Drunken Pecan Sweet Potato Pie

pieA pecan walks into a bar, orders a shot of Jim Beam and jumps into the glass. The bartender looks at it, shakes his head and says “You’re nuts.”

This has got to be the best sweet potato pie I have ever tasted. It combines a pecan pie topping made from bourbon soaked pecans atop a creamy, spicy, sweet potato filling. I infuse the cooked yams with cinnamon sticks just after baking to give it an earthy cinnamon flavor. It’s lower in fat than most sweet potato pies and not overly sweet.

This recipe works best when the cook is singing along with Ray Charles and James Taylor’s  “Sweet Potato Pie” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzZle2RDzTc




3 medium orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, such as Garnet (also called yams)
6 thin cinnamon sticks
3 large eggs
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
2 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne

3/4 cup raw pecans halves
3 Tb Jim Beam bourbon

ROAST PECAN MIX: 1 TB brown sugar, a few shakes salt, a few shakes cinnamon

2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 Tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt (if using salted butter, put in just a pinch)
¼ teaspoon cinnamon                                                                                                                    1 Tb heavy cream

Pour bourbon over pecans and let soak for 2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pecans and put them in a medium bowl. Stir in brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Preheat oven to 325′ and spread pecans on a sheet of parchment on a jelly roll pan. roasted drunked pecansRoast for 12 minutes, and let cool. You can do this step a few days ahead of time, and store pecans in a container in the fridge.

Make a single pie crust in a standard 9-inch pie pan or a tart pan and freeze it. Blind bake it just before filling.

Roast pierced sweet potatoes on a  foil-lined cookie sheet at 375° for about 1 ½ hours until very tender when pierced. Half-way through cooking time (45 minutes), turn the yams over.

cinnamon stick in yamI

Immediately after you pull them from the oven, pierce each end of the potatoes and insert a cinnamon stick lengthwise all the way through each end. Cover yams with foil and let cool. You can do this part a day before. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut off the outer stringy layer and then remove cinnamon sticks. Purée the inner flesh in a food processor until smooth. Measure 2 cups.

Set oven to 350°. Beat eggs in a mixer until frothy. Pour pecan-infused bourbon from pecan soak into the eggs. Beat in remaining filling ingredients until well blended. The filling will be thick. Pour into a hot pre-baked 9″ pie crust and spread level. Use a pie crust protector or wrap pie rim with 4 strips of foil  to prevent it from burning, and bake pie for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a small saucepan. Stir in maple syrup, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and heat to boiling. Let boil for just a minute, then turn off heat. Add cream and stir until smooth. Stir in pecans, coating them well with the caramel syrup..

pecans-coated-with-toppingStir in pecans,
Take the pie out of the oven and remove foil from pie crust. Make 2 concentric circles of pecans around the pie. Spoon extra caramel topping over the pecans.

ready for the oven

Continue to bake until center jiggles only slightly when shaken gently, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on a rack at least 2 hours, or overnight.
Enjoy topped with maple-syrup sweetened whipped cream.

Fresh Pumpkin – Kabocha Pie with Coconut milk, Maple Syrup and Garam Masala

pie with fluted edgeI added kabocha squash to fresh pumpkin and sweetened this pie with maple syrup. I swapped full-fat coconut milk for evaporated milk. A bit of the Punjabi spice blend garam masala adds an exotic highlight to this Thanksgiving favorite.
I make the pie on Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day. I like to roast and puree the pumpkin and Kabocha squash on Tuesday night so it will be all ready on Wednesday.

Prepare a pie crust ahead of time and freeze it
DSC03214I use a Sugar Pie pumpkin. Just the name gets me singing Sugar Pie Honey! These are available at farmer’s markets and produce markets such as Berkeley Bowl or Monterey Market in Berkeley. They are slightly smaller than a basketball. They have more flesh and are less fibrous than a Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkin. You will need about 1 3/4  pounds per pie.


I add kabocha squash, which is sweeter  than the pumpkin. Its texture and flavor resemble chestnuts.

You can do this part ahead of time. Pierce pumpkin and kabocha several times and place on oiled roasting pan. Roast at 450◦ for 45 minutes until soft. Place it on a large plate and cut off the stem. Use a knife to coax the peel off; it should easily come off.

Let the pumpkin and kabocha cool enough to handle. Discard the seeds and stringy pulp.

???????????????????????????????Put the flesh of the pumpkin in the food processor. Process until smooth.

??????????????????????????????? If the puree is too watery for pie, pour it into a fine sieve over a bowl. Place a bowl on top of the puree and several heavy cans on top of the bowl. Let it drain for an hour. Reserve the liquid  to add to squash soup such as Kabocha Squash Coconut Soup or butternut squash soup. You can put extra pumpkin puree in those soups or save it for Fresh Pumpkin Spice Muffins. You can put extra Kabocha in Kabocha Squash Coconut Soup .

Mix the pumpkin and kabocha squash purees together in a large bowl. Measure 2 cups of drained puree.

Blind bake foil or parchment covered pie crust with pie weights or beans for 15 minutes at 425◦ While crust is baking, prepare filling

Ingredients: Have all ingredients at room temperature. (You can warm the eggs in a bowl of warm water.)

