Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Yankee Doodle Sweet Potato Pie

"All cooks are debtors to history
either gone by or in the making."
Peter Van Rensselaer Livingston

Happy Inauguration Day! While I have always found Presidential food and entertaining at the White House quite fascinating, when it comes to Presidential cuisine, I find Mr. Obama's enthusiasm for nourishment irresistible. I mean really, the future president eats pretty much anything! Granted, vittles are a non-threatening ice breaker however, Mr. Obama ate his way across the campaign trail with such fervency, its hard to imagine he was ever accused of being aloof. Is there any food today's pioneering Yankee Doodle Dandy, doesn't like?

When the Revolutionary Wars broke out in 1775, the Brigadier General Hugh Percy's troops marched from Boston playing Yankee Doodle to reinforce the British soldiers already in battle with the Americans at Lexington and Concord. Ironically, this was the war that gave America its independence from the British. Even more ironically, the New England colonists not only came to dismiss it as an insult, but came to take pride in being called Yankees, and appropriated the song as their anthem of defiance and liberty... Later on in the Civil War, the Confederates took the song and turned it into an insult directed to Union soldiers and northerners. Fuelled by the southern hatred for the northerners, this song survived not only the war but the Reconstruction period that followed, and even after that...What comes around goes around. Southerners had insulted their northern counterparts with Yankee Doodle during the 19th century; when the world saw its first World War the British reclaimed the insult and took to referring all American soldiers, be they northern or southern, Yankees. George M Cohan's war song Over There, which popularised the term Yank sealed the fate of the Americans as Yankees. Eventually this term came to refer to all citizens of the USA...source

When it comes to food, some say, you can tell an awful lot about a person by their likes and dislikes. Take Macaroni & Cheese for example, we now know, Barack Obama likes macaroni and he like cheese (Mr. Love informs us he's partial to cheddar.) Now there's a cheese to celebrate on World Cheese Day, which happens to be today:) We must assume he then enjoys a warm plate of macaroni and cheese every now and again. As T.W. over at Culinary Types so eloquently reveals, "Many people don't know that Thomas Jefferson, our gourmet president, introduced a macaroni machine to the United States in the late 18th century." Could Jefferson have invented our most favored comfort food? You need to drop by T.W.'s to harvest the answer and feast your eyes on his mom's recipe for Double-Good Macaroni and Cheese.

I use no porter or cheese in my family, 
but such as is Made in America.
-George Washington-

Macaroni and Cheese may be a "shoo in" when it comes to comfort food loving Americans but what about fruits and vegetables? We all know, we've had a few Presidents who objected to eating their vegetables and quite a few who actually enjoyed their fare share of veggies and fruits. As a matter of fact, I posted a few Presidential recipes for Presidents Day last year. What a congenial brunch dish Jefferson's Rum Omelet would be for today's inaugural festivities. This article in the Telegraph shares Mr. Obama's own chili recipe which confirms he likes his legumes spicy. It also uncovers his personal feelings about junk food. Before I forget, The Library of Congress has also compiled a resource guide on Presidential Food.

"Honest" Abe Lincoln, who favored lemon custard pie, Mary Todd's "Great Cake" (also posted above:) and oyster parties doesn't appear to have had as much zest for food as Mr. Obama. Apparently, oysters were not on Lincoln's first inaugural menu but he sure did capture the flavor of New York's pioneering oyster cultivators "When the Oyster Was Their World." I just thought I would mention this because Mr. Obama is suppose to be clasping Abraham Lincoln’s Inaugural Bible at today's inaugural event.

...among Abraham Lincoln’s favorite dishes was scalloped oysters. During his aspirations to become the next President of the United States, he served thousands of oysters at rallies in Illinois. He popularized oyster roasts as a way to get voters to political rallies. Oyster parties became such "the rage," that the seemingly perishable oyster had to be somehow be transported from New York Harbor to American tables.

Recount. (I couldn't resist:) Let's see, chicken wings, steamed broccoli, barbecued ribs, vanilla Pennsylvania ice cream or, Yes Pecan ice cream, waffles, cookies, provolone, salami, gumbo in New Orleans, hush puppies, tuna fish, Mexican food, and Red Velvet Cake all seem to be on Mr. Obama's food agenda, I still haven't found one morsel of food he does not like. What about drinks?

