Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap crust

Dearest Colorado you still manage to surprise me. Usually in the best possible ways. For example, on Sunday, Blake and I drove up to the mountains and turned on a road we had never been down before. We do this every week. Take to the mountains and hike. We have turned down many roads and been greeted by beautiful things. What still amazes me is how many beautiful places we have yet to see in this state. How many nooks and crannies we have yet to explore.

This road led to a stunning gulch that ended in magnificent James Peak towering 13,000 feet over the valley floor. The temperature was 40 degrees. Warm for that elevation in November. The winds matched the temperature at about 40 miles per hour. Not the most peaceful hiking but we had fun. We saw something new. We got out of the car and were surrounded by nothing but wilderness. Thank you Colorado for these gifts.

Our Sunday adventure 

But of course what Colorado giveth it also taketh away. For example, yesterday morning I ran in shorts in 63 degrees. An hour after my run the temperature dropped 30 degrees and it began to snow. Now I am staring at a few inches of snow of the ground and it continues to fall. Oh Colorado, you are so silly.

I'm learning to embrace snow. Trying my darndest. It's pretty, right? Peaceful. It demands I drink hot chocolate. At the very least I like hot chocolate. It also means Thanksgiving pie season is upon us. This pie is a lot of good things rolled into one. I love the gingersnap crust with the sweet potato. So much more interesting than your average flaky pie dough and so easy. Mix some gingersnap crumbs with butter and you are on your way. The praline topping was a favorite component in our house. A little extra crunch and awesome caramelized flavor. You can double it and spread it all over the top of the pie. I would do this. The more topping the better. Watch out boring Thanksgiving pie! This pie brings some excitement back to dessert.

Sweet potato pie with praline topping and gingersnap
Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling and praline adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 pounds sweet potatoes
3 large eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Gingersnap crust
2 1/2 cups gingersnap crumbs
5 tablespoons melted butter

Praline topping 
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon  bourbon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup rough chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce sweet potatoes with a knife all over. Bake in a shallow baking dish until for tender, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool and puree flesh (no skins) in a blender.

While the sweet potatoes are baking prepare your crust. In a food processor or blender, pulse about 4 cups of gingersnaps until they are a fine powder. Mix crumbs together with butter. In a 9 inch greased pie dish, press the gingersnap mixture with your fingers or the back of a large serving spoon into the dish and up the sides. The spoon works well for the center and your finger work well for the sides. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of the sweet potato puree, eggs, butter, sugar, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, salt, allspice, and nutmeg. Pour into crust and level. Wrap rim of pie dish with 4 strips of aluminum foil. This keeps the exposed crust from burning.

Bake for 30 minutes. While the pie is baking, whisk together all the praline topping ingredients.

After 30 minutes, remove the foil from the pie and spread praline topping around the edges. Bake another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. About an hour.

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