Purple Sweet Potato Pie

Purple Sweet Potato Pie | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

Purple Sweet Potato Pie with a mound of an Italian meringue inspired by Esther Williams (anyone younger than me will have to google her). I was gifted a box of super fun produce by my friend Chadwick Boyd and in the selection from Frieda’s were a pair of bright purple sweet potato. I knew immediately that they would be pie. With Thanksgiving just a couple days away, how could my mind go anywhere else with such a fun bounty. The real surprise came with the topping. Sweet potatoes with marshmallows has been a regular on many Thanksgiving tables, so it seemed natural to pile on meringue and toast it like a marshmallow (a pile of whipped cream would be super tasty too). What I hadn’t planned on was the color. I had reserved the bright purple cooking water after boiling the potatoes, because it was just too pretty to throw away. I typically use a Swiss meringue on a pie, but the Italian version requires making a syrup of sugar and water, which meant I could use my potato water (BOOM, that’s how I’d tint my meringue purple). I had visions of a lavender colored cloud sitting on top of the pie, but when I added the boiling purple syrup to the spinning egg whites it turned bright, bright, bright blue. I’m not entirely sure why, but some chemical reaction in that bowl changed my vision for this pie. I was faced with a bowl of super soft, BLUE meringue and I went for it. I piled it on and then used a star tip to create the swimming cap of a topping (did you look up Esther Williams yet?)

Purple Sweet Potato Pie | ZoeBakes photo by Zoë François

You can see the potatoes and meringue come together in my instagram video. Recipe below:

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Macarons – easier than you think, just watch the video!

Easy pink macarons | photo by Zoë François

The first time I had a true French macaron was while sitting at the now shuttered WD50 in New York City. It was the wild child restaurant of chef Wylie Dufresne, who was one of the first American chefs to deconstruct ingredients and synthesize them into new forms. It was all very mysterious and pretty tasty, but the most memorable thing we ate that night came out of my cousin’s purse. Samira works in the fashion industry and lives an impossibly global and glamorous life, which includes frequent trips to Paris. She and her brother, Riad, who was sitting with us, had a tradition of sharing a particular pastry from Paris every time she went. She pulled out the box and nonchalantly pushed it to Riad. This was so normal to them, that they barely acknowledged the act or the beautiful box as anything special. I, on the other hand, was near crazy with anticipation and finally told them to “open the &%$#ing box.” Inside were perfect, and I do mean perfect, macarons. They were like jewels. All different colors. Pink, gold, lavender and jade. They were delicate to the point of brittle on the outside and like a cloud on the inside, with a layer of super rich ganache or buttercream. I’ve made macarons, but they were never as ethereal as the one’s Samira brought home from Ladurée. This is no surprise. I was happy enough with mine and they were cheaper than a trip to Paris, but still not perfect. Then I watched Colette Christian’s Craftsy class on miniature French pastries and I figured out the small tricks I’d been missing. Turns out they are much easier than I thought. I’ve been making them constantly ever since.

This last batch I made for Passover and colored them purple to honor Prince. His passing has struck me in a deep way, deeper than I would have ever expected. His music was the sound track to my entire high school life and that was long before I moved to his home town. Back in the day I choreographed a dance to Little Red Corvette to audition for the dance program at my school. I danced my heart out to that song and got into the group. We were hardly Alvin Ailey, but it was my whole life at the time. I remember that audition like it was yesterday. I just hope Prince had even an inkling of his profound influence over so many people, not just musicians, but all of us who loved his music. I wish he could see how the world has exploded into a party to honor his legacy. Purple macarons and dancing in my kitchen are what I have to offer the celebration.

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