Gluten Free Sweet Potato Pie with Cookie and Coconut Crust- inspired by Nancie McDermott

I had the pleasure of a lovely conversation with my friend Nancie McDermott, and attained a signed copy of her book Southern Pies before the year ended. The conversation was inspirational, motivating, and full of warmth, just like the author. Having some time to bake and relax for a bit was equally rejuvenating. The pie was delicious, rich, and soothing to this Southern girl's sense of well-being.
Trying a gluten-free or other alternative diet, however necessary or for whatever duration, is not for the trepidacious. I love long grocery trips and idling through the farmer's market in search of, and to be delighted by, fresh produce and surprising items. But some products will try the nerve of the hardiest gourmand adventurer with slipshod ingredients, space-aged preservation techniques, (a loaf of bread with a shelf-life of a year?!), and just plain old nastiness.
Nevertheless, there are times when only homestyle will do, and giving up pie should not be an election! If making your own crumb crust seems too daunting, by all means use some of the gluten-free crusts now available. I've tried a dough crust from Whole Foods market as well as made my own, and both turned out well. Also, this recipe is lighter on sugar, using agave nectar instead. Spices are increased as well. What I loved about the cookie crust were the pecans. It works fine without the nuts, and 1 TB (1/2 fl oz) finely chopped/ground almonds or walnuts can also be used with shortbread cookies if desired instead of pecans.
Now for the pie....are you ready?...

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Pie with Crumb and Coconut Crust

For the crust:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Crush 9-12 gluten free pecan sandies or shortbread cookies, in a large mixing bowl.
Add 1/4 cup (2 fl oz) frozen or freshly grated (not shredded) coconut and 2TB (or 1fl oz) of softened butter or coconut oil and mix well.

If the grain of the coconut is not fine enough, try pulsing it in a blender or food processor first. This crust works well if the grating is fine, like graham cracker crumbles. Also, the additional working brings out the natural moisture of the coconut.

Pat crust into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan first.
If using fewer cookies, the crust covers the bottom only. If using more cookies, it will come up the sides. I used few cookies and the filling surprisingly stood alone well with a chewy, crusty base.

Prebake the crust in the bottom of your greased pie pan on 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside for the filling, allowing it to cool slightly.

Two large cooked sweet potatoes (at least 20-24 oz of sweet potatoes, mashed)
3 eggs beaten lightly but thoroughly blended

1TB cocnut oil or butter, softened
3/4 cup agave nectar (can use honey also)
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon if available)
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1-2 TB almond milk (add one Tablespoon at a time and stir well, optional for creaminess)

For filling directions:
Combine all filling ingredients well in a large stainless steel or non-reactive mixing bowl. The gluten-free filling will be very thick and smooth with the eggs mixed well in the bowl.
 The sweet potatoes will be a shade browner with the spices and not much added milk, (if any), in this recipe. The cooking time will be slightly longer and milk would change the consistency during prolonged cooking without sugar.

Just to be on the safe side, rub an additional tablespoon of coconut oil or butter around the sides and edges of the pan, especially if not using a side crust, to keep the filling/crust from sticking to the pan when cutting.
Using a large rubber spatula, empty the bowl onto the pre-baked crust. The pan itself should have cooled down to just barely warm or room temperature.

Smooth out the top of the pie; make sure the pie filling sits evenly for uniform baking.
Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes, and check for doneness after 40 minutes.
If the pie is done, it will be nice and firm with a smooth top and a skewer or fork inserted in the middle will come out cleanly without residue. The pie will have come away from the edges slightly and 'stand alone' in a compact circle. This makes it easy to slice and plate, because the pie will not stick to the sides. 

The coconut and nuts in the cookie crust are a great way to skip gluten and add flavor!
Big thanks to Nancie McDermott and her recipes for sweet potato pie, crumb and dough crusts, for being the inspiration to get the ball rolling!

If you have not done so already; check out her book Southern Pies and I am sure you will not be disappointed. So much of Nancie’s ebullient personality comes across to the pie-loving audience! As a food historian, this classy lady does the legwork for the reader and brings so many time-honored recipes, histories, and traditions home to roost in a beautiful, and easy-to-understand format. I think my favorite quote comes from the rhubarb pie recipe in reference to the sugar… if you read her book, you will know what I mean…

Happy Baking!
from Deelish!


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