Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping

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Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Sweet potatoes are the most amazing vegetable that I used to avoid like the plague. I could not stand being served sweet potatoes as a side dish at traditional American Thanksgiving dinners, and I did not enjoy them as fries either.

But: I did give them a second chance (under y own conditions) and I am very glad I did. Sweet potatoes are sweet, very sweet, especially when roasted! This makes them an ideal natural sweetener for desserts and treats, and I’ve been using them as a key ingredient for pancakes, super-sweet sweet potato butter, and even chocolate mousse pie. Sweet potatoes are also a handy substitute for pumpkin as the consistency of roasted then mashed sweet potatoes matches that of canned pumpkin well. The main difference is the sweetness level, as the sweet potatoes tend to be sweeter, while pumpkin tends to be mild. So, if you decide to make something like these brownies, you may want to adjust the amount of additional sweet ingredients you put in.

My main trick when using sweet potatoes as an ingredient in desserts, is to roast the potatoes. Roasting sweet potatoes usually takes about 45 minutes at 425 F (220 C), and can’t be simpler. All you need to do is wash the potatoes, then place them, unpeeled, on a baking sheet and let them roast until soft. You can eat these roasted sweet potatoes as a quick snack, plus breakfast, lunch and dinner. If using to make desserts, let the potatoes cool completely before puréeing, so it is best to do the roasting a day in advance.

Sweet Potato Pie is not my invention. Oh, no – it’s a very traditional dessert of the southern United States. As with its cousin, the pumpkin pie, this dessert is traditionally made with condensed (evaporated) milk and eggs, which results in a custard-like pie. For this vegan version, coconut milk and brown sugar are cooked together to make a thick and sweet “condensed milk” substitute. Plus: the recipe uses corn starch that combines to give the pie smooth, creamy and rich consistency that is very similar to the original, and cinnamon, nutmeg and clover, which give it the easily recognizable aroma.

If you love baking, you may want to make your own pie crust. However, the store-bought crusts work well and many are vegan, so you do have a choice here. I recommend baking the crust half way through before pouring in the pie filling, and pricking it with the fork before placing in the oven to back. You may even want to weigh the crust down with beans because these crusts do tend to puff up, which is to be avoided (here is some handy advice on how to get to the perfect pre-baked crust)!

The final touch for this sweet potato pie are pecans. These nuts are also traditionally found in the southern United States, and if you don’t have them where you live you can definitely use walnuts, or almonds. You can also skip the topping altogether – the pie will not taste any less awesome!!!

Vegan Sweet Potato Pie with Pecan Topping

What you’ll need:

  • 1 store-bought pie crust (or make your own – a good recipe to follow is here)
  • 1 can (13.5 fl oz; 400 mL) full fat coconut milk (you can use coconut cream, but I don’t recommend using light coconut milk)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 roasted sweet potatoes, puréed
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon grund clover
  • 30-40 whole pecans
  • Whip cream for serving (optional)

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (175 C).
  2. In a heavy sauce pan, combine coconut milk, sugar and vanilla extract and place over medium heat. Bring to boil and decrease the heat to low, then simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until thick. Final volume will be about 1/3 to 1/2 less than what you started with. Set aside and let the “condensed milk” cool.
  3. While the “condensed milk” is cooling, pre-bake the crust to about half way through, which will take about 10-15 minutes (if you are making your own crust, you will need to have one ready to go so plan accordingly). Take the pre-baked crust out and let it cool.
  4. As the crust is cooling, use a food processor to combine the “condensed milk”, sweet potato purée, corn starch, and the spices. The pie filling should be smooth, thick and rich.
  5. Pour the filling into the pre-baked pie crust, and return everything into the oven for another 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, take the pie out, and working quickly top with pecan (or walnut, or almond) halves, arranging them in neat circles or spiral until the entire surface is covered. Return to the oven and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, to allow the pie to finish baking and pecans to get slightly toasted. If you are keeping this pie nut free, skip the nuts, and bake for a total baking time of about 25 to 30 minutes.
  6. Leave the pie to cool completely before serving. Traditionally, this pie is served with whip cream, but you can serve it just as is, with whip cream or ice cream. Yummy!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

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Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A bite of baklava is a shock to the system, but once you have recovered from that first bite you won’t be able to stop eating, usually until your teeth start feeling like they may just fall out from all the sugar. Baklava is a dessert from Middle East that has made its way to Greece and beyond. It is made with thin sheets of dough, the phyllo dough, and it is usually layered, although some recipes do ask that you roll up the sheets into a strudel.

