When I was small, and my mother would talk about things that happened before I was born, I would always ask, “Where was I then?” And she would always answer “you were in the mind of God.” I never tired of the mystery of what that might possibly mean, and how people and things in this world could go from “there” to being “here.” That I was “there” even when she didn’t know I was. This recipe is one of those gifts. It isn’t something I knew I always wanted to make, or that I would even think about making. But when my friend Jeanne described a lime cheesecake with cranberry sauce she made for Thanksgiving, this little gem of a pie recipe came forward from wherever in the great mystery of things it had been biding its time.
At first I thought I would try to approximate a very white cheesecake look with the sweet potatoes. But then I realized I wanted to overcome my inner cheapskate to follow the example of my good friend Cathy Fisher at Straight Up Food and sweeten this pie with dates instead of white sugar. (Fresh organic medjool dates shipped to our co-op from California are exquisite but pricey. I usually eat them one at a time like caramels.) That was the decision that gave this pie its individual destiny. It wouldn’t be like a date sweetened pumpkin pie, but it wouldn’t be quite like a vegan cheesecake either. It would be well, something altogether unique.
The tastes I wanted in the crust came to me as Romeo and I made our morning rounds on Paradise Creek trail . Being the One Woman Council on the Wonders of Millet, of course I wanted to take my cobbler topping and cookie recipe into the realm of pie crust. I felt certain that my homemade pear sauce, almonds, and almond extract would be good together with millet in a crust.
When I made this pie, I thought it was a flop. I thought maybe it was too plain, and that I had not made quite enough filling. I thought the cranberry sauce was not transparent enough. I burned the edges of the crust a bit, so I thought the pie would not photograph well. But I took the photos anyway, disappointed with each one as it flashed across the screen afterwards. So I didn’t plan on blogging about it, or even sharing it with anyone. When a friend walked in while it was cooling and said it looked good, I told her it was a no-go.
But I was wrong. The pie tasted wonderful. And it got better the next day after chilling. And the next. The delicate lacing of lime and vanilla in the filling went perfectly with the sweet potato and dates. The texture was velvety and unique. And the cranberry topping was indeed an exciting complement, even if it wasn’t transparent. And the photos, when I went to delete them all, were better than I had thought. And then I got brave enough to share a couple of slices with my neighbor Ashley. She said it had just the right amount of sweetness and the cranberries gave it just the right amount of tartness.
The things that I thought were mistakes turned out to be blessings. It didn’t need to be completely covered with the cranberry topping. It just needed a nice smattering of that in the center, so the filling could stand alone near the crust.
Whenever I create something new, I like that I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. And I like it even better when it overturns my curmudgeonly tendency to assume it’s not coming out the way I think it should. Like all things waiting in the mind of God, this pie surprised me. Most surprising and wonderful of all is how healthy it is, and how easy to digest. And oh, how delicious. So magical these 3 thing can actually go together. If only we trusted what inspiration comes to us each day from the Great Mystery, or mind of God, whatever you want to call it, life would truly be a feast.
White Sweet Potato Lime Pie with Cranberry Topping
1 cup cooked millet
1/2 cup gluten-free oats (for a completely oat-free version, see below)
1/2 cup almonds
3 tbs homemade date paste (directions below)
1/4 cup pear or apple sauce
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Put almonds in the food processor and process until well chopped. Add to all the other ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Combine everything. Press into a pie plate, working from the center out to the sides. (Dipping fingers in cold water helps the crust mixture not to stick to them.) Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes, until slightly golden.
To make your own date paste: pit about 12-13 medjool dates. Place them in an small saucepan covered with water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until dates are softened. Pour it all into food processor and process into a smooth paste. This is Chef AJ‘s method for making homemade date syrup, but I find this doesn’t really make a true syrup. Instead it makes a paste that is much lighter and less processed than the darker stickier date syrup available in stores. This amount of dates will make enough for both crust and pie, possibly with a little left over, depending on the size of the dates and the amount of water. Whatever is left over will store well in a covered jar in the fridge.
If you can’t eat oats of any kind, gluten free or otherwise, try making this with all cooked millet. The crust will be a bit more delicate and you might have to cook it a few minutes longer initially, but I think it will still taste great with the filling and the topping.
1 1/2 cups baked white sweet potato and/or Japanese sweet potato (I used a combination of the two types)
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup date paste (see recipe above in the crust section)
1-2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp vanilla extract (or more to taste)
1/2-1 tbs lime juice
1/4 cup potato or tapioca starch (I used potato)
In a food processor, combine almond milk and starch and process briefly. Add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth. Pour into cooled crust. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before topping with the cranberry topping.
1 small pkg of organic cranberries ( 7 oz)
1/2 tsp anise extract
1/4 cup water
2 tbs date paste
1-2 tbs apple juice concentrate
1 tbs Frangelico liqueure (optional but good)
Place all ingredients but the Frangelico in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer, stirring frequently until the cranberries have softened. May will “pop” open, so be careful. When it tastes and looks like a compote, it’s done. Turn off the heat. Stir in the Frangelico. Let it cool completely.
When the pie and the cranberries are completely cooled, Spoon the filling onto the top of the pie in the center, spreading it outward. It will not quite cover the whole pie, but will make a bright red circle in the center. The pie will slice and can be served at this point, but it’s even better if you are able to chill it for a few hours first.
If you don’t want to burn the edges of the crust like I did, you can place little aluminum foil tents around the edges while the pie is baking. Just be careful that they don’t touch the filling. Cathy Fisher’s got a neat video for how she does this when making pumpkin pie, and how she rolls out the crust, if you’d like to try her methods.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!