I just wanted to write real quick and say that pursuing your passion can sometimes make you feel really stupid. Especially when it doesn’t work. Especially when you have 3 sweet potato pies sitting there on the counter just staring at you and you stayed up way past midnight making one of them. Sometimes pursuing your passion is absolutely NOT fun. And sometimes you need to lay down and not eat any more bites of pie, and pray that the next recipe works, all in the name of preserving your passion.
But sometimes your passion pays off I guess because this pie is pretty perfect. The salty crunchy pretzel pecan crust with the custardy, not-too-sweet filling and the warm, toasty cinnamon meringue. Maybe people will wrinkle their nose at the whole pretzel crust for a pie idea, but hey, even landing on the moon sounded crazy at one point.
This is a pie worth making.
Love you friends. xo
ps. THANK YOU to my friends new and old that had a chance to make it to my take and bake workshop at Anthropologie last week. My next workshop at Anthro is December 2nd (a Saturday) at 10am. We will be learning / practicing how to decorate sugar cookies with natural dyes using the water color effect. We'll also learn what makes the perfect sugar cookie. Spots will be limited, and subscribers will be the first to hear when sign ups are live. I can't thank you enough for your support and love. Seriously.
sweet potato pie with salted pretzel crust and toasted cinnamon meringue
yields: one 9 inch / 23cm pie
The meringue is sweet and toasty here on purpose, as the filling has a slight tang and the crust is slightly salty but if you don't want to make meringue - I have a recipe for cinnamon whipped cream here at the end. Either topping is fantastic, just don't skip it - the meringue or the whipped cream balance everything out in the best way.
bakers notes: I know the way I instruct to make the crust can seem a bit cumbersome, but it works and yields the best consistency. Trust me. Also if you want to toast your meringue your gonna need a blow torch. If you don’t have one of those already, splurge. You’ll soon find that there are so many desserts that need to be torched. Also! You can totally smash the pretzels and pecans in a bag if you don't have a food processor. I've tried both methods (food processor and bag) and they both work beautifully. ALSO, pay attention to the salt in your pretzel. The crust may need a little more or a little less salt depending on the pretzel you use.
gluten free crust option: See my notes in the ingredients about replacements. If you're replacing the pretzels with pecans instead of gluten-free pretzels, start with just 4 tablespoons of butter first, and then go up from there if needed. Nuts are more oily than pretzels, and I've personally found more success with a little less butter. The instructions are exactly the same, just replace the ingredients.
for the crust:
1 ½ cups / 145g pretzels, crushed into medium-fine chunks, (if you need to make this gluten free, replace with gluten free pretzels OR ground pecans)
¼ cup / 55g dark or light brown sugar
1 teaspoon medium grain kosher salt
¼ heaping cup / 26g pecans, crushed (use unsweetened shredded coconut if making this gluten free)
6 tablespoons / 85g unsalted butter, melted
for the filling:
3 large eggs
⅔ cup / 160ml cream
¼ cup / 60ml buttermilk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups / 488g sweet potato, mashed (about 7-8 small - medium sized potatoes, baked)
1 teaspoon medium grain kosher salt
¾ cup / 165g light or dark brown sugar
for the meringue:
4 fresh egg whites
¾ cup / 90g powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
to make the crust:
Pre-heat oven to 350° F / 180° C and grab a 9 inch pie dish.
Pulverize pretzels in a food processor until they’re broken up quite a bit but not pulverized or even crumbs. We want them in decent, recognizable chunks here. Measure out 2 cups worth of pretzel crumbs (or better yet, weigh it for accuracy) into a large bowl. Then mix pretzel crumbs with the brown sugar, salt and pecans (Pecans can be left whole at this point, because they’ll get mashed in the food processor). Pour all ingredients back into the food processor and pour in all of the melted butter. Pulse until the ingredients form a wet sand. If you need to add more melted butter, do it. Don’t be shy about this. Smoosh crust in the bottom of your pan and bake for 10-13 mins.
Cool crust. (psst, I pop mine in the freezer to cool it super quick!)
to make the filling:
Cook 6-8 medium-sized sweet potatoes at 400° F / 200° C for 1 hour. Potatoes should be very soft and fragrant. Set aside to cool. Peel and mash sweet potatoes in a medium sized bowl. Measure out two cups of sweet potato mash and set aside. Mash should be room temperature.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, sugars, and vanilla. Then add your buttermilk and cream. Add sweet potato mash and beat together with a whisk or rubber spatula until combined.
Pour filling into cooled pretzel crust and bake for 40-50 minutes or until the edges of the pie filling are set, but the middle gives just the slightest wobble. Note: You may want to tent the sides of the crust with foil to prevent burning if you need to bake your pie for longer than 45 minutes. (Mine took exactly 45 minutes.) We don't want to over cook the custard here, so don't be afraid to take it out of the oven if it has a little jiggle - it will continue set as you take it out of the oven. Think, butt jiggle, not a liquid jiggle.
Refrigerate pie for 3-4 hours or until set.
Cool completely before topping with meringue.
to make cinnamon meringue: (note: make meringue the day you're serving your pie or else it will seep into your crust making it soggy. health and safety: The egg whites in this meringue are cooked here, but still you may want to use advice pregnant women, elderly friends and parents of young kids before they eat it. I personally think it's totally fine if cooked properly. :)
5 large egg whites
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons / 205g sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
Pour a couple of inches of water in a pot and place a glass bowl just above it, taking care that the bowl does NOT touch the water. (It may take a couple of bowls to find the right fit!) Pour egg whites and sugar into glass bowl.
Over a medium high heat, whisk together the egg whites and sugar until mixture is not too hot to touch, but too hot leave your finger in there for more than a couple of seconds. Sugar should be completely dissolved. If you stick your head in the bowl eggs should smell cooked and consistency should be somewhat snot like and slightly bubbly. (Sorry) It takes about 8-10 minutes.
Pour hot egg mixture and pinch of salt into your electric mixer and whip on a high speed (about a 6-7 if you have a kitchen aid) until soft peaks form. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl down, half way in-between whipping. Takes about 7-10 minutes.
Using a small spatula, scoop meringue on top of pie, creating some swirls or stiff peaks (you can even pipe it into a pastry bag, filling the pastry bag 3/4 of the way full if you want to pip on some little meringue puffs).
Toast with a blow torch. Pie can sit with meringue on it for a couple of hours at a coolish room temperature.
Whisk egg whites, powdered sugar, cinnamon and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Sharp cloud-like peaks should be easily seen and formed. Form meringue on the baked and cooled pie and toast with a blow torch until peaks turn from snow-white to golden-brown. If you don't have a blow torch, "they" say you can broil it in your oven for a few minutes but I've never had steady results with that approach.
to make cinnamon whipped cream instead of meringue:
Whip 2 cups / 240ml heavy whipping cream with 1 teaspoon vanilla + 1 tablespoon of honey OR ¼ cup / 30g powdered sugar if you don’t want to sweeten with honey. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon.
Beat in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Pour and shape onto pie. Don’t try to toast your whipped cream or you’ll have a melted mess on your hands. Whipped cream is best served the day it’s made. Right before serving is truly best. ;)
I used Newman's Own Organic Spelt pretzels to make the crust.