An awesome alternative to pumpkin pie!
I know I said in my first post for Marie-Grace and Cécile that I probably wouldn't get another doll until I got a decent job, but once again providence intervened in my favor, so I probably should just stop saying this is the last one, I swear! I've been impatiently awaiting Addy's arrival, and started looking for something worthy of being her first post on the blog since right after I placed the order, but thanks to work wiping me out and bad timing by the post office, today was the first day I had a chance to sit down and cook in almost a week.
Some of my more eagle eyed readers might notice a familiar book sitting next to Addy, and might be wondering why I didn't look for a recipe somewhere else, after our last adventure with the Party Book didn't exactly go well. Honestly, even with the issue I had making the jam tart cookies, there are still a lot of recipes in the Party Book I want to try! And I'm happy to report that this turned out to be a lot more successful, and overall was a pretty easy dish to make.
Welcome to the group, Addy!
For those of you who don't know, Addy Walker is from 1864, and her series was and is one of my favorites. Addy starts her series as a slave on a plantation, but after her father and older brother are sold away, Addy's mother decides to enact the plan she and her husband had developed to escape to freedom. They find a home in Philadelphia, and are eventually reunited with their family, although not without a cost. Addy also learns that just because she's free doesn't mean she's free from discrimination, and questions why people just accept this as how things are. This is an incredibly important book series, and I'd recommend it to anyone, regardless of age, because it deals with a lot of difficult issues everyone could stand to be more aware of and educated about and is a great starting point to learn more about what life was like to live in a society that said you were free, but often still treated you like something less than an equal citizen.
As much as I love Addy as a character, Ruth Walker is actually probably my favorite character in her series, and probably one of my favorite AG characters in general. Instead of completely collapsing when her family is separated, she takes charge and is willing to secure a better future for her oldest daughter by any means necessary, even though it means leaving their other family - including her infant daughter - behind. After a terrifying escape north, she then finds a job, a place to live and helps make sure her daughter can get the education they were both denied on the plantation, and never loses hope that she'll eventually be reunited with her husband and two other children. She gets her freedom, gets it for her daughter, learns to read and is a successful single parent until she's finally reunited with her husband, which is a really incredible set of accomplishments for someone who lived in a period before equal rights for women or black Americans were on the books, and I've always really looked up to her because of it. It's great to have a company that not only features peers for young girls to look up to, but provides excellent adult female role models as well.
For anyone looking for a more concise summary of Addy's story, or for anyone who likes music and AG, listen to Going to Freedom from the American Girls Revue, although personally I'd recommend grabbing some tissues first. Maybe I'm just a sap.
Which for some reason has Addy in her Christmas dress on the cover.
In every other girl's original cover illustration to their "Happy Birthday" book, they're holding a gift or other significant item in the book close to their face, and while Addy is holding the benne candy M'Dear gives her, it's sitting on her lap. If they'd used the then current illustration for Happy Birthday, Addy!, it would have looked like she wasn't holding anything, whereas she's holding up Ida Bean on the cover of Addy's Surprise just like Sam's got her bear and Molly's got Bennett on their respective birthday books.
I couldn't find the 1997 version of Happy Birthday, Addy!'s cover illustration, but the updated one from 1998 uses the same illustration, just with a different background. You can see how the box of candy would have been completely cut out of the picture if they'd used this illustration.
Feel free to click the images for a higher resolution, although I couldn't find a bigger picture of the Party Book cover.
Moving on for real this time - I promise - I decided I wanted to try out the recipe for mini sweet potato pies. I've always liked tiny versions of food, whether it be real or fake, and this sounded like a neat idea to help encourage portion control, because I've been feeling kind of guilty about how many sweets I've been eating lately.
I started off with four sweet potatoes, but only ended up using two. These were huge sweet potatoes! I tried to pick some at the store that weren't gigantic, but it seemed like they only had big ones.
Next came the spices and the condensed milk. I kind of hate working with condensed milk, because you always have extra, it's hard to store and we just don't use it enough to justify actually keeping it in the house since it's just going to spoil, anyway. Still, I guess it did its job, because the pie was tasty and everything, so I guess I can't complain too much.
So I want to make it clear that I really tried to make these mini pies. I really did! I love small things! But since I wanted to try and recreate the AG dish as closely as possible, especially since I was already fiddling with the baby food, I was going to stick to my guns about having store bought crust. And unfortunately, guess what my lame grocery store did not have?
Mini pastry cups! This was the best I could do, and needless to say I was really disappointed. I really don't like our local grocery store at times, and this was definitely one of those moments.
I was worried that there wouldn't be enough filling to fill both pie crusts, but there would also be too much for just one crust. I managed to get them somewhat equally distributed, but there was still a lot of crust unaccounted for, and the filling didn't rise much in the oven.
The one thing I was pleasantly surprised by was that I figured I would need to adjust the cooking time now that I was making two full sized pies instead of several smaller ones. Most of the other sweet potato pie recipes I looked at online said it would need to cook for about an hour, while the AG mini pies were supposed to cook for about half an hour. I decided to let them cook for half an hour, check on them, and then pop them back in if need be, but I was fully expecting needing to wait the extra thirty minutes for the filling to set.
As it turns out, I didn't! The knife I poked into the filling came out pretty clean after thirty minutes, and the pie was well cooked throughout.
Now, I've always tried to rate American Girl recipes based on how difficult they would be for a child to do with limited help from an adult, and honestly, this is the first one I've made where I genuinely think a ten year old could do most of it with minimal help from a parent. As long as they know how to follow a recipe and measure out ingredients, they should be able to make the filling by themselves, especially if you just use the baby food instead of making your own mashed sweet potatoes. Using pre-made pastry cups or pie crusts also makes this easier for a younger chef, and cuts down on a lot of prep time and hassle that comes along with making your own crust. It would probably take about fifteen minutes to make the filling, and only 30 to bake all the way through, so overall, it's a pretty hassle-free pie.
As for the pie itself, I really didn't know what to expect. I don't love sweet potatoes, and I have to admit, when I was a kid, I probably would have been a hard sell on a sweet potato pie if only because I hear "potato" and think "savory", even though "sweet" is also in the name. But I have to admit, this was really tasty! It had similar flavors to a pumpkin pie - my cousin actually said she thought she couldn't tell the difference between the two - but still tasted like sweet potatoes, and had a potato-y texture to it that definitely made it unique. The filling was kind of light, too, while still being moist, and didn't have the same sort of hard film that some pumpkin pies get on top. We served ours plain, but some whipped cream would probably be tasty, too!
Bottom line, this is a super tasty pie that isn't super hard to make, and it's a recipe that could easily be tackled by any aspiring chefs without turning into a project for mom and dad to finish up for them. I'm super excited to have Addy in the group, and am looking forward to featuring more 1860's recipes in the future!