There are two types of people in this world: those who love pie, and those who love cake. It is an age-old debate, pie vs. cake, a debate that I often have a hard time taking a stance on.
The simple question I used to enjoy pondering (by eating a lot of pie and cake), was abruptly decided for me when I found out I could no longer tolerate gluten. Eight years ago, I went from living like a carefree teenager to worrying about every aspect of what I ate, where it came from and how it was prepared.
There were no "gluten-free aisles," or specialized menus at the time.
SARAH GREEN/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Shown is a gluten-free sweet potato pie with gingersnap crust and cinnamon ice cream.
The gluten-free products that did exist often were compared, and rightfully so, to cardboard, leaving me no choice but to experiment in the kitchen.
Surprisingly, what I thought to be a lack of options proved to be a blessing in disguise.
When birthdays or holidays came around, buying a store bought cake or bakery pie was no longer an option. I began baking out of necessity, but quickly found an escape in the art and science of baking.
After more experimenting than you can imagine, I had created a handful of my go to recipes, and perfected them.
It took time, but it allowed me to revisit the pie vs. cake debate I love so much, only now it was all gluten free.
For birthdays, I always have and still do make cakes. You can feed a larger group of people, and decorate a cake to fit any theme, which is part of what I love so much about them.
However, when it comes time for the holidays, I couldn't imagine the table without at least two different types of pie. Cake just doesn't seem to fit.
Rolling out a good pie dough is like therapy to me, and I cannot help but find myself getting lost in all the possibilities for fillings.
Although I make pies every time of the year, there is something about holiday pies that I simply cannot get enough of.
Maybe it's the feeling associated with them that is what keeps me leaning slightly towards the pie side, but who knows, and must we really choose?
This recipe for sweet potato pie turns a usually savory food into a perfectly balanced and sweetly spiced dessert, and is a welcome change from basic pumpkin pie.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and that this pie finds a place at your table.
Sweet potato pie
with gingersnap crust
Yields: 8 slices
2 cups Mi-Del brand gingersnap cookies, finely ground*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Sweet Potato Pie:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons gluten free vanilla extract
2 cups roasted sweet potato puree, can substitute canned as well, but the flavor won't be as deep
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
A pinch of salt
1 cup evaporated milk
In a large bowl combine the finely ground gingersnaps and melted butter and mix until it resembles wet sand. Lightly press the mixture into a 9-inch pie pan making sure it is evenly pressed over the bottom and up the sides. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes. Set aside, and allow the crust to cool.
*The cookies shown in the photo (on Page E-1) are Pamela's ginger almond cookies, hence why the crust looks darker than if they were to be made with the Mi-Del brand cookies. For a better textured crust, I would recommend using the Mi-Del.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix eggs, sugar and vanilla together for two minutes until lightened in color. Slowly mix in sweet potato and spices until well combined. Drizzle in evaporated milk and mix until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and bake in a 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes or until the middle is set. Allow the pie to cool before serving.
Cinnamon ice cream
Yields: 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Cinnamon ice cream
In a heavy bottomed pot, bring the heavy cream, milk and cinnamon stick to a simmer.
While that mixture is heating, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla vigorously until it turns a pale yellow. Ladle in 1/2 a cup of hot milk mixture slowly into the eggs, whisking continuously as to not cook the eggs.
Ladle in another 1/2 cup and once combined, pour the egg and milk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk mixture off the heat.
Whisk in the cinnamon and transfer the custard base to a medium bowl set over a large bowl filled with ice and water and allow the mixture to cool.
Once the custard has cooled, transfer to an ice cream machine and follow the directions. Once churned, transfer to a freezer safe container and save until ready to serve alongside the sweet potato pie.
Green was first diagnosed with gluten intolerances as a teenager. Soon after, she developed a blog to share her struggles and successes of adapting to a gluten-free life. Over the years, her passion for wellness has turned into a profession. A 2012 graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in New York, she is continually networking with other gluten-free experts and expanding her knowledge. Her goal is to make gluten free an option for everyone, not just those in need.
Green may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Her column is published on the second Wednesday of each month.