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12/27/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Maybe Obama Wouldn't Notice There's No Eggs or Cream?

I recently made my first sweet potato pie for a friend's birthday (and also as a subtle nod to Obama's reported declaration that it is his favorite pie).

But I distinctly remember reading somewhere that there's a difference between yams and sweet potatoes and so I was very much stressed out at the grocery store when all I could find were yams. (I even tried to call my mom...because I am a barbarian who does not have an Internet-ready cell phone).

Eventually I had to make an executive decision - it was pie with yams or no pie at all, so I opted for the former. The yams, however, were gigantic and so it took a lot of microwaving to soften them up...and even after the recommended 12 minutes, they were still not quite mushy...but I was impatient and so instead of mashing them by hand, I threw them in my Cuisinart. (I still think there were some lumps. But the birthday boy was nice.)

When I later attempted a vegan spin on the same recipe, however, I used much smaller yams and this made the pie-making process a lot simpler. They were so much easier to scoop out! And this time, post-Cuisinart, there was not a single lump. (But I ended up with so much puree that it felt like I should invest in Jerry Seinfeld's wife's book or launch my own line of baby food a la Diane Keaton in Baby Boom.)

I've long insisted that my Cuisinart is worth its weight in gold for cheesecakes alone. It makes everything so simple - crusts and filling! But, I will admit that when going vegan, there's so much stuff to blend that it was kind of a pain to have to clean it out over and over again.

Plus, between the blended silken tofu that replaced three large eggs and the silken tofu/soy milk/vanilla/sugar combo that I used instead of whipping cream, I was negotiating a lot of bowls...and I even ran out of regular spatulas, so I had to resurrect my Halloween spatula one last time before it was totally seasonally inappropriate to use it anymore.

A brief note on my whipping cream replacement: it was not an easy thing to find. Granted, I didn't do the most extensive research in the world (Hello, Google...), but all I really found was something on About.com - which is what I ultimately used...and I suppose it did the trick. But despite my new positive thinking mantra that "thoughts are things," I was dubious. It just seemed so - and here's that word again - beany.

(I later heard from the folks at the Post Punk Kitchen who recommended using chilled coconut milk with sugar and vanilla. But, alas, their advice came a little too late for this particular pie.)

A brief aside: I'm a pretty high-strung person and I worry incessantly. Baking is one of the few things that actually calms me down. Whenever I'm upset about anything, more times than not, I feel infinitely better after I have baked something. I'm told there's something about the exactness of the measuring that makes you focus on something else and so a lot of people find it therapeutic. (My aunt, for example, lost a baby years ago and wanted to do nothing but bake bread for weeks and weeks afterward.) But...I found myself being a little more loosey-goosey with the measurements here. I needed 16 ounces of silken tofu for my whipping cream replacement, but the boxes of tofu were 12 ounces each...and so I ended up just throwing in whatever was left over from the first blended batch of tofu after I'd scooped out my 3/4 of a cup to stand in for eggs. (Perhaps why it wasn't more therapeutic?)

When everything was mixed together, it was a frothy, almost mousse-like consistency that didn't want to pour. I actually had to scoop it into the crust in heaping spoonfuls. But when I licked the spatula, it tasted like regular sweet potato pie (albeit slightly muted).

It cracked in the oven - much like my cheesecakes always do because I refuse to go to the trouble of using a water bath - but, again, it was a pretty good looking pie in the end. And it went to a good home -- it will be spending Thanksgiving with my yoga-loving friend in Park Slope.

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