Well swingin’ to the flour swingin’ to the cream
Swingin’ what I crave ’cause that’s my extreme
Swingin’ to the whole food and swingin’ to the lean
If I think about how I feel I prefer to eat clean yeah
I Weird Al Yankovic’d the song because I heard it and now all I think about is pie with Thanksgiving around the corner (yes, I verbed his name). Pie seems to be focus of my thoughts after attending a Twin Peaks RR diner pop up serving Coop’s favorite cherry pie and the endless piles of apple and pumpkin pie at the grocery store. Holiday time is the hardest time of year for me to stay clean. Especially with sweets. So I wanted to make a pie that was tasty and healthy that would not leave me with sugar lows and loads of guilt. Crust of pecan, hazelnut, dates and a dash of rosemary. Filling of fresh pumpkin and sweet potato, sweetened with dates and banana, fattened with cashews, macadamia and coconut. With traditional spices that make up pumpkin pie plus a little Indian spice magic. No gluten, no dairy, no eggs or refined sugar. This is my new holiday pumpkin sweet potato pie.
I love pie but I don’t like pumpkin pie. There I said it. I don’t like pumpkin pie. It has a weird after taste if canned pumpkin is used. It is often too sweet and the spice is underwhelming. Maybe because everything under the sun uses pumpkin pie spice. I made one that I posted a couple years back and while it is good, my technique and understanding of thickening agents has improved. And so have my flavor combinations. So I challenged myself to make a creamy sweet savory pie that I like – one that is tasty, healthy and unique. I am so glad I did.
The key to this pie is making it a day in advance. It needs to set in the fridge overnight or else as you slice and serve, it will be a mess of pudding on a nut crust. The flavors also need time to set. If fridge space is an issue, as it can be during the holidays, place it in the freezer and let it thaw to cold – fridge temperature – before it is served.
The best part of this time of year is the sugar pie pumpkins. I make a lot of puree, portion it and freeze it for use throughout the year. Cut off the stem, cut them in half and take out the seeds (and bake the seeds because they have a ton of nutrients – flavor them with salt, spices, rosemary, chili and lime, or nothing and toss them over salads).
Grease them with coconut oil, place them face down in a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 30-40 min, until a butter knife slips through. Let them cool face down in the baking sheet.
Remove the skin. It should come right off by hand once cooled. I puree it with water, place cup size portions into ziplocks and freeze for use throughout the year. Canned pumpkin is usually a mix of squashes – mostly butternut which have more favor than pumpkin (I also do the same thing with butternut squash) but it has a lot of preservatives and usually has a slightly tinny flavor. Usually canned pumpkin needs to be made really sweet to remove the weird taste. I highly recommend making the effort to make fresh pumpkin puree.
I added sweet potato for sweetness and for nutrition – because sweet potato has a lot of both. Along with fiber. I bake them in the skin to bring out the sweetness and then peel and puree. Be sure to poke a few holes or cut a few strips to let some steam escape. You know when they are done baking because you can piece them with a butter knife and the sugar is oozing out. Once cool, the skin will peel right off by hand.
Finally, I also bake a banana – again to bring out the sweetness. If you happen to have an overripe banana lying around, that is great, use that without baking. But rarely do I plan in advance with enough notice to make sure I have a ripened banana around. So the best alternative is to bake it in its skin. While the sweet potatoes are baking, toss in the banana for 10 min. The skin will turn black. Let the potatoes and banana cool and peel them.
Remove the skin from the potato and banana and mash the center in a bowl. Set aside. Place cashews, date puree and coconut milk into a high speed bender and blend until smooth and creamy.
Date puree is simply dates soaked overnight and pureed with a small bit of water. Making a smooth puree before adding it to the pie filling mix allows for it to be easily incorporated into the pudding without any texture.
Add in pumpkin puree, sweet potato, banana, coconut cream and vanilla bean paste and blend until smooth and creamy.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the tapioca starch, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground clove and garam masala. The tapioca starch is an old time trick helps stabilize the pie and keep it thick. Tapioca is derived from cassava, a root vegetable— and comes in several forms: flour, starch, pearls, and beads. The flour is pulverized granules. It has no flavor or texture and leaves the pudding/filling with a glossy sheen.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Place into the fridge until crust is prepared.
The crust is easy. Make sure to soak the dates for at least 3 hours starting with hot water or overnight with cold water. Remove the pits. Place the pecans, hazelnuts, rosemary and salt into a food processor and grind until a coarse grind.
Place in a bowl. Put the dates into the food processor and blend until broken apart and sticky.
Put the ground nut mixture back into the food processor with the dates and blend until it forms a dough ball. push down the sides of the food processor as needed through the process.
Grease a pie pan with coconut oil and press the nut dough into the pan and around the sides.
Pour the pie filling on top.
Sprinkle the top with the zest of one lemon. I use a microplane to zest it directly on top of the pie. If you don’t have a microplane or other zester, use a vegetable peeler to peel off the lemon skin into thin strips and dice the peels with a knife. Lemon adds a bit of acidity and brightness.
The top with shredded coconut. The coconut shreds add texture and flavor. I also used pecans to decorate around the plate.
Let the pie set in the fridge overnight. Or the freezer.
Let thaw if frozen. But make sure it is cold enough for slicing. Slice and serve. Enjoy. With a dairy-free ice cream. Or whipped coconut cream. Or as is. Because it is that good.
Rich. Creamy. Sweet Savory. The rosemary adds a depth to the crust not found in other pies. The dates are counterbalanced by both the salt and rosemary. The filling is light yet has a depth of flavor and feels substantial.
And you can go back for seconds without too much guilt. My four year old daughter decided to take my phone and photograph the pie. This is her portrait of the pie. In the morning. On this cold November rainy day.
Vegan Gluten-free Pumpkin Sweet Potato Pie with Rosemary Nut Crust
- 1.5 cups pecans
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 Tbs fresh rosemary
- 1.5 tsp sea salt
- 1 cups pitted dates, soaked for several hours and drained
Place pecans, hazelnuts, salt and rosemary into a food processor and pulse until chopped up into a coarse meal. Place into a bowl and set aside. Add dates into the food processor and pulse until chopped up and sticky. Add the pecan mixture in and blend until incorporated.
Grease a pie plate with coconut oil. Press down mixture into the pie plate.
- 1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed
- 1 banana with peel
- 1 cup cashews, soaked in water for several hours, then drained
- 1/2 cup macadamia nuts
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1.5 cup fresh pumpkin puree
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1 Tbs vanilla bean paste
- 5 dates, soaked and pureed
- 1/2 cup tapioca flour
- 3 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp garam masala
- Zest of one lemon
- shredded coconut
Set oven to 400 degrees F. Place sweet potatoes on baking sheet and pierce the potato with a few holes using a fork or a knife. Bake for about 30 min. If the potato is really thick in the center, allow to bake for 40 min. Place the banana still in the skin onto the baking sheet with the sweet potato and continue to bake for 10 min. Remove the banana and check the tenderness of the potato – it should be able to be pierced with a butter knife – otherwise allow the potato to cook longer. Remove from heat and let cool. Turn off heat.
Remove the skin from the potato and banana and mash the center in a bowl. Set aside. Place cashews and coconut milk into a high speed bender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add in pumpkin puree, sweet potato, banana, coconut cream, macadamias and vanilla bean paste and blend until smooth and creamy.
Place the tapioca powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, clove and garam masala into a bowl and whisk together to incorporate. Blend with the pie filling. Pour on top of pie crust. Tap down the pie plate to remove any air bubbles. Sprinkle the zest of one lemon and shredded coconut on top. Let set in the fridge overnight. Serve cold.