George Washington may have been a beer lover despite the long tradition of serving wine at the White House. We are reassured by the recipe for Jefferson's Rum Omelet that Thomas Jefferson liked the taste of rum:) I saw one interview, I think it was on Check, Please when Obama did an informal review about Chicago's Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, I believe he had a glass of red wine before him. Mr. Love had suggested Mr. Obama often drinks "hard-to-find" Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. Well now, there's Roosevelt's "good to the last drop" coffee, and now Barack Obama's favorite Honest Tea.
"Honest Tea, the nation's top-selling organic bottled tea company, offers healthy and delicious beverages. Always refreshing, all Honest Tea varieties are USDA-certified Organic, low in sugar and high in antioxidants. Each variety in 16 fl oz glass bottles contains 1/3 the sugar of most bottled teas with 0 to 40 calories per serving. Always committed to sustainability and social responsibility, Honest Tea was the first to introduce an organic bottled tea and the first to introduce a Fair Trade Certified bottled tea. Today, Honest Tea offers 5 varieties in 16 fl oz glass bottles - now that's a sip in the right direction!"

Grab your Tide Pen, Mr. Obama. I baked you a pie and its Messy! (If you remember, Reggie Love knows these things and Norah his girlfriend tells all at Whopping Cornbread.) That reminds me, Mr. Obama also like hush puppies. You see what I mean, his culinary enthusiasm captivates me. I'm so dazzled by all the reports of his food loving escapes, I had no choice but to bake him a pie. And, as we all know, I Do Not bake! The YouTube video Too Much Pie For One Guy got my rolling pin to palpitating. Yes indeed, I made the crust from scratch which by the way was no easy feat especially with this rolling pin.

You see, since I don't bake, I no longer have many of the essential tools one might need to bake a pie. My daughter, Michele, is the proud new owner of our family rolling pin which was handed down from generation to generation so, I got to use the dowl from my hand crafted napkin holder. I'm a complete spaz when it comes to rolling pie crust, the "rolling pin" didn't hinder the process, much. I wish one of the many cookbooks I referred to, in search of the perfect sweet potato pie, would have mentioned mixing the pie crust first. It sure would have saved me about one hour's worth of time. (I was suppose to be heading back to New York in the AM and just wanted to get done but, perfectly) After rummaging through a pile of cookbooks, I wound up coming with my own rendition from three different recipes. (another reason I don't bake, I can't follow recipes. It drives me crazy:) I wanted a recipe which would reflect Mr. Obama's diverse heritage and I wanted it to be easy, very easy, simple, if you get my drift. I probably would have been better off, time wise, baking Sweet Potato Pie Cupcakes like Stef did at the Cupcake Project but nooooo.....Okay, I did follow the Short Crust Pastry recipe as suggested in the Time Life Foods of the World: American Cooking; Southern Style recipe booklet. It was really good and probably would have reached full peakness in the hands of an experienced baker. Here's the recipe.

Short Crust Pastry
6 tbs. unsalted butter chilled & cut into 1/4-inch bits
2 tbs. lard, chilled & cut into 1/4-inch bits
1-1/2 cups unsifted flour
1 tbs. sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 to 4 tbs. ice water
Pastry Dough:

1. In large, chilled bowl, combine the butter bits, lard, flour, sugar, and salt. with your fingers rub the flour and fat together until they look like flakes of coarse meal. Do not let the mixture become oily.
2. Pour 3 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture all at once, toss together lightly, and gather the dough into a ball. If the dough crumbles, add up to 1 tablespoon more ice water by drops until the particles adhere.
3. Dust the pastry dough with a little flour and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Pastry for Unfilled Pie shell: On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a rough circle about 1 inch thick. Dust a little flour over and under it and roll it out, from the center to within and inch of the far edge of the pastry. Lift the dough and turn it clockwise about 2 inches; roll out again from the center to with an inch or so of the far edge. Repeat-lifting, turning, rolling- until the circle is about 1/8 inch thick and 13 to 14 inches in diameter. If the dough sticks to the board or table, lift it gently with a metal spatula and sprinkle flour under it.
Drape the dough over the rolling pin, lift it up and unroll it slackly over the buttered pie tin. Gently press the dough into the bottom and sides of the tin, being careful not to stretch it. with a pair of scissors, cut off the excess dough from the edges leaving a 1/2 inch overhang all around the outside rim. Fold the overhang under the outer edge of the dough and crimp it firmly around the rim of the pan with your fingers or the tines of a fork. To prevent the unfilled pastry from buckling as it bakes, spread a sheet of buttered aluminum foil across the tin and press it gently into the pastry shell.
To make a Partially Baked Pie Shell: Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 2 minutes.
To make a Fully Baked Pie Shell: Bake the shell on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes, or until shell begins to brown.

I almost used the recipe for sweet potato pie also in the Time Life book but, it just didn't fit my needs, completely. Normally, I wouