Monday, November 23, 2009
I think it's every food blogger (especially every vegan food blogger)'s duty to contribute something when a food-focused holiday is on the horizon. And while this year, the only physical contribution I'm making to my Thanksgiving table is a green bean casserole, I wanted to share something with a little more... bite, shall we say, here on xvx party. In the last two years, I've adopted two Thanksgiving staples: the stuffed tofu roast from La Dolce Vegan and an all-pumpkin offshoot of Fat-Free Vegan's double-layer cheesecake. (By the way, the soy-seitan turkey she mentions - also amazing.) Unfortunately, I have to give them the pass; there's not much demand for a tofu loaf where I'm spending Thanksgiving, and making a pumpkin cheesecake would totally step on my best friend's toes, whose very identity is rooted in her delicious (albeit non-vegan) pumpkin pie. Still, to me, Thanksgiving without a pie is like Christmas without a tree: it's not like it ruins the holiday or anything, but c'mon, that little absence of motif echoes. So when another friend announced she'd be rolling through town this weekend, I decided this was a resounding excuse for a proto-pie of the non-pumpkin variety appropriate for Thanksgiving. And what better pie to tackle than sweet potato pie.
Sweet potato pie was never a staple in my household, and certainly, it never made any Thanksgiving cameos. Sure, sweet potatoes appeared on my family's table in other ways: mashed, candied, casseroled - but never pied. The only time I recall even eating sweet potato pie is when I'd go over to this friend's house around Christmas time. Because at Christmas time, her grandma would send her family a giiiiiiiant box of single-serving sweet potato pies, and they'd have so many, they'd unload a bunch onto my family. I have very vivid memories of gorging on these things: popping them out of their little foil tins, then sinking my teeth into their waxy tops for a full-mouth experience that can only be classified as rich. I have no recipe that recalls this kind of pie - only a detailed memory of this luscious and flavorful treat that will probably outlive all my holiday memories combined - so you can imagine my hesitance at going vegan with it. Just because I've been hesitant to try doesn't mean I haven't wanted to, though.
Now, truth be told, I probably won't end up taking this to Thanksgiving, but I had more motiving this pie than just tradition. For starters, I wanted to make it soy-free - one, because the friend I was making it for is a little soy sensitive; and two, because sometimes omnis can detect the soy in creamy desserts like pumpkin pie so I needed a soy-free technique. Another thing I've been hankering to try is this new So Delicious coconut kefir that just came out. Hannah Kaminsky used it in a no-bake coconut cheesecake, and I thought, "Hmm, I bet the fat from those coconuts plus the tang of the probiotics would be the perfect foundation for a custard-y dessert." I also wanted to try coconut oil instead of shortening in a pie crust. And thus, my sweet potato pie concept was born.
I can't say this pie tastes like its inspiration. This pie is smooth and rich but in a completely different way than those pies of yore. In the future, I might increase the sweet potato to increase its potato punch and try to harness that authenticity, but for now, I think it's a damn good pie - even if it's not the pie I remember. Serve it with a little coconut whipped cream and some hot cider for a truly autumn treat.
SWEET POTATO PIE
+ 9" pie crust
+ 1 c raw cashews
+ 1/4 c maple syrup *
+ 1/2 c coconut kefir**
+ 15 oz sweet potato puree
+ 1 t vanilla
* I used this much kefir and syrup in the original, which was not very sweet. Some people liked it this way, but some did not. If I were going to make it again, I would probably try 1/4 c kefir and 1/2 c maple syrup. I only used so little syrup because I ran out! ha!
** You could also substitute any "milk," plus maybe a tablespoon or two of cornstarch.
01. Soak the cashews in just enough water to cover them, then let them stand for at least three hours (but preferably overnight). When they're finished, drain the water, and throw the cashews in a blender or food processor with the kefir and syrup. Puree until completely smooth. Add the sweet potato and spices and mix until completely incorporated.
02. Preheat the oven to 350º. Roll out your pie dough, then transfer it to your pie dish and make it all purdy. Pour your pie filling into the pie shell, and give it a good shake to smooth out ripples in the filling. Any marks you leave on the surface when putting the pie into the oven, are marks that will likely still be there when you take it out.
03. Let your pie bake for fifty to sixty minutes until the center is set. When you insert a toothpick, it should come out fairly clean - and if it doesn't, it's not set yet! Then take it out of the oven, and let it cool completely before putting it in the fridge to really firm up. Enjoy with your closest family and friends.
Speaking of food for the holidays...