We are officially in the season of indulgence. It starts with Halloween and all the trick or treat candy, caramel popcorn balls and candy corn. We move right into the over-eating carb and tryptophan festival known as Thanksgiving. Next we roll ourselves over towards Hanukkah Donuts and Latkes, Christmas Candy, Hams and Pies topping ourselves off with splits of champagne and buttery rich hors' doeuvres for New Year's Eve. I like to think of these next two months as the Season of Too Many Extra Pounds. It doesn't have to be this way — there are many ways to eat real, tasty and good for you foods that no one need know you've trimmed, slimmed and tweaked. Over the past four years that I kept the 60 pounds I lost off of my body and maintained my weight, I have found a lot of ways to eat what I love without banning my favorite treats from the holiday table.
Last year I made a lighter pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, cutting back on the sugar and fat without compromising taste. This year I discovered the same thing could be done with sweet potato pie. We recently saw an over-the-top decadent sweet potato pie on my favorite show, Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. It was made with lots of brown sugar in and on top, butter, pecans, and brulled marshmallows. I nearly caved in and made the exact recipe until I realized that a piece would equal my dessert sugar, fat and carb intake for a month. My options were to figure out how to lighten this classic Southern dessert and still keep it rich and luscious.
We received too many sweet potatoes from our CSA farm share, getting the sweet tubers every week for almost two months. I was swimming in sweet potatoes. It was a classic moment of when life hands you lemons you make lemonade. In my case, I made a delicious Sweet Potato Pies with some interesting swap-outs. I used non-fat evaporated milk; cut the sugar down to a 1/3 cup; roasted the sweet potatoes so they would be naturally sweet; and substituted Egg-Beaters for the whole eggs. For the topping, I used a combination of chopped walnuts (they were what I had on hand); whole wheat flour, light butter and some brown sugar. My only cheats were on the pie crust - I didn't have time to make my own and I didn't want to improvise on the crust by using a graham cracker, or phyllo dough crust. I also "cheated" with the marshmallow topping — using mini marshmallows which I ran under the broiler element in my toaster oven. You can splurge here as there is little fat in the pie custard and marshmallows are fat free. They are pure sugar, but you use only a few marshmallows per piece of pie so it's okay!
Once you realize that making a sweet potato pie is almost the same as making a pumpkin pie — which is making a custard — the baking is easy. I often say and write, I'm not much of a baker, but when I have a pastry or baked good that I know and understand, the scientific process is easy. Read the recipe, make and bake it, then improvise once you know it inside out.
Sweet Potato Pie Ingredients:
- 1 Ready-Made or Home-Made Deep Dish Pie Crust - 9 Inch Pie Plate (unbaked)
- 1 1/2 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes - Scrubbed clean and roasted until tender (about 1 hour)
- 1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Egg Substitute (such as Egg-Beaters) or 2 Egg Whites - whisked until frothy
- 6 ounces (1/2 can) Fat-Free Evaporated Milk
- 1 Teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract
- 2 Tablespoons Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Pinch of Kosher Salt (1/8 teaspoon)
For Crumb Topping:
- 1/3 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/3 Cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts or Pecans
- 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice
- Pinch Kosher Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Light Butter (such as Smart Balance Light Original)
- Mini Marshmallows for serving/topping — optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If using a store-bought pie dough, roll out into a 9-inch pie plate, or make your pie dough, rest, roll and place into a 9-inch pie plate. Dock the dough with the tines of a fork in several places. Refrigerate (or keep frozen) until ready to use.
- Prep the sweet potatoes: scrub them clean, remove any spots, eyes or blemishes, but keep the skin on the potato. Piece in several places with a knife or fork. Roast the sweet potatoes in the oven until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- When they are cool enough to handle, remove the sweet potatoes from their skins and place into a large mixing bowl, mashing them and beating until they are nearly smooth and all chunks and lumps are gone. Reduce the heat of the oven down to 350 degrees.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and the Egg-Beaters until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy; add in the evaporated milk and vanilla extract and whisk again until the mixture is very frothy; set aside.
- Make the crumb topping by mixing together the whole wheat flour, chopped walnuts or pecans, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, pinch of kosher salt and tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Blend in the light butter and either using your fingers or a pastry cutter, cut the light butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand or small peas. Set aside.
- Pour the egg/sugar/milk mixture over the mashed sweet potatoes and season with 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and 1 pinch of salt. Whisk until the mixture is thoroughly blended.
- Pour the sweet potato custard into the prepared, chilled and docked unbaked pie shell. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the custard and set the pie plate onto a baking tray; bake in the 350 degree oven for 55 minutes until the custard reaches 165 to 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
- If the crumb topping and the edge of the pie shell appear to get too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil. The pie will set as it cools. Cool completely before serving. To serve, cut pie pieces and top with mini-marshmallows — heat in the oven under the broiler for a minute or so until the marshmallows caramelize and melt. Pie will keep (if there are any left-overs) covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Serves 6 to 8.