The most commonly used filling for baklava are ground walnuts. And the signature feature of baklava is the super sweet syrup that is poured over the hot baklava immediately after it comes out the oven. The baklava is then allowed to soak up all the syrup, which usually takes a day or so. At the end of that process you end up with a super sweet and very rich piece of dessert on your plate that is very often an acquired taste.

I personally have a bit of love/hate relationship with baklava. It’s been on my mother’s holiday dessert list for as long as I can remember, and I was not a huge fan until she started using apples to break up the heaviness of walnuts and the syrup, and lighten things up.

In this recipe I wanted to combine that insight into what makes a perfect baklava with what makes a great pecan pie, the apple in the eye of every Southern cook, the amazing creaminess combined with the crunch of pecans.

Neither baklava nor pecan pie is actually good for you. They are both full of high amounts of sugar and fat, so my challenge for this Pecan Apple Baklava was to flip the dessert into something much healthier without sacrificing any flavor. I used lots of apples, some pecans, and to sweeten things up a good amount of maple syrup. But, instead of drowning your baklava in pure maple syrup I recommend combining maple syrup with some orange juice, cooking it down a bit, and pouring it over your baked baklava while both the syrup and the baklava are still hot.

There’s not much in putting baklava together. Traditionally, you would use melted butter on each sheet of phyllo dough but you can achieve the same thing with spreading just a bit of water or water mixed with a drop of lemon juice, or a a bit of oil. It’s up to you to decide how much oil you want to use. Here, I use only some cooking spray on my dish, to make sure the baklava slices come out smoothly at the end. For the rest I use plain water. So you will layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush very lightly with water, layer another one, put your ground pecans on, layer a sheet of phyllo dough, brush lightly with water, lay another sheet, pour pecans, another layer of phyllo dough, then apples, and so on and so forth until you run out of things to layer. One trick for getting the perfect baklava is to slice before you bake. And don’t forget that a bit of oil mist will help brown the top!

Final touch? Make baklava one day ahead. It will be rich, delicious and ready to serve, and you can feel good about serving your friends and family a dessert that is actually full of good for them stuff!!!

Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup

What you’ll need:

8 oz (225 g) pecans, ground into a rough meal

4 apples, grated and drained of excess liquid

1 lbs (450 g) phyllo dough

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 cup orange juice

Cooking spray or oil

Fresh orange slices, for decoration and presentation

What you’ll do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
  2. Using a food processor grind the pecans into a rough meal. You want the pecans to be almost a meal but having few bigger pieces would add some interesting texture, so keep that in mind. Place pecans into a bowl, mix in cinnamon, allspice and ground nutmeg, and set aside.
  3. Using the same food processor with a grater blade, grate the apples. You don’t need to peel them unless you really want to. But you to have to squeeze the excess moisture out using your hands, and set aside. (Keep the squeezed out juice – it’s delicious as a freshly pressed cider which you can enjoy as you are making you baklava!)
  4. Spray the bottom of 9 x 13 in (22 x 33 cm) baking pan with cooking spray and start layering the baklava. Place one sheet of phyllo dough at the bottom, and brush couple of water drops across. Layer the next sheet, sprinkle pecans, layer another two sheets one at a time spreading a drop or two of water in between, sprinkle pecans, then repeat with two more phyllo sheets, spread a batch of apples, 1/2 cup or so, then continue layering following the same pattern until you use up all the ingredients.
  5. Cut the baklava into pieces, spray the top with a bit of oil, and put in the oven for about 20 minutes. You want the baklava to be nicely golden brown.
  6. While the baklava is baking, prepare the syrup by combining maple syrup and orange juice into a saucepan and reducing the volume down to about 1 1/2 cup or so.
  7. Once the syrup and baklava are ready and still hot, pour the syrup over the pastry one 1/2 cup at the time, starting with pouring along the cut sites so that the syrup can penetrate to the bottom of the baklava, and then what ever you have leftover you can pour right over the top. Place the cut orange pieces over the top, cover with foil and let the baklava sit for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
  8. Serve with a cup of strong coffee – and get ready to dance the night away!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017