Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Bars
A couple of months back I began a series called the Joy of Baking at my Small Pleasures Catering blog. Little did I realize then I was unleashing my inner pastry chef, and that once unleashed, she would be hard to hide away again. I’ve always loved to bake, and it was my specialty at culinary school, but in the last few years most of my family members-and many of my clients- have to begun to grapple with blood sugar problems. It’s just that time of life, I guess. But there’s still room for a dessert buffet every once on a while, and really, it’s just not a party without great dessert, right? So when I started planning the recent LA Helps LA event, my little pastry girl jumped at the chance to indulge herself.
Because the event was focused on the Gulf Coast region, but held for those of us in Los Angeles, I wanted to create a buffet of sweet treats that captured and capitalized on both my New Orleans and Los Angeles experience. The menu included a Chocolate Truffle Cake (it’s become one of my and my family’s favorites), Mini Lemon Curd Tarts, a Blackberry Cheesecake (okay- cheesecake- not so big in Louisiana, but blackberries grow wild there, and your LA to LA Chef did spend a good amount of time in New York City) and a Fig Frangipane Tart (figs are abundant in both southern Louisiana and southern California, and in a stroke of synchronicity, Rachael of LaFujimama, one of the participating bloggers, convinced the California Fig Advisory Board to donate a flat of figs for the event). The typically New Orleans desserts, though, were Bread Pudding (the quintessential New Orleans dessert) with Caramel Bourbon Sauce, Pecan Pralines (there’ll be a great story coming up about them soon), and Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Squares.
Sweet Potato Pie is a southern classic, as is Pecan Pie. Marrying the spicy, dense sweet potato custard with the gooey, dark sweetness of pecan pie filing- well, that’s a stroke of genius. I don’t know if Paul Prudhomme was the first to do so, but he’s the one who brought my attention to this treat, in his seminal cook book, Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen. Pie can be a bit tricky on a self serve buffet, so I adapted his recipe, making a pie/cookie bar. I urge you to give this recipe a try- soon. After all, it’s fall, and the markets are full of wonderful sweet potatoes. Try the Beauregard variety, a Louisiana native with a deep orange flesh, and widely available this time of year. Recipe follows: