Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Sweet Potato Pie Saga

I remember being horribly shocked and disappointed when I found out, oh so many months ago, that I wouldn’t have an oven in China. Once I started thinking about Chinese cuisine, I realized that this made sense—food is steamed or stir-fried, not baked. This is probably one reason, besides the paucity of cheese, that Chinese are generally trim (and in-shape because of all those exercise parks). I, however, am a compulsive baker: cookies, pies, crisps, bread, whatever, I love it and want to bake it and eat it. Soon after the American teachers moved into our building I inherited a super small oven and a crockpot, both of which transformed our eating here from picnic-style to something more like we were used to at home.

About a month ago my mom sent me a pie pan—I had held off requesting one for all that time, thinking that we really didn’t need to eat pies, we could survive 7 months without a pie, right? How wrong I was. The first day after its arrival, I made a quiche. Then another. And then I started obsessing on sweet potato pie. I knew I could make an apple pie anytime—with the help of my supply line (mom) I have cinnamon, from the import warehouse I have awesome New Zealand butter—but with Thanksgiving coming I starting thinking about sweet potato pie. I’ve never been a pumpkin pie gal. I think it’s like Yankees and Red Sox, or coffee and tea, or Mrs. Butterworth’s and pure maple syrup—you’re either one or the other. And for us, it’s sweet potato pie. Sweet potatoes abound in Hohhot; evaporated milk is conspicuously absent. I trolled google for substitutions but when all I got was light cream (none to be found as far I can tell). I started to reconsider the whole thing. Then I stumbled upon a site where someone said it was just plain easy (as pie?) to make evaporated milk—milk powder, water, and butter. I am not a fan of milk powder, it smells weird and I only use it in powder form as an ingredient in something like bread. Desire for pie trumped pickiness and I started searching for milk powder. Finding it now brings this painfully long description to the main point—I made a sweet potato pie yesterday!

Pre-pie sweet potato. That's a brand new pencil--the potato had to be 2 lbs.

I was so eager to try the pie out I cut into it and distributed 3/4s of it before I remembered I hadn't taken a picture of it. Anyway, you get the idea...

The result? Yummy. The best part was that we shared most of it with the American teachers. Isn’t that one of the great things about baking? Yes, eating is great but being able to share your goodies is even better—and it keeps you from eating the rest of the pie after the kids go to bed!


Jennifershmoo said...

Oh, yum!! Sweet potato pie is my favorite, too, although I wouldn't turn my nose up at a pumpkin pie, either. :-9

Haphazardkat said...

Sweet Potato Pie...Mmmmm!!! I remember being at a Thanksgiving Potluck when I was a kid and eating a piece of "pumpkin pie". I thought it was the most wonderful pie I had ever eaten. I spent years after eating Pumpkin pie and wondering "why" it didn't taste like the heavenly pie I had tried as a kid.
One day a coworker came in with a Sweet Potato pie she had just baked. I must admit--when she first told me she was bringing me "Sweet Potato Pie" I thought ew. I don't want something healthy! ha ha ha
I took one bite and yelped, "OH! THAT'S the pumpkin pie I've been looking for all these years!"

Belinda Starkie said...

Bravo! Clearly, persistence pays off. With all those Americans in your walk-up, I clearly have to include the other pie pan in the next box! Soon!

Michelle Ellis said...

I'm a pumpkin gal. Don't get me wrong, I love the sweet potato pie but pumpkin trumps it.

Cleojones said...

I, too, have had cravings for sweet potato pie of late, but mine were satisfied by a local bakery (called It's All Good (and they aren't lying)) in Oakland. This bakery, by the way, is located in the building that was the site of the original Black Panther Party headquarters. I ended up buying 2 pies -- one to bring to the Turkey Day dinner I have been invited to, and one in case I couldn't wait for Turkey Day to come (so far I've been good, but I've had the pies in my possession for fewer than 24 hours). Your blog entry (and picture) is not helping my resolve!!!