Sweet Potato Meringue Pie with Salted Pecan Crème Fraîche + a dessert shoot with Betty Liu!
Facts I have learned in the past week:
— Marshmallow meringue is way too delicious and easy to make.
— Crème brûlée torches are FUN.
— Burnt miso butterscotch is a gift from the gods.
— Co-dessert shoots are the best!
A couple weeks back, Betty and I were chatting about our upcoming Vermont Creamery recipes, when it dawned on us that “ummm, actually wouldn’t it be amazing if we did a dessert shoot together??!” So I whipped up my pie crust and filling on Saturday, along with some salted pecan crème fraîche and the burnt miso butterscotch from Power Vegetables! (YUM). I left Burlington early Sunday morning, arrived at my Boston airbnb, and then ubered over to Betty’s place with an absurd amount of things in tow (camera, pie, bag full of meringue ingredients props and linens). I quickly inhaled a delicious honeynut squash burrata lunch she’d made for me, then whipped up the meringue topping for my pie so we could get all of our shots in before the 4:30 sunset. We did it, had a blast, and then “sampled” our work (while trying to keep in mind that we were eating dinner in two hours). It was the best.
Aside from being delicious, both of these desserts can accommodate special diets too! Betty made a Salty Honey Seed Pie with Bourbon Crème Fraîche, which is perfect for any folks out there with nut allergies. (And omg it was so delicious you guys! I never would have thought to make a seed pie before, but it was to die for.) And my pie can easily be made gluten-free, just swap out the AP flour for a gluten-free 1:1 mix (like Bob’s Red Mill) and make sure you use gluten-free oats.
So about this pie. I avoided the full description in the title, as it would have been about five lines long and probably put you to sleep before you could finish reading. The unabridged version is: sweet potato & marshmallow meringue pie in a maple-oat browned butter crust with salted pecan crème fraîche burnt miso butterscotch. That sounds overwhelming, but it actually comes together quite easily. (Real talk: I was panicking a little on Saturday because I put off starting the pie until around 3:30. By 6:00 I’d finished the butterscotch and salted pecan crème fraîche, and popped the pie in the oven (sans meringue), and that includes blind baking the crust and roasting pureeing the sweet potatoes.) If you’re a highly competent human that has the forethought to break up some of these tasks in the days preceding Thanksgiving, it will be a total breeze. (And if you aren’t and you procrastinate up until the last minute like me, it’s cool, you still got this.) If you’re thinking the crème fraîche and butterscotch accompaniments seem superfluous, please don’t skip them. The pie itself is quite sweet, and the tangy, nutty crème fraîche and the savoriness of the miso butterscotch balance it out perfectly. Plus the burnt flavor in the butterscotch makes the topping extra reminiscent of toasted marshmallows.
You can make the burnt miso butterscotch well in advance (a week or more). You can do the same with the salted pecan mixture, though I’d advise waiting to add it to the crème fraîche until you’re ready to serve, to maintain the crunchiness of the pecans. The crust can be made a couple days in advance, and the filling baked the day before. As far as the meringue topping goes, this one did start to weep a little after a few hours, which I believe was due primarily to the filling being room temp, as well as me being in a bit of a rush and not cooking the egg whites and sugar long enough to completely dissolve the sugar. To avoid a weepy meringue, reheat your pie the morning of as you’re making the meringue topping. The heat from the filling will cook the underneath of the meringue and stabilize it. (And if you’re wondering what to do with the leftover egg yolks, cure them!)
Sweet Potato Meringue Pie with Salted Pecan Crème Fraîche Burnt Miso Butterscotch
Maple-Oat Browned Butter Crust
1 3/4 cups oats
1 cup 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
9 tablespoons Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Add oats, flour, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, and ginger to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat, swirling intermittently, until it begins to bubble and brown. Pour into the food processor (be sure to scrape out all out the browned bits). Pulse until oats are broken up and the ingredients clump together to form a dough.
Press the dough into a 9-inch pie pan, forming a 1/4-inch thick crust (you may have a little bit left over). Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Sweet Potato Filling
(adapted from Epicurious)
3 pounds sweet potatoes (or 2 cups sweet potato puree)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.
(Skip this step if using canned sweet potato puree.) Pierce sweet potatoes all over and place on a baking sheet. Roast for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until potatoes are extremely tender. Remove from oven and let cool slightly, then scrape the potatoes out of their skins and add them to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Puree until completely smooth. Set aside 2 cups for the recipe and reserve the rest for another use.
Whisk together sweet potato puree, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour into your pie crust, leaving at least 1/8-inch of space from the top of the filling to the edge of the crust. Bake until puffy and set in the center, approximately 50 minutes. If you are making the meringue topping at the same time, add it while the pie is still warm. Otherwise, let cool and then reheat when ready in a 350°F oven, loosely covered with foil, for 15-20 minutes before topping with meringue.
3 egg whites
3/4 cup super fine sugar (granulated will also work, but super fine dissolves more easily)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Heat egg whites and sugar in a double boiler for 3-4 minutes, until sugar is completely dissolved. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vanilla extract and cream of tartar and whip, gradually increasing to high speed, until the meringue is stiff and glossy, approximately 6-7 minutes.
Spread meringue over the top of your warm pie. To toast the top, bake at 375°F for 10-12 minutes, or broil 8 inches away from the heat source for a couple minutes, until nicely toasted. Alternatively, use a crème brûlée torch to brown the top.
Salted Pecan Crème Fraîche
8 ounces Vermont Creamery Crème Fraîche
1 1/2 cups unsalted pecans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Pulse pecans and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment until crumbly (you don’t want them to be too fine and powdery). When ready to serve, sprinkle 3/4 cup of salted pecan mixture over crème fraîche and swirl in to combine. Reserve any extra pecan mixture for sprinkling on top if desired.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment. Spread the miso out in an even layer, about 1/4-inch thick, on the baking sheet. Bake it until well browned and quite burnt around the edges, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Transfer the miso to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the mirin, brown sugar, butter, and a few tablespoons of water to the food processor and blend until smooth. Add more water as needed (I had to add quite a bit) until the mixture is smooth and drizzle-able. Store in the fridge and warm on the stove before serving.