Sugar, in many of its forms, cannot be a part of my diet. This limitation has lead to some interesting kitchen experimentation. Those with sugar allergies like mine, really shouldn’t have anything sweet at all, but dessert can be an inevitable part of a special occasion, special occasions like Thanksgiving for example. Pumpkin pie particularity was my favorite food growing up and I used to eat it ferociously every Thanksgiving (I have a clear memory of one Thanksgiving sneaking one slice too many and throwing up on my dad’s shoes). What can I say? I love food, and sometime I let that love get a little out of hand. Making pies with my mom has been a tradition for a while. The good news for people with food allergies like mine is that there are low glycemic index sweeteners, and while they are not ideal, they are much better than good old fashioned sugar. Cafe Gratitude, the raw food restaurant, makes maybe the best desserts I’ve ever had, and their desserts are vegan, raw, and sweetened with any of the following- dates, agave nectar, and yacon syrup.
The question is- can I re-create these pies and be able to partake in Thanksgiving pie feasting? How will my family feel about these raw vegan pies? I decided the best thing to do would be to try and make them the week before and see how they turn out. The plan was to make a pecan and a pumpkin pie- whichever one turns out best I will make for my family and make a traditional version of the losing pie. Keeping the traditionalists happy.
Here’s how it went (for the full recipes, see the end of this post):
To make the crust for the pecan pie I blended 2 3/4 cups of macadamia nuts in my food processor. The recipe warned to not blend too much- the nuts would release an oil making a more liquid than dough-like consistency. Ignoring this warning I went ahead and blended too much, and made a mixture more like liquid and less like dough. To combat this, I added some quinoa flour to make this substance more doughy; this worked pretty well. I pressed this nut dough into the pie tin. I’d recommend greasing your pie tin with some coconut oil first. Note: the blended macadamia nuts made an absolutely-delicious-way-better-than-butter spread. In and of itself, an amazingly delicious sugar free desert.
After the macadamia nut adventure I got to work on the filling. I followed the recipe and blended the ingredients including something called Irish moss. I poured the filling into the crust and stuck the pie in the fridge to chill. Done.
Apparently Irish Moss is a seaweed that is utilized to bind raw desserts. I tried to buy fresh Irish Moss at Rainbow Grocery but they were out, so I bought dry Irish Moss instead.
The pumpkin pie recipe called for butternut squash instead of pumpkin. I bought a pumpkin anyway, cut it in half, removed the seeds and stuck it in the oven for a good long while. Yes, this pie is no longer raw, but sugar is my main concern here not raw food living.
I made a crust, this time by blending pecans, dates, vanilla and salt. It was good, but the macadamia nut crust had set the bar much much higher.
Pumpkin pie is essentially pumpkin + sugar + milk + egg + cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger. At least I can include all of the spices- and that’s a big part of where the taste comes from. Instead of milk, I used coconut milk (from a bottle, but I vowed to use an actual coconut if I made this pie again), lecithin is used instead of egg (a soy product that binds like egg and is available at Rainbow), and agave is added instead of sugar. Also thrown in is some coconut butter- I tried the mixture before and after, the coconut butter made a huge yumminess difference. (Coconut butter by itself makes a totally delicious low sugar dessert. I like to heat some up in the microwave every now and then.) The filling was quite tasty, and I ended up eating quite a bit of it before spooning the rest into the crust and sticking it in the fridge. Done.
Which dessert was better? Were either of them good? Taste got an A. Consistency- an F.
The pies were pretty much soup. All three of my roommates agreed it was tasty soup, but soup none the less. Roommate #2 commented that “They are good as long as you change your definition of what constitutes a pie.” Could I serve this soup pie to my family? Well the interesting thing is that the pumpkin pie, left in the fridge over night firmed up to a reasonable level. And it’s also possible that fresh Irish moss really would make a big difference to the pecan pie (I’m pretty sure that the dry moss didn’t make any difference at all). The pecan pie was generally agreed upon to be the tastiest. (Although we all agreed that some whipped cream would greatly improve the pumpkin pie.) So this Thursday I’ll be making a raw pecan pie and a regular pumpkin pie. Roommate # 3 suggested I make the pecan pie in a square pan- presenting the dessert in a the different format would take away the suggestion of a pie, thereby lowering consistency expectations. The idea being that in a square tin everyone would think, oh what a delicious liquid souffle thing, as opposed to, why is this pie all liquidity? I absolutely see the merit in this suggestion, but I think I’m going to be bold and try it again in a pie tin and hope the fresh Irish moss does its job. Check back to see how this goes.
Happy Thanksgiving from Amyitis!!! (A true harvest holiday.)
The Recipes (From the Cafe Gratitude Cookbook):
2 3/4 cup of macadamia nuts
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 ounces of Irish Moss
1/2 cup of water
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 cup of pecans
1 1/4 cups well-packed finely chopped dates
1 tablespoon yacon syrup
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of pecans
Process the macadamia nuts and salt to a dough-like consistency. (Do not over-process or the macadamias will release too much oil.) Press into a 9-inch pie pan.
Blend Irish moss with water and agave until smooth. Set aside. Food process pecans until a paste-like consistency is achieved. To this add your blended ingredients, as well as vanilla, yacon syrup, and salt; process again until smooth. While processing add the chopped dates in small amounts until smooth. Spoon mixture into crust. Top with pecans. Chill in fridge for 10-15 minutes.
2 1/2 cups pecans
1/4 cup well-packed, finely chopped dates
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 cups butternut squash (shredded and medium-packed)
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teablespoon vanilla
2 pinches salt
2 teaspoons ginger powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
2 tablespoons lecithin
1/2 + 2 tablespoons raw unscented coconut butter
1/2 cup pecans
Process pecans, vanilla, and salt briefly. Continue processing while adding small amounts of date until crust sticks together. Press into a greased (with coconut oil) 9-inch pie pan.
Blend all ingredients except lecithin and coconut butter until smooth. Then add lecithin and coconut butter, blending until well incorporated. Pour into prepared crust and set in fridge/freezer (about 30-40 minutes). Once set, decorate with pecans.