I have come to the conclusion that if I were a professional writer, I would be obese. Not so much because of being cooped up in proximity of a pantry but because I would spend an inordinate amount of time cooking. Think about it – when you sit down to write, your brain comes up with a million other chores you should be attending to, ranging from the expanding laundry basket to plucking your eyebrows. Cooking would satisy the part of the brain that calls you away from the quill but also leaving you chunks of time in between to focus on your writing while something edible works its mysterious powers in the oven or on the stove.
That is how my sweet potato pie came about. Two forlorn sweet potatoes were hiding in the fridge – they had originally been purchased for Ottie who used to like them roasted but has now decided against having orange food in his bowl. Being the queen of leftovers and hating waste, I knew they had to be put to good use. So off in a pot they went, peeled and cut in chunks. While they were cooking, I used the time ahem, not to write, but for a long intercontinental phone call. The alternative to boiling them (which only takes 20 minutes) is roasting them in the oven, whole, until very soft when pricked with a fork. Cool them, halve and remove the pulp from the skin. Then proceed as follows.
I did put some writing in while the bright orange chunks cooled. I then pureed them using a hand blender (alternatively a regular blender or food processor will do). Next came the graham crust – quicker then pie crust – which browned in the oven. It wasn’t until several hours later that I went back to make the filling and finish the damn pie. Which I ate with a cup of tea. While writing.
2 C Sweet potato pie puree (approx 2 potatoes)
9 Cinnamon Graham Crackers*
1/2 C + 1 T Sugar
1 1/4 ts Ginger (ground)
1 ts Cinnamon
4 oz Butter (125 grams) – melted
1/2 C Heavy Cream *
1/2 C Whole Milk
A pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of ground cloves and a pinch of salt
1. After cooking the potatoes as instructed above, let cool and puree.
2. To make the crust, pulse graham crackers in a food processor until finely ground (if you do not have a processor, put crackers in a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to crash the cookies). Place crumbs in a bowl, add a tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 a teaspoon of ginger and the melted butter. Using your hands, combine all ingredients until the butter is fully incorporated, then press the mixture on the bottom and sides of a 9″ pie plate. Bake at 355F for about 8 minutes or until lightly brown.
3. To make the filling, place the eggs in the bowl of a mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment). Add the sugar, remaining ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Mix until combined. Add the milk, cream, sweet potatoes and a pinch salt. Mix until smooth. In the absence of a mixer, this can easily be done by hand.
4. Pour the filling in the pie crust and bake at 355F until the filling is set – the center will still jiggle slightly as a uniform mass – about 1 hour. Let cool and serve at room temperature with whipped cream if desired.
* Subsitutions for my Italian friends: instead of Graham crackers use any dry cookies, such as Oswego and add a pinch of cinnamon. Heavy cream is the equivalent of panna da montare.