2 cups puree
2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 ½ cups coconut milk
1½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp salt

Put pumpkin-kabocha puree in large bowl under a mixer.
Add rest of ingredients and beat well.

brush egg on bottom of crustRemove crust from oven, remove pie weights and foil or parchment, and brush the bottom and lower part of the sides of the crust with a beaten egg. This will prevent the crust from getting too soggy. Place the crust back in the oven for 5  minutes until sides are light brown.

Remove crust from the oven and lower oven temperature to 375◦

As soon as oven is ready, pour pumpkin pie filling into the crust. Place a circular crust protector over it so it won’t burn. Bake  for 40 minutes until the center just quivers when you wiggle the pan.

Cool thoroughly on a rack and then refrigerate until Thanksgiving dinner is over and everyone is ready for dessert..

???????????????????????????????Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream sweetened with pure maple syrup.

Peachy Pie

sliceLate summertime brings fresh peaches, the sweet juice dripping down my chin. And of course peach pie. Make your own pie crust, topping with either a full crust or a fancy lattice. You can also top with a crumb crust.
Compared to commercial pies and most recipes, I use very little sugar, letting the natural sweetness of the peaches bring out their flavor. I also don’t peel the peaches, since the peel brings a pretty red color to the pie.

cut pie

Preheat oven to 425’ Move oven rack to lowest level.

Use 6 soft medium or 5 large peaches =2 ½ lb peaches= 5 cups sliced peaches. Slice peaches ¼ inch thick on skin side and place in a large bowl.

Sprinkle over peaches:

¼ cup brown sugar

2 Tb white sugar

3 ½ Tb quick cooking tapioca

2 Tb lemon juice

¼ teaspoon almond extract

a couple of shakes of  nutmeg

a few shakes salt.

Stir gently with a large spoon. Let peaches stand 15 minutes, and stir occasionally.

???????????????????????????????Pour into bottom crust and top with 2 Tb butter cut into small pieces.

Cover with upper crust or lattice and crimp together tightly. Cut steam vents in top if using solid upper crust. Brush with a bit of milk and sprinkle about a spoonful of raw sugar evenly on top.

Immediately place on lowest rack of preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes.

Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with foil. This will make clean up much easier. Slip it under the pie and lower oven to 350’.  Bake 30 -35 minutes more until thick juices bubble up through the vents and the top crust is browned. If outer crust begins to burn, cover it with a foil pie protector. If the top gets too brown before its time, tent with a sheet of foil.

If you can stand to wait until the pie cools, the juices will solidify and it will be easier to serve, but that never seems to happen in my house.


Pie Crust

fluted pie crust

“That’s a pie crust promise: Easily made, easily broken.” Mary Poppins

???????????????????????????????Pie crust is actually easily made, I discovered after years of avoiding making them and making my pies from frozen Marie Callender crusts. The key is having the butter and water as cold as possible and mixing the dough as little as possible. I even freeze the flour for 15 minutes before mixing.  It’s easier to mix the dough in a food processor, but you can also make this using a pastry cutter. Coat the pieces of butter with flour before pulsing them in. Make a butter and flour paste before adding extra flour and thenadd the liquid. Add an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice to tenderize the crust. Let the dough rest after mixing and after rolling to relax the gluten and reduce shrinkage. Use the fraisage technique to layer your crust. I obsessively researched many pie dough recipes. from advice my sister, pie queen Leanna Wolfe gave me, to Joy of Cooking, Julia Child, Susan Purdy’s The Perfect Pie, New York Times http://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/how-to-make-a-pie-crust, and Serious Eats http://sweets.seriouseats.com/recipes/2011/07/easy-pie-dough-recipe.html

Here we go: This makes enough crust for one 9″ pie bottom or an 11″ tart pan. Double it for a covered pie such as a fruit pie. I wrote the doubled ingredients in bold and in parentheses for your convenience.

1 1/2 (3) cups all purpose  flour, divided

1/2 (1) tsp salt (I use sea salt)

1 Tb (2) sugar (for sweet pies)

1 cube (8 Tb) (2 cubes) cold butter

1 Tb (2 Tb) frozen shortening (Crisco)

1 large egg yolk

1 -2 Tb (2-4 Tb) ice water.  I fill up a small cup with cold water and ice cubes and let it sit a few minutes, then measure it out. I used cold cinnamon tea for my apple pie.

2 tsp (4 tsp) white vinegar or lemon juice (you can use orange juice for sweet pies) This helps tenderize the crust.

1 egg white to brush inside crust

Nonstick spray to spray the pie pan

slice fat and mix with flourAdd about 2/3 of the flour (1 cup for single crust, or 2 cups for double crust) salt, and sugar if using, to food processor and pulse a few times to mix.

Slice butter into small pieces. Stir gently into the flour with a fork, so they separate and are coated with flour.

pasty doughPulse until butter and flour become a paste.

Break up the dough with a knife and then add the rest of the flour and pulse just a few times so that the flour-coated butter pieces range from from pea-sized to crumbles.

crumbly dough

Empty processor into a medium-large mixing bowl.

