Purple Sweet Potato Pie Bars
Last week Alex and I took a day to start wedding planning together - FINALLY! So far, we have a venue, at The Riverbed Farm in Anaheim, and a date - June 10th, 2017, but other than that we've got nothing planned. Whoops! Time seems to be flying by at this point so my next big things to mark off the checklist are our save the dates and invitations, finding a caterer and finalizing details like the drink menu and decor. I'll have a post up soon on all the details and what we've learned so far in planning our vegan wedding!
In the meantime, a girl's gotta eat, and I've been loving all the fall produce we've been getting in our CSA box + seeing in supermarkets lately. We went on a date day last and ended up at a cute little kombucha + fermented goods bar in Costa Mesa called Farm + Culture Co. that served these yummy bites made with purple sweet potato and I was totally inspired. I wanted to create something similar, but with a little more focus on something sharable for the Fall season - so we came up with these Purple Sweet Potato Pie Squares. These pie squares are an incredibly gorgeous color - shockingly purple! - that just make you wanna eat 'em up. These bars are:
The sweet potatoes are paired with warm fall flavors like maple, cinnamon, and ginger on a chewy cashew-date-macadamia crust that makes them irresistible and much like a traditional sweet potato pie - but far healthier! They're are totally naturally sweetened, and you can omit the maple syrup if you prefer to keep them date-sweetened only. Eat them on their own or top them with a bit of whipped cream and a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg for the perfect fall treat. They're an indulgence you don't have to have any guilt about, so go ahead - have two!
Cashew Date Macadamia Crust Layer:
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 cup macadamia nuts (or skinless almonds)
1 cup pitted dates
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Layer:
1.5 lbs purple sweet potatoes, boiled, skinned + mashed (about 2 1/2 cups mash)
3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
Cashew Date Macadamia Crust Layer:
Soak the cashews and macadamia nuts in warm water for at least one hour. Drain off the liquid, and pour the soaked nuts into the food processor. Add in the pitted dates and coconut oil and process until a sticky crust forms.
Grease or line a 9x9 inch glass baking dish. Scrape the crust mixture into the baking dish and use a rubber spatula to spoon to press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan. Refrigerate or freeze to set the crust, about one hour, before topping with the sweet potato mixture. Wipe the processor bowl out with a paper towel and set aside.
Purple Sweet Potato Pie Layer:
Place the sweet potatoes into a large pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool completely. Once cooled, remove the skins and toss 'em into the compost or trash bin. Place the sweet potatoes into the processor bowl with the almond milk, maple syrup, coconut oil, lemon juice, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Process on high until the mixture is completely combined and smooth.
Pour the mixture over the cooled crust layer and spread it evenly around. Place the baking dish back into the freezer to firm - they'll be much easier to slice this way. Once they're firm, about 3+ hours later, slice the bars even squares. Serve immediately or let soften in the fridge until you're ready to enjoy!
Makes 16-20 bars. Leftovers can be saved in the fridge for several days or the freezer indefinitely.
Purple Sweet Potatoes are different than Japanese Sweet Potatoes, which are purple on the outside but white on the inside. Make sure you double check or your pie squares - while delicious! - certainly won't come out looking like ours.
Pecan Pie Bars
When I was in the 4th grade, I had a Southern teacher who always explained to us that "Pee-cans are kept under the bed, and puh-cahns are baked in a pie." She hated when if you said otherwise, and she would tease anyone who disagreed. I hated standing out, so I just agreed. And now that I'm older, I think she was right. Because really, who wants to think about urine when they're talking pie? Anyway, it's something that always stuck with me, something I remember every time I see pecans in any form. And yes, I pronounce it 'puh-cahn'. Because it seems right. But however you pronounce them, you probably like them. Pecans are a rich, earthy nut that pairs well with all kinds of fruit - but like most things, tastes best drowned in a sugary syrup and baked on a crust. Pecan pies are great, but things in mini-form are cuter and easier to share. Plus, at our age we're mostly celebrating Friendsgiving's and less formal family dinners, and pre-sliced goodies are easier to pack into doggy bags for your friends. These bars are super easy to whip up and are as equally as delicious as their round cousin, but better because there's more crust - and that's my favorite part. You're friends will be impressed when you bring these to the table, and even more impressed if you get fancy and top 'em with a bit of homemade coconut whipped cream. But you get it, so I'll shut up while you preheat the oven. Let's bake!
