Sweet Potato Bars with Date-Pecan Crust and Pecan Cream

Sweet Potato Bars with Pecan Cream by Anna Rosa Oriat Aeschlimann

Makes 9 bars (using a 8’’ x 8’’ x 2’’ baking pan), 1 tart (using a 9-inch tart pan) or 8 custards (using individual ramekins)

This sweet potato dessert can be served as a bar, a pie, or a custard. If you are short on time, opt for the custard as it skips the crust. The pecan cream is a delicious addition to any form of this dessert, but if you are pressed for time feel free to skip it, as the dessert is delicious all by itself.

For the Date-Pecan Crust
Ingredients:
¾ cup rolled oats
¾ cup toasted pecans (1)
9 tablespoons dried Medjool dates, pitted and chopped small
1/16 teaspoon sea salt

(1) Pecans are most delicious when roasted in the oven on a low temperature (225 °F) for several hours: Rinse and drain the nuts, then spread them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Stir every 15 minutes to make sure they roast evenly. The process could take up to 2 hours. If you are short on time, roast the pecans in a cast-iron skillet over a medium flame on the stove top.

To make the crust:
Place the rolled oats, nuts, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the oats and nuts are ground well, but not powdery. Take care not to over process otherwise you will end up with nut butter! Add the chopped dates, 2 tablespoons at a time. Wait until the dates are thoroughly combined with the nuts before adding the next tablespoons. Process until the mixture becomes sticky enough to hold together. Press it into your oiled pan to form the crust.

For the Sweet Potato Filling
Ingredients:
8 cups Jewel sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice (alternatively use 2 cups of sweet potato puree from a package)
About 1 tablespoon coconut oil (omit if using packaged sweet potato puree)
¾ cup lightly brewed, chilled kukicha tea (omit if using packaged sweet potato puree)

¼ teaspoon + 1/16 teaspoon sea salt, divided (omit the extra 1/16 teaspoon if using packaged sweet potato puree)

1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup rice syrup
2 tablespoons almond butter
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon + 1/16 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
2 cups soymilk, divided (if you are sensitive to soy use another plant-based milk, such as almond milk or rice milk. Just make sure that the milk is unsweetened.)
¼ cup agar flakes (2)
4 teaspoons kuzu

(2) A note on agar-agar: Agar-agar is a sea vegetable that is sold in the form of bars, flakes, and powder. This recipe uses agar flakes and agar powder as they are more widely available. The powder is up to five times more concentrated than the flakes, so the two cannot be used interchangeably.

To make the sweet potato filling

Part A: (skip this step if you are using packaged sweet potato puree):

Preheat the oven to 400 °F. Toss the sweet potatoes with the coconut oil and 1/16 teaspoon of the sea salt. Roast for about 30-40 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender and browning slightly. Check every 10 minutes and stir to ensure even roasting. 

Place the sweet potatoes in a food processor and blend, starting on the lowest setting and ending on the highest. Blend until as smooth as possible. You may need to turn the blender off, scrape the sides, and re-blend several times to achieve this. It’s okay if you aren’t able to get them completely smooth.

Measure out 1 cup + 1/3 cup (level) roasted sweet potato puree and soak in the tea for about 1 hour. You will have some extra sweet potato puree. Save this to eat as a snack or as part of a meal later on – it’s delicious.

Part B:
In a small saucepan soak the agar flakes in 1.75 cups of the soymilk for 15 minutes. While you’re waiting for the flakes to soak prepare the other
ingredients. 

Place the soaked sweet potato puree (including the tea) in a high-speed blender along with the maple syrup, rice syrup, almond butter, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg.

In a small measuring cup dissolve the kuzu in ¼ cup of the soymilk. Bring the agar-soymilk mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Stirring constantly prevents the flakes from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan and helps them dissolve evenly. Simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly until the flakes are completely dissolved.

Bring the mixture back to a boil. Stir the kuzu-mixture (as when it sits, the kuzu tends to collect at the bottom). Gradually pour the kuzu into the boiling agar, while stirring constantly. Take care to make sure the kuzu is fully incorporated into the boiling agar before adding more. Once all the kuzu has been added, simmer for 1 minute.

With the blender running on the lowest setting pour the agar-kuzu mixture through the feed tube. Replace the top and blend on the highest setting until completely smooth. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and blend on the lowest setting just to incorporate, about 5 seconds.

Pour the filling over the crust. Let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature, then carefully cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely set, about 1 hour.

For the Pecan Cream

Ingredients:
½ cup toasted pecans
1.25 teaspoons agar powder
1/3 cup chilled kukicha tea
2 tablespoons rice syrup
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla

To make the pecan cream:
In a small saucepan soak the agar powder in 1/3 cup of the chilled kukicha (make sure the kukicha is chilled, otherwise the flakes will not dissolve).

Place the pecans in a small blender (a vitamix will be too large). Blend until you have pecan butter, turning the blender off and scraping the sides as needed. This may take some time. Add the maple syrup, rice syrup, and salt.

Bring the agar-kukicha mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Simmer for 1 minute. Pour the agar mixture into the blender. Blend on the highest setting for 1 minute. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and blend just to incorporate, about 5 seconds.

Pour into a small pyrex container and refrigerate until completely set, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. 

You will now have a very firm mixture. Place the mixture in a blender by the spoonful to help break it up. Blend until completely smooth. This cream is thick and sturdy enough to put through a piping bag. Once the sweet potato filling is set, decorate the top with the pecan cream as you like. Enjoy!