Sweet Potato-Ginger Pie

Joined May 26, 2001
This pie was inspired by a Thanksgiving dinner at which I could use no dairy products. I used rich canned coconut milk instead of butter or cream in the mashed sweet potatoes. I happened to have some lemon-flavored preserved ginger and sweetened dried lemons from an Asian candy store, so I minced them and mixed them in to zip things up. To make the mixture into a pie, I just added eggs and baked the filling, then put the cooked filling into an Asian-inspired crumb crust.
Panko is pretty easily available; just be sure to get real Japanese bread crumbs. They have more crunch and are drier and coarser than American crumbs. The ginger and lemons are from Aji Ichiban, but if you can’t get them, used regular crystallized ginger and add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and some lemon zest. If you can’t find roasted almond butter (try a natural foods store), cashew butter would work well instead. And finally, light or dark brown sugar, or a blend of the two, can substitute for the turbinado.
I made this for Martha Stewart's 1st Annual Pie Competition (show airs 11/16/09). Didn't win, but I like this! :lol:

Serves 10

Unsalted butter for the pans
3 large sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 1/4 cups turbinado sugar
1/3 cup roasted almond butter
2 tablespoons water
2 ounces lemon-flavored preserved ginger or crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
2 ounces sweetened dried lemons, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest (optional)
3 large eggs
3/4 cup coconut milk
Granulated sugar (optional)
Unsweetened flaked coconut (optional)
Whole blanched almonds (optional)
Candied lemon slices, cut in half, or candied lemon or peel, coarsely chopped (optional)

1. Generously coat the inside of two 10-inch ovenproof glass or tempered ceramic-glass pie plates with butter. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. (A toaster oven works fine.) Scrub the sweet potatoes, place on a baking sheet, and pierce each a few times with a fork. Bake until knife slides in easily, about 1 hour.
3. While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the crust: thoroughly combine the panko and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Add the almond butter and mix it through. Sprinkle on the water and mix until it clumps together. Drop clumps of the crust mixture into one of the pie plates. Gently press onto the bottom and up the sides to as even a thickness as possible.(Your hands are the best tool for mixing and pressing the crust. Wear gloves.) Cover lightly and refrigerate.
4. When the sweet potatoes are soft, remove from the oven. Raise the oven temperature to 425ºF. Let the sweet potatoes cool just until you can handle them. Peel (the skins should slip off easily). Mash the flesh with a fork, then pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. If the puree seems very wet ( liquid pools around it in the bowl), transfer to a nonstick skillet and stir over high heat with a silicone spatula for 5 minutes, until it has deepened in color slightly and is drier and more solid, then transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and let cool to room temperature.
5. Place the ginger in a mini food processor and grind until pastelike (you should have a scant 1/4 cup). Set aside. If using, grind the candied lemons as fine as possible (about 1/2 cup; there will still be some very small pieces of lemon peel). Add the ground preserved ginger and candied lemons to the sweet potatoes. Add the lemon juice and zest if using crystallized ginger. Mix well to distribute the pastes through the puree. (Again, your gloved hand works best.)
6. Lightly beat the eggs and stir into the puree with a wooden spoon until blended. Thoroughly stir in the coconut milk. Pour into the second buttered pie plate. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350ºF and bake for another 20 minutes. Test for doneness by piercing the center with a thin-bladed knife. If it comes out clean, remove the filling from the oven. If not, bake for 5 minutes more and test again. It should be solid in the center by then. Remove from the oven and let cool. Refrigerate if you won’t be serving the pie soon.
8. Run a thin, flexible spatula around the sides and underneath the filling to loosen it. Gently slide the filling into the crust. (It you are having difficulty getting the filling out of the pan, place a plate on top, flip it over and out, then place the crust over it, upside down. Flip the whole pie back upright.)
9. If decorating with coconut and almonds, cook the granulated sugar with a little water until it turns deep gold and spins a thread (295º to 300ºF). Drizzle the top of the pie very lightly with the caramel. Scatter coconut flakes over the caramel and place almonds as you wish. Drizzle with more caramel over the coconut and almonds. (If you are ambitious, you can make a netting of caramel and place it on top.)
10. If you used crystallized ginger, you can instead arrange candied lemon half-moons around the edge or scatter bits of candied lemon peel over the top.
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