With a pie crust pressed into a baking pan, a cozy sweet potato filling, and toasted marshmallows, these sweet potato marshmallow pie bars are everything a Thanksgiving dessert should be: easy AND insanely delicious!
Ah Thanksgiving! The most glorious [and legitimate] food holiday of the year!
The holiday when you can justify mostly sides as a meal. No? Just me?
Thanksgivings of Days Gone By
The Thanksgiving dinners of my childhood were always pretty formal: cocktails and appetizers, a giant turkey with homemade gravy and allll the sides, and a slew of pies, ice cream, whipped cream, and liqueurs to finish off the night.
We got dressed up; the men in suits and ties, the women in holiday dresses. When I was 5, I was forced to wear my kindergarten pilgrim outfit from our school’s Thanksgiving feast. Where’s the eyeroll emoji when you need it?
Aprons were donned. Film cameras were readied. The folding card table was pulled from the basement or garage and dusted off to create the kids’ table. Placecards were created and set atop the formal china bread plates.
And you know the deal: after days of stress and preparation, the meal was over in a snap. Poof! That gorgeous turkey shredded to pieces. Crescent rolls devoured.
Gravy droplets all over the tablecloth. Red wine spilled on the rug.
Then maybe after a snooze and a walk, bring on the desserts! Can’t fit any more food it?
Well, it’s just pie – there’s always room for pie!
Our pies were pretty basic – pumpkin and apple (always both) and maybe a pecan pie for good measure. Some years there would be a trifle. Sweet potato pie, however, never ever made it to our dessert table.
Southern Sweet Potato Pie in the North
And I’m not sure if it was too much of a “Southern dessert” for my New York family or if no one was a big fan of sweet potato pie. Or if it was too close of a relative to pumpkin pie. I just don’t know.
What I DO know is with my very first introduction to sweet potato pie being these sweet potato marshmallow pie bars, I may never go back to pumpkin pie again. Not that I was ever a big fan to begin with! See also: my bourbon pumpkin tart recipe.
My goodness – there’s no comparison between sweet potato and pumpkin pies!
Where the flavor of pumpkin pie can sometimes be a little cloying and overly pumpkin spice-y, these sweet potato marshmallow pie bars are just sweet enough to still be able to taste the sweet potato flavor.
Fresh or Canned Sweet Potatoes for Sweet Potato Pie Bars?
You can go 2 ways with making these sweet potato marshmallow pie bars: the quick way or the long way.
Both ways are easy, but in my opinion, sometimes you just need to maximize your time strategy and get shit made.
If that involves using candied yams or canned sweet potato puree over baking sweet potatoes, then so be it. I used candied yams and these bars were DELICIOUS. You can see my notes about this below in the recipe card.
If you want to bake your own sweet potatoes or yams, you’ll need to scoop out the cooked sweet potato and puree it. For this recipe, you need about 1 ½ cups of puree so plan on making 3 medium to large sweet potatoes.
The cinnamon and nutmeg just peek out enough to remind you that this is a really excellent fall dessert! Dare I say one that can hold its own on the Thanksgiving dessert table with the best of ’em, right along side some apple slab pie with its homemade all butter crust?
For the crust:
- 1½ cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (60 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons; 4½ ounces; 128 grams) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 large egg yolk
For the filling and topping:
- 1 15-oz can (about 1½ cups; 425 grams) sweet potato puree or canned candied yams, drained (see note below)
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
- ¼ to ½ cup (50 to 100 grams) packed light brown sugar (see note below)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
- 1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- ¼ tsp fine sea salt
- 2 ½ cups mini marshmallows
- Preheat oven to 400° F and center a rack in the oven. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Tear off a 16-inch piece of a aluminum foil and grease one side - you'll need this to par-bake the bottom crust. Have a pound of dry beans or your pie weights ready.
- To make the crust: Add the flour and sugar to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and pulse briefly to combine. Drop the butter pieces into the bowl and pulse a few times to cut the butter into coarse pieces. In 3 additions, pour in the egg yolk, pulsing between each addition. Once all of the yolk has been added, process in 10 second increments until the dough forms large clumps and comes together easily in your fingers when squeezed.
- Scatter the dough in the prepared pan and press into an even layer with your fingers. Prick the dough all over with a fork to prevent puffing while baking. Place the greased side of foil on top of the dough and cover the foil with dry beans or pie weights in an even layer. Wipe out but don't wash the processor bowl.
- Bake for 10 minutes then remove the beans/pie weights and foil and bake for another 5 minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly. Leave the oven on.
- Meanwhile, make the filling. Add all of the filling ingredients except the marshmallows to processor bowl and process until smooth. (If you're using canned candied yams or chunked sweet potatoes, puree them first and then add the other ingredients and process until smooth.) Take the bowl off the machine and tap it a couple times on the counter to release any air bubbles. Pour the filling over the crust and smooth it out to the edges.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center no longer jiggles when the pan is gently shimmied and a toothpick comes out mostly clean from the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. The bars can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. Depending on how you wish to serve them, move to the next step when you're ready to serve.
- Preheat the broiler with the top rack 6 inches below the broiler unit. Scatter the marshmallows over the top of the filling. Slip the pan under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until the marshmallows are nicely toasted. Watch them carefully - they will burn easily! Slice the bars into 16 pieces and serve while the marshmallows are still warm and gooey.
Do ahead: These bars can be made and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance. Hold off on toasting the marshmallows until you're ready to serve the bars - the marshmallows will soften and lose their flavor in the fridge and nobody likes a mushy, flavorless marshmallow!
Storage: The bars keep well in the fridge for a few days - the marshmallows, while less than desirable, are still edible - so you can certainly include them in your pre-holiday prep. If you go this route, don't toast the marshmallows on top until you're ready to serve the bars. You want the marshmallows crispy and toasty when you serve these bars and fridge time will zap the toasted marshmallows of both of these qualities. It only takes 2 minutes under the broiler to toast them so it's a quick option when you're serving them to guests.
When shopping for this recipe, I couldn't find canned sweet potato puree so I went with canned candied yams instead and reduced the brown sugar in the filling by half (i.e. ¼ cup or 50 g brown sugar). You'll see these adjustments listed as options above. I suppose you could also just look for canned sweet potatoes of the chunked or un-pureed variety and then just puree them like I did the candied yams, so I'll leave that up to your discretion.
adapted from Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
OXO Good Grips Non-Stick Pro Cake Pan Square 9 x 9 Inch
Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless Steel
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