If a movie comes out of a book you have been meaning to read, do you still read the book first or do you go to see the movie? I usually still read the book first, partly as I am rubbish at ever getting round to going to the cinema, but mainly (if I do it consciously) because I prefer to shape the characters etc in my mind first before seeing someone else’s version. That’s kind of how I was with these mini sweet potato pecan pies. I saw sweet potato pecan pie in a local cafe around a month ago and thought it sounded great. But having decided to try making it myself, I held off trying it at the cafe. It might seem odd, since often bloggers’ cooking can be about recreating things we have tried, but maybe think of them more like your regular movies rather than ones based on a book. Sweet potato pie is kind of my book I keep meaning to read.
My discovery of sweet potato pecan pie
You see I have made pumpkin pie for a few years now as part of our Thanksgiving meal and we all love it, but last year I came across sweet potato pie and was intrigued to give it a go. Of course it has taken me forever to actually try it but on the plus side, it has meant that in the meantime I discovered sweet potato pecan pie, as I said. I am almost glad I waited as this may be one of the best pies around. Especially since I have managed to make a pretty healthy version which still tastes great. I might even go as far to say, if you want to be a little healthier, and if there is one pie recipe to try this year, this is it.
A pie with Southern roots
For people in the Southern US, I am sure the idea of discovering sweet potato pecan pie must seem odd, but for this Scot it was definitely something new. I have had pecan pie and liked it but found it incredibly sweet, so the idea of combining what I liked about it with something similar to our favorite pumpkin pie was definitely appealing. All the more so when I overheard a conversation at that same nearby cafe (that specializes in pies, by the way, and has Southern roots) where the person working there went something like, “I always liked pumpkin pie until I tried sweet potato pie. Pumpkin pie is all about the spice while sweet potato is all about the sweet potato itself. With pecans on the top, though, is my absolute favorite”. How could I resist giving it a go, after hearing that?
Making a healthier version
I was keen, as I generally do, to make it a bit healthier so have used wholewheat flour, maple syrup rather than refined sugar or corn syrup (and less if it), plus mainly some good oils rather than butter. Sweet potato has a great flavor and is fairly sweet already, particularly when baked, so doesn’t need all that much added – as the person in the cafe said, the pie’s all about the sweet potato.
I felt like making mini versions so you get your own little portion. We are crust fans which you get a bit more of this way. That’s particularly good when there’s pecans in the crust as I have here. The result is deliciously tasty pie perfection. Or at least pretty close. The filling rises up as it is baked, then gently settles as it cools, letting you know it’s time to take it out and finally take a bite.
And how does it compare to the one at the cafe?
Well it seemed only fair to try it after and while my version certainly isn’t as sweet and is heavier on the sweet potato rather than about half and half that and pecans (also contributing to being less sweet), it’s certainly right up there in tastiness. The topping is more crisp than chewy-sweet but is lovely and nutty. And personally I’m happier with it being much better for you, not being sickly sweet but still tasting great. My taste testers enthusiastically agreed, and I hope you will too.
- Crust -
- ½ cup/ 50g pecan nuts (halves or pieces)
- 1 cup/ 120g wholewheat/wholemeal flour
- 2tbsp/20g butter, roughly chopped
- 1 egg white
- 2tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- Filling -
- 1½ cups/370g cooked sweet potato, without skin (suggest baked but can boil whole in skin - approx 1 large potato)
- 2tbsp coconut oil, softened or melted and cooled
- 1 egg
- 2tbsp milk
- 2tbsp maple syrup
- ¼tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼tsp ground ginger
- ¼tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼tsp ground allspice
- Topping -
- ½cup/ 50g pecan nuts, broken into small pieces if larger
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¼cup/4tbsp maple syrup
- Make the crust first by whizzing the pecans in the food processor until fairly fine. Then add the rest of the crust ingredients (flour, butter, egg white, olive oil and salt) and pulse until combined.
- Remove the dough from the food processor. Press it together and wrap in plastic wrap and chill for around 20min or so.
- Meanwhile, make the filling by blending all the filling ingredients (sweet potato, coconut oil, egg, milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice) together until well mixed.
- Gently toast the pecans for the topping in a dry pan for around 5min until you can start to smell them but they are not browning.
- Lightly oil 10 cups of a muffin tray and preheat the oven to 350F/180C.
- Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until around as thin as it will go. If possible, cut circles to then put in the muffin tray. Alternatively (as I did, since it's fairly crumbly) take pieces of the dough and press in to the tray to cover all the way round the base and sides, making sure there are no gaps.
- Spoon the filling evenly between the crust-lined muffin cups and flatten the surface.
- Add the beaten egg and maple syrup to the toasted pecans for the topping and spoon evenly between the mini pies.
- Bake in the oven for approx 20min until the pies rise up in the middle and appear set.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for around 5min or so before taking out to cool further or enjoy warm.