Pie. Why bake Pie? In my book, (that big imaginary volume called “The Big Camont Cookbook”) Pie or the French version-une tarte- is the most rewarding of all treats. The smell of the baking butter, the pastry crunch, the butter, the slightly sweet and soft texture of cooked fruit, and the perfectly happy butter pastry crust are reward enough for a short time spent in the kitchen.
This sweet pie, essentially a classic sweet potato pie, was created for a dinner of friends last week. In my last minute ‘let’s make it happen’ madness, I consulted a few online recipes and then made my own path. I roasted some sweet potatoes (amazingly grown in my own garden this summer!) and tossed in the last remaining quince from the fruit bowl. I hate that things go to waste, that there is one small, measly, remaining-something-from-a-large bowl. I always try to use up the last lemon, the lone apple, the meager bunch of carrots bought last week. So along with the potatoes that I cut in halves and placed face down on a sheet pan, I placed the halved quince as well to roast.
When asked to tell why I do what I do, what makes me get up every morning, or why I bother to write this all down, I think of something as simple as that gesture of placing the last quince in the pie. Almost instinctual, a learned habit of looking at what’s around me, I enjoy the process of thinking how one added new element elevates this simple recipe found on a thousand sites and in as many kitchens this Thanksgiving season.
Making a recipe your own happens easily when you stock your kitchen with thoughtful products. Two of the four quince I bought at the market became part of a kale salad that John D. made when he was cheffing his way around my kitchen all last month. One quince got poached in a light syrup and has been steeping in the fridge; I will now add that to the some holiday chutney. And that last quince that I baked alongside the sweet potatoes added just enough perfumed plus to the filling. Other than using an already open 14 oz. can of condensed milk (with enough sugar for my taste) I add no additional sugar. What a happy accident!
The summer sweet potatoes and the quince, brightened with a squeeze of lemon, a splash of armagnac/vanilla extract (I make my own), and a couple farm fresh eggs were enough a perfect marriage. I added some fine cornmeal to the flour and butter to make a slightly more textured and nutty crust. Soon this pie was my own—inspired by tradition and elaborated by my own touch to create a dense rich dessert as festive as my table.
Although I didn’t ‘follow’ a recipe, I do make note of my ingredients. Give this a whirl and add your own touches!
Sweet Potato & Quince Pie
Recipe for one pie
All butter cornmeal crust:
150 gr all-purpose flour
100 gr fine cornmeal flour
125 sweet butter, torn into small pieces
a pinch of salt
1 egg for egg wash
Mix all the ingredients except the egg together, roll out, and place in a deep dish pie pan or terra cotta gratin pan like I use. Make a fluted edge high enough to hold the filling. Brush with egg wash and let dry while preparing the filling
Sweet Potato and Quince FIlling
sweet potatoes - two-3 very large potatoes- about 1.5 kilo or 3 lbs. Roasted until soft and peel removed
1 or 2 quince, apple, or pear. Roasted until soft and cored and peeled
1 can evaporated milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon of “The Secret” flavoring* or good vanilla extract
Mix all of the ingredients together and whisk or blend together until smooth.
Pour into pastry crust and bake in an moderate oven at 350’ for 45-55 min until the filling is set and barely jiggly. Let cool or refrigerate overnight, serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or crème fraîche. Enjoy and give thanks!
*Steep some vanilla beans in armagnac, add some rum, and orange flower water. Let sleep together for awhile. Eh Voila- Le Secret!