When I go to Dietsch's (dee-chez) ice cream parlor in Findlay, Ohio with my grandpa, I know for certain that he will order a scoop of black walnut. Eric never eats dessert, but if key lime pie is on the menu, he will make an exception. For my mom, a bowl of fresh red raspberries is the only way to end a meal.
As far as desserts and especially ice cream go, I've never been associated with a single signature flavor. Coconut or chocolate, mango or mocha--it all depends on the mood that I'm in. When I was a little girl, a special trip to Baskin Robbins was never a quick affair, due to the difficult process of narrowing down 31 delectable possibilities. I usually ended up with something swirled, which in my mind meant that I'd beaten the system ("the system" being my mom and her allowance of only one scoop) , because a swirled flavor was actually 2 flavors in one. Genius!
Even today, I stand at the Golden Spoon frozen yogurt counter, offering those behind me my place in line as I contemplate which of their many flavors sound most appealing. Seasonal Pumpkin Pie or Eggnog perhaps? Oooh look! They have Vanilla Malt.......and Cake Batter! Peanut Butter is one of my favorites though.....as is Pistachio.....and Peppermint Stick. You see my predicament.
The good folks at Golden Spoon allow guests to sample varieties before they make their decisions, but now that I've been there enough times for each and every one of them to recognize me, I think that they know that I have already tried everything, multiple times. My sampling for a quick flavor fix days are over. The jig is up. Luckily, I have learned that those talented employees can squeeze up to four flavors into 1 take-home quart, so this significantly reduces my decision-making dilemma. I'm sure that they draw straws when they see me coming up the walk--short straw must wait on me (for the record, I do always tip for their trouble.)
Holiday dinners, parties, and dinner-parties always present the same sort of challenge. Too many desserts, not enough room left in my stomach. Ideally, I could take a piece of each selection and only take one bite, but I'm sure that Emily Post declares that to be improper etiquette somewhere in her book. This recipe might just be the answer for those of you who, like me, have a tough time deciding on dessert. For starters, it combines the ingredients of two traditional holiday pies, sweet potato and pecan, in each rich slice. But wait, there's more! Instead of a dollop of whipped cream, why not accessorize this dual dessert with a third layer of flavor? Creamy, homemade spiced maple nut ice cream serves as the perfect crowning touch. Of course if you only want ice cream or pie, you can do that as well......but I know that I'd never be able to decide between the two! Here are my extra tips for preparing this tempting pair of post-turkey treats:
- This is a great recipe to make ahead: The ice cream can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the freezer until ready to serve. The pie crust dough can be made 2 days in advance, wrapped, and stored in the refrigerator. The pie itself can be baked one day in advance.
- Blind baking is the process during which the unbaked chilled pie shell is lined with foil, filled with pie weights, and then partially bakes (par-baked.) This ensures that the shell retains its shape and does not slip down the sides of the pan. If you do not have pie weights, use uncooked rice or dried beans instead.
- Brushing the par-baked crust with egg whites helps to prevent a soggy crust. The egg white forms a layer that keeps the filling separate from the crust.
- If you find that the rim of the crust is becoming too dark during the baking process, shield it with foil.
- If you want to make your ice cream extra decadent, prepare a pecan or walnut brittle, chop it, and add it as a substitute for the chopped pecans. Use my recipe for peanut brittle, substituting chopped nuts of your choice.
- Grade B maple syrup is darker and has a deeper maple flavor than Grade A or "Fancy" varietals. It may also be referred to as "medium amber" maple syrup, and it is usually less expensive than Grade A/Fancy.
- If you don't have maple sugar, then substitute light brown sugar. Maple extract can be replaced by vanilla. Keep in mind that, if you replace both of these ingredients, the maple flavor will be less pronounced.
- If you don't have vanilla beans, which can be expensive, you can substitute 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract. Add the vanilla extract when you add the rum.
- The cream in the ice cream recipe can be replaced with half and half for a lighter ice cream.
- If you prefer, you can replace the mashed sweet potatoes with 1 cup pumpkin puree to make a pumpkin pecan pie.
- Depending on the depth of your pie plate, you might have a bit of the corn syrup mixture left over--do not overfill the pie shell.
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie with Spiced Maple-Nut Ice Cream
Sweet Potato Pecan Pie
For the pie crust:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cubed
4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
5 tablespoons ice water mixed with 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
For the pie filling:
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Prepare the pie crust: In the work bowl of a food processor, add the flour, sugar and salt; pulse to blend. Scatter the shortening and butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse until they are the size of small peas, 8-10 pulses. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and add sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the ice water mixture over the top. Stir the mixture together, adding 1 more tablespoon water if necessary, until the mixture begins to form moist clumps. Turn the tough out onto a surface and gently knead a few times until it comes together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate by rolling the dough around the rolling pin and then unrolling it over the pan. Ease the dough into the pan and trim it to a 1-inch overhang. Fold the overhang under itself and decoratively flute the rim. Freeze the pie crust until firm, 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line the pie shell with foil or parchment paper, shielding the fluted rim, and distribute pie weights over the foil. Bake the crust until the dough looks and light in color, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and the weights, return the crust to the oven, and bake the pie shell for 5-6 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven. Whisk the 2 egg whites until frothy and then brush the hot crust with a coat of the egg whites. Set the crust aside to cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 350F degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 2 egg yolks, sweet potatoes, brown sugar, butter, cream, 1 teaspoon vanilla, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Mix until smooth and well combined. Spread the mixture in an even layer in the bottom of the pie shell. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the sweet potato mixture. Lay the pecan halves in a flat circle around the perimeter.
Combine the sugar and the 2 large eggs in a medium bowl, whisking until well combined. Whisk in the corn syrup, melted butter, and the remaining 1 teaspoon vanilla. Pour the mixture over the pecan layer.
Bake at for 45-55 minutes, until the pie is set, golden brown, and puffy. Let cool on a wire rack. Serve with a generous scoop of Spiced Maple-Nut Ice Cream!
Spiced Maple-Nut Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup maple sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (Grade B, if possible)
2 tablespoons dark rum
1 teaspoon maple extract
1 1/2 cups chopped, lightly toasted pecans
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. In a medium saucepan, add the seeds, vanilla bean halves, milk, cream, maple sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, remove the pan from the heat, and let the mixture steep for 45 minutes.
Combine the egg yolks and salt in a large bowl and whisk to blend. Return the milk mixture to a simmer and stir in the maple syrup until dissolved. While whisking the yolks, gradually drizzle the hot milk/syrup mixture into the bowl, so that the yolks are gradually warmed. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The custard is done when it has thickened enough to coat the back of the spoon. Do not let the mixture come to a boil!
Strain the custard through a mesh sieve into a glass or metal bowl, discarding the vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks. Stir in the rum and maple extract. Place the bowl over another bowl filled with ice and let rest, stirring occasionally, until cold.
Transfer the mixture to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions, adding the chopped nuts during the last few minutes of freezing. Place the finished ice cream in a storage container and freeze until firm.