to garnet yams. The sweet potatoes were white-ish and the garnet yams were orange. Ok. So this is where the hint of panic starts to set in. My heart said get the yams, but my head says “I’m not making a yam pie. I’m making a sweet potato pie”, so of course I get the sweet potatoes.
Yam vs. Sweet Potato
There is a difference. But remember: no internet. How was I supposed to know? If you really want to know the difference, here’s a good explanation. Had I known, I would have opted for the garnet yams! But, let’s continue with my humiliation.
The Right Tools
So, Thanksgiving morning rolls around and I’m up at the crack of dawn to start cooking. Wait, did you just roll your eyes? You should have! Back then I didn’t know about meal planning and timing. Didn’t cross my mind to start the day before prepping everything and getting the baking done. I did however know enough to get the pie in the oven first because that 25 lb turkey was going to take a minute. Or 300+ minutes to be more precise. I can’t remember if the pie recipe called for a food processor or not. I just know I didn’t have one. I honestly think it said to “mash up” the sweet potatoes after you boiled them. Which I did. But remember…I got the “real” sweet potatoes. Which are firmer and more fibrous than the garnet yams. And they don’t soften as nicely when cooked. What I ended up with was a very stringy pie filling. I couldn’t “mash up” any harder than I was mashing up to get rid of the stringiness. So I stirred and mashed and stirred and mashed and then poured it into my store bought pie crust and popped it into the oven. Today I wonder if that stringiness would have gone away if I pureed the filling in a Vitamix or a food processor. Perhaps.
That wouldn’t have been all that bad, (Ha!), but it got worse. After this bad boy cooked for almost an hour, I take it out and I’ll be damned if that pie didn’t somehow, for some reason, turn a light shade of green. Yeah. GREEN! WTH??? Aren’t sweet potato pies supposed to be some variation of the color orange? Well…Google it if you’re so inclined. There is a perfectly good explanation for why.
The cooking of the rest of Thanksgiving Dinner was great. I can do turkey and I make a seriously mean cornbread dressing! My family arrives and we enjoy dinner and great memories are being made. Only to be overshadowed and forgotten due the memories that were made after I bring out that sweet potato pie! The silence is deafening once everyone lays eyes on the pie. Thus producing the second WTH moment of the day. I can laugh at it now, but if I remember correctly, the collective gasp from my family sucked all the air out of the room while I vainly tried to explain it really was a sweet potato pie.
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Once the first person started laughing (Mona? Audrey?), it was all over with. We have never laughed as hard as we did at that pie. I am talking slap your thighs, snorting, tears falling out of your eyes, best ab work out ever, can’t catch your breath, laughing. And now this poor sweet potato pie is like a train wreck you can’t look away from. OF COURSE we had to try it! To this day, I can’t remember what this off shade of green, stringy as all get out sweet potato pie tasted like.
Man, I’m glad we didn’t have cell phone cameras back then. I can totally deny this whole story because no one has tangible proof!!!
I have never attempted another sweet potato pie. Until now. I have come up my own Paleo Sweet Potato Pie recipe and have tweaked and tested my recipe four times using my friends and my physical therapist as guinea pigs and not one of them has doubled over with laughter, so I can safely say…this pie is awesome!!
I just wish my Daddy were alive to have some.
The Sweet Potato Pie Pecan Crust
Anyone who bakes paleo knows there’s just no duplicating a flaky gluten filled pie crust. With the soft texture of sweet potato filling (pumpkin filling too), I like using a pecan crust better than a paleo crust made from almond flour because the crunch of the nuts give texture to this sweet potato pie. This crust recipe I adapted (slightly tweaked to my tastes) from Vanessa Barajas.
Toss all the crust ingredients into a food processor. Yes, I do now have this wonderful food processor that is powerful!
Pulse 8 to 10 times stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. You want your final mixture to resemble grains of sand.
Dump the pecan crust mixture into your removable bottom tart pan. This recipe will work in a 9″ or 10″ tart pan. These pictures are using a 9″ pan, but I have also made it in a 10″ pan.
Then, using your hands, press the pecan crust into the bottom and up the sides of the tart pan. You can spray the bottom of a flat bottomed, straight side wall, dry measuring cup with a non-stick spray and use that to get a uniform thickness on the bottom and to press the pecan crust up the sides. The straight wall helps getting that nice 90 degree angle between the bottom and and sides.
To get a nice edge, press the pecan crust a tiny bit past the top of the sides and then use the bottom of the measuring cup to “slice” the excess off. This will get your edges looking like this:
Set the pecan crust aside on a rimmed sheet pan and prepare the filling.
The Sweet Potato Pie Filling
Now, I’ve tested this recipe using both canned organic sweet potato puree and fresh garnet yams. Both turned out delicious but I love the ease of using the canned puree. If you wish to use fresh, then you can either boil, steam or roast the yams and then put all the filling ingredients into a food processor and puree. You may have to adjust the coconut milk, adding more, as the fresh yams will be thicker than the canned.
If you are using the canned puree, the empty the puree and the rest of the filling ingredients into a large bowl. I like using my 8 cup measuring cup because it has a pour spout. Whisk all the ingredients until everything is incorporated and smooth.
Pour the filling into the pecan crust and carefully shake it to distribute it evenly. You can fill just about to the top the pecan crust. It will puff up, but will settle after removal from the oven.
Place the sheet pan on the middle rack in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake for 55 – 60 minutes. The center of the pie should be firm (it shouldn’t jiggle). I insert a toothpick and it should come out almost clean. I wouldn’t check it with a knife…whatever you use to check it, the hole that it leaves will become slightly bigger as the pie cools. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely.
To remove the pie, work a butter knife into the underside and gently twist to separate the bottom from the sides. Your sweet potato pie should release beautifully. Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?? Just looking at this next picture makes me do my happy dance! I honestly can’t wait to make this pie again!
Serve at room temperature or you can place it into the fridge and serve chilled.
The filling should be smooth and creamy. The pecan crust on the sides remain crunchy and give a nice contrast in texture to the filling. I don’t think you’ll miss the traditional pie crust at all. When you taste it, you’ll notice a wonderful bright citrus that complements the sweetness of the sweet potatoes.
In case you want to Pin and save it for later (and pinning is greatly appreciated!):
Paleo twist on the traditional pie crust gives a nice crunchy contrast to the smooth and creamy filling which is nicely brightened with a hint of citrus.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place all ingredients - pecans, coconut flour, maple syrup, melted coconut oil and fine sea salt into a food processor.
Pulse 8 - 10 times or until mixture resembles grains of sand. If necessary, using a spatula, scrape down the sides halfway through
Press mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Set aside on a rimmed sheet pan.
Place all ingredients - sweet potato puree, coconut sugar, coconut milk, coconut flour, coconut oil, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and fine sea salt into a food processor.
Using a whisk, stir until all ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth.
Pour filling into the crust and jiggle the pan a little to evenly distribute the filling. You can fill the crust almost to the top... it will puff up a bit, but will settle back down when cooling.
Place rimmed sheet pan on to the middle rack in preheated oven. Bake for approximately 55 - 60 minutes. The center should be set (not jiggly). Insert a toothpick in the center and it should come out almost clean...not wet.
Remove pie and let it cool completely. Once cooled, to remove it from the tart pan, from underneath the pan, carefully slide a butter knife between the bottom and the lip of the side. Slightly twist it to loosen the bottom. You may have to do that in 2 or 3 spots. The side should detach smoothly leaving the pie on the bottom piece of the tart pan.
Serve at room temperature, or if you wish, you can chill the pie in the fridge and serve chilled.