And just like that it’s December. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always throws me for a loop and it is always packed with work - everyone (including me) scrambling to tie up loose ends and finish projects before everyone vanishes until the New Year.
I spend a lot of evenings in the kitchen during these weeks, making cookies and treats to send to friends and family that live across the country, a task I lovingly call “elfing”. I channel my inner Buddy and pull out my sprinkles and sugar and most importantly, I pull out the best Organic Valley cultured butter. For this recipe, I browned that butter, which transforms it into a rich and nutty base for decadent sweet potato squares - a riff on the classic sweet potato pie.
Pecans and sweet potatoes are longtime friends. They have been paired together in many-a-casserole, topped with marshmallows and toasted to be served alongside a holiday meal and that’s all fine and good, but in these bars the flavor of those ingredients really shine. Toasted pecans are folded into a rich shortbread with a hefty pinch of salt, and all that browned butter, of course. The roasted sweet potatoes are enhanced with just a touch of maple syrup, a pour of heavy cream, and just a bit of creme fraiche to add a tangy note that helps balance the sweetness of the swirly meringue top – a vast improvement on marshmallows from a bag if you ask me.
This post was sponsored by Organic Valley - You can visit this link for a coupon to pick up your own Organic Valley butter and cream. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Apt. 2B Baking Co, all opinions are my own, and you know I love butter!
BROWNED BUTTER SWEET POTATO PIE SQUARES
makes about 16 squares
Nutty browned butter and toasted pecans are the perfect pair in the shortbread that is the base for this twist on sweet potato pie. The recipe as written makes a thicker than average shortbread base, and you can see in the photos that there are just about equal parts crust and filling, which I happen to love. For a thinner base and lower crust to filling ratio, the shortbread recipe can be cut in half. Also, it should be noted that the buttery pecan shortbread is totally fantastic on it's own! Just bake until golden all over, about 20-25 minutes rather than par baking. Happy Butter Season!
1 cup pecans
1 cup, plus 3 Tablespoons Organic Valley Cultured Unsalted Butter
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups roasted, pureed sweet potatoes
6 tablespoons maple syrup
3/4 cup Organic Valley Heavy Cream
1/2 cup crème fraiche
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 egg whites
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350ºF and line a 9x9 baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet in an even layer and toast in the oven until golden and fragrant. Cool slightly then pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
While the pecans are toasting, brown the butter. In a light colored saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until the butter foams. Continue cooking until the foam subsides and the butter is golden in color and smells nutty and fragrant. Transfer the butter to a mixing bowl to cool, set aside 3 tablespoons of the browned butter for the filling.
When the butter has cooled, stir in the flour, sugar, vanilla, salt, and toasted ground pecans. Pat the dough evenly into the prepared pan and bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.
While the crust is baking prepare the filling by whisking the reserved browned butter along with all of the other filling ingredients until smooth. Pour the filling over the warm crust and put the pan back into the oven. Cook until the filling is set, but slightly wiggly in the center, about 30 minutes.
Just before the bars are finished baking make the meringue. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the mixture together until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are very warm to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Beat in the vanilla and salt.
Top the warm, baked sweet potato filling with swoops of meringue and toast with a culinary torch or under a hot broiler for a few seconds. Cool completely, cut into squares and serve. Keep extra bars in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days, the crust will soften as it sits.