Mix vinegar, or lemon juice or orange juice with 1 Tb (2 Tb for double crust) ice water and egg yolk.  Add this to the flour and fat mixture and gently fold and press it into the dough with a fork. Drizzle in more ice water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until it’s moist.

pie dough readyTake a small piece of dough and see if you can press it into a ball. If so, you are done. It should not be sticky. If it’s too crumbly add another teaspoon of water, fold a few times and try again. Don’t over-mix or your dough will become tough!

???????????????????????????????Place a large piece of plastic wrap on a plate. Press entire dough into a ball, and then flatten it into a disk on top of the plastic wrap. Wrap the dough up in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

If making upper and bottom crusts, divide the ball of dough into two disks. Make the bottom crust disk slightly larger than the upper crust disk.

After dough has chilled for 10 minutes, pull out dough for bottom crust. You will now layer the dough with the fraisage technique. Pull an egg-sized piece off the disk and press down on a lightly floured surfaces with the palm of your hand, sliding forward about 4 inches. Set it aside and repeat with the rest of the dough, layering the each piece of flattened dough on top of it.

Form it back into a ball, then flatten with with your palm into a disk. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

rolling doughCut a piece of plastic wrap to cover a wooden board or pie mat. Place the disk for the bottom crust down on the plastic and cover with the piece of plastic it was wrapped in. Roll the disk out on the board, pushing the rolling pin from the middle out, rotating the dough often so it’s even. Roll two inches larger than the diameter of the pie pan; for a standard 9″ pan, roll to 11 inches diameter.

cutting pie crust to fit panPlace the pan upside down on the dough to measure.  Cut extra and patch torn or skimpy dough with a drop or two of water if the dough is uneven.

Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with nonstick spray.

untrimmed crustRemove the top plastic, and gently lift the dough using the plastic underneath it, fold slightly and flip it into the pie pan. Move it to center it if necessary. Trim the edges to 1 inch overhang.

fold edge underThen fold the overhang of the crust over itself so it sits atop the rim.

fluting crust A fluted pie crust is a pretty way to hold in the fillings. Here are right-handed directions. (Lefties can reverse them):
Pinch your thumb and index finger of your right hand on the outside of the crust onto onto the index finger of your left hand on the inside of the pie pan, working your way evenly around the pan.

Prick the dough with a fork. Cover dough with plastic wrap. Freeze pie dough in the pan for 30 minutes. This will help the pie crust keep it’s shape while baking. You can make your pie crust a day ahead and refrigerate or freeze it.

Preheat the oven to 425◦. Make the filling  while the dough is chilling.

pie weights on tucked parchmentCover the entire crust with a large piece of parchment paper or foil. Be sure that it covers the edges to prevent them from burning. Tuck parchment under the pie pan so it won’t scorch in the oven. Fill the parchment or foil with ceramic pie weights. (You can substitute dry beans if you don’t have them.) Bake for 15 minutes.

While it’s baking,  roll out the top crust (if you’re using one), then refrigerate it until the bottom crust is baked and filled.

Remove bottom crust from oven and pull out the parchment paper or foil with the pie weights. Brush the bottom and lower sides with a beaten egg  to prevent the filling from getting the crust too soggy. Cover the crust edge with a pie shield or foil so it won’t burn. Place the crust back in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes until it’s light brown.

Pour filling into hot bottom crust.

???????????????????????????????For a solid upper crust, flip the top crust over the fruit. Fold the bottom over it at the edges and crimp tightly with your fingers.

??????????????????????????????? Use a back of a spoon or the tines of a fork dipped in the egg to make a design on the edges. Or flute them as shown above.

???????????????????????????????You can use a crimping tool if you have one. I got mine from my mom, who had it since I was a child.

???????????????????????????????.Cut vent holes on the top with the edge of a spoon.

???????????????????????????????To make a lattice crust, roll the dough into a circle the diameter of the inverted pie pan. Cut the dough into about eleven 3/4” wide strips. You can use a pizza wheel or knife, or for fancy lattice results, use a fluted pastry wheel.

???????????????????????????????Gently remove every other strip to a plastic-lined large plate.

fold back every other strip and place long stripGently fold back the two end strips and the middle strip that are left on the board. Now place the longest strip from the plate at a right angle in the middle of the board.

Fold the strips back over the long piece.

fold back other stips and place second  stripNow fold back the two middle strips and add the next longest perpendicular strip.

???????????????????????????????Then fold those strips over it. Repeat the process until you form a full lattice-top.

???????????????????????????????Gently transfer the completed lattice to a large plate using the plastic underneath it.  Refrigerate while you mix up the filling.

Fill the bottom crust with the filling. Remove the lattice from the refrigerator. Using the sides of the plastic wrap, carefully flip the lattice so that it is centered over the filled pie, then gently peel off the plastic wrap.

Fold the rim of the bottom crust over the lattice strips and crimp decoratively.

Brush top crust (not edges though) with milk to promote browning.

pie crust shieldCover the edges of the pie with a pie crust shield or strips of foil, so they won’t burn. Peek at the edges 10 minutes before the pie is done. If they are not browned, remove the shield.