1 cup vegan butter (we used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoons coconut cream*
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans
Whipped coconut cream, for serving
sprinkle of ground cinnamon, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To make the crust, cream together the butter and brown sugar in a stand up mixer or with beaters. Add flour and salt and mix until crumbly. Press into a parchment-lined 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.
While the crust bakes, prep the pecan topping by whisking together butter, brown sugar, coconut cream, and vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat until everything melts and combines, about 5 minutes. Once the mixture comes completely together, add the chopped pecans and mix them in. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally until the crust is finished cooking.
When the crust finishes, remove it from the oven and pour the pecan mixture over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes.
Remove from the oven, let cool completely, then slice into 12 (or more) equal squares. Enjoy!
Makes 12 3x3 in. squares.
Coconut cream is the thick white cream layer from the top of a can of full fat coconut milk. We also like using Trader Joe's brand coconut cream.
Leftover bars can be saved in an airtight container on the counter for up to a week.
Persimmon & Ginger Tart
Until a few years ago, I had never tried a persimmon. I grew up in Maine, where anything but local produce can be hard to find, and in the winter time, it can be hard to find any produce at all. Needless to say, I had long since moved to California when I got my first taste of these little beauties. Native to China, they were introduced in California sometime in the middle of the 19th Century, and Americans have been hooked ever since. They have a delicate flavor, sweet with a little tang, and are great in baked goods or sliced with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar. I've seen loads of persimmon based muffins, cookies, crumbles, and cakes lately, so I decided to make my own version: a buttery, flaky gluten-free crust (yes it CAN be done!) under a rich, gingery cheesecake middle, topped with sugared persimmon slices and finished with a sweet smattering of coconut whip. This dessert is low sugar, so pretty guilt-free, and a crowd-pleaser- we shared with our friends and it was gone in one night! It would make a great Thanksgiving dessert and takes about an hour to throw together. We hope the friends at your table love it as much as ours! Let's eat.
2 cups gluten-free flour blend (we used Bob's Red Mill 1:1 GF Baking flour)
1/4 teaspoon xantham gum (only if your flour blend doesn't include any, and even then- optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegan butter
9-12 tablespoons ice cold water
Ginger Cashew Cream:
2 cups cashews, soaked for at least 30 minutes in warm water
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, or about a 1-inch chunk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 persimmons, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 can full fat coconut milk
3-6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1-2 teaspoons vanilla
1. To prepare the buttery crust, mix flour, xantham if using, and salt in a large bowl, then cut in butter using a fork or pastry butter until crumbs form. Drizzle tablespoons of ice cold water one at a time over the mixture, using a wooden spoon to stir and work the liquid in until a dough begins to form. Add water until dough is moist enough to form a ball but not too sticky to knead. Add more flour, a little at a time, if needed. Once dough is prepared, roll out to about 1/4 thickness and press into your 11-inch tart pan, being sure to line the edges as evenly as possible. I use the back of a wooden spoon to press the dough evenly into the tart pan. Once finished, place in fridge to chill while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Ginger Cashew Cream:
2. In a high-speed blender or food processor, combine soaked and drained cashews, water, maple syrup, ginger, vanilla and nutmeg and blend on high for about 1 minute, until mixture is completely creamy and smooth. Pour the mixture into your prepared crust and set aside.
3. Wash and thinly slice the persimmons, discarding the ends. Toss persimmons in sugar and ground ginger mixture, then arrange them around the tart, starting on the outside and working your way in, overlapping the persimmon slices slightly. Bake the tart, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove, let cool, and serve with coconut whip.
4. Refrigerate coconut milk overnight, being careful not to shake or jostle cans. Once you're ready to make the whip, gently open the can and use a spoon to remove the thick white layer of coconut from the top half of the can, leaving the clearish liquid left at the bottom. Put the thick white cream into a mixing bowl with the sugar and vanilla.
Mix with hand beaters until mixture is smooth, creamy, and whipped up. Serve a dollop with each slice of tart!
Leftovers can be refrigerated for several days, re-fluffing with beaters as necessary.
5. To serve, slice tart into pie-slices, then top with coconut whip and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Save leftovers, covered in the fridge, for up to a week. Enjoy!
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
A sweet, simple summer pie made with Teff and Almond flours
If you follow my instagram (@amberstpeter), you probably already know that my boyfreind, Alex, works at a farm. For those of you who don't, He works at Sheepcot General at Uncas Farms in Whitefield, Maine. Its a fully working, organic farm and small store with an attached cafe. They offer tons of great, Maine-made products and yummy snacks, plus fresh from the farm produce and meats. Alex is in charge of the kitchen, making fresh soups, loaves of bread, and made-to-order sammies in the cafe. They offer two vegan friendly sandwiches, green salads, and the soup of the day is vegan about 5 days of the week. Its awesome and I spend way too much time there scamming the free wi-fi. You should check it out if you're in town.
Anyway, being as awesome as they are, Uncas Farms offered the only organic u-pick strawberry fields in the whole state of Maine this year. Quite an accomplishment! And the strawberries were damn good. So different from the California strawberries we had become accustomed to, these smaller, much sweeter little berries are almost too sweet not to enjoy all on their own. They're the best. And since I know a guy, I got to pick just about as many as I could devour, plus 8 more quarts.
And I made pie.
Sweet, tangy strawberry rhubarb pie.
My Dads garden includes a large patch of rhubarb, and I think we did the plants a favor thinning 'em out for the pie. They were a little crowded in there.
We sliced the tops off the strawberries, rinsed them, and put our processed berries into a large bowl. We ate far too many before the job was complete, and afterward fed the strawberry tops to the piggies, who ate them ravenously but graciously.
We kept the crust gluten-free because its easier on my tummy, meaning I can eat far larger portions (because I want to, okay?) and because I know my readers have allergies and sensitivities too. That being said, if you have a wheat-based crust you're great at making, use that and enjoy it.
We have been partial to experimenting with teff flour lately, and love the fine grain texture it has. We always love almond flour, and the earthy taste they provide plus the almond's touch of fatty sweetness made the two a lovely pair.
For the Crust:
2 cups teff flour
1 cup almond flour
1 1/4 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) vegan shortening or coconut oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons cold water
Sift together teff and almond flours in a large mixing bowl.
Add in baking powder and salt, and mix well. Slice the 8 tablespoons into 1 tablespoon chunks and using two knives or a fork, cut the cold butter (or not-melted coconut oil) into the dry mixture until small crumbs form. Once the mixture is uniform, stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Add the water slowly, mixing with your hands until a dough forms, about 20-30 seconds. Roll the newly formed dough into a ball, cover in floured parchment paper, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
After the dough has been through the refrigeration process, remove from the parchment paper. On a clean surface sprinkled with flour (I used more teff flour), roll out the dough slightly with a rolling pin or your hands. Press about half of the dough into the bottom of the pie plate, being sure to cover the edges of the plate as well.
To make a star shaped (or any cookie cutter shape you have) design, roll out the remaining dough and using a cookie cutter, cut enough shapes to cover at least most of the top of the pie. Alternatively, you can also roll out the remaining crust and just place a flat, round pie crust on top. We cut enough shapes to use the rest of the dough, and aimed for them to be about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
Set cookie cutter shapes aside, and move onto the filling.
For the Filling:
3 cups strawberries, tops removed and berries halved
2 cups rhubarb, leaves removed and stalks chopped
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Wash and slice strawberries into halves or quarters. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Remove the leaves from the rhubarb, if it has leaves. Usually when store-bought, they are already gone. The leaves are poisonous to eat- so don't! Wash the stalks and chop them into about 1/2 inch chunks. Add them to the mixing bowl.
Pour in the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg and give it a good stir, so all the fruit gets coated. Add in the corn starch, stir again.
Add the maple syrup and stir one last time, to make sure everything has been evenly coated.
Pour the fruit mixture into the prepared crust. Top with a layer of cookie cutter shaped crust, like we did, or simply roll out the remaining crust and gently put it on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes, until crust is golden at the edges and the filling is bubbly. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving or you'll have some sloppy pie.
Refrigerate, covered, for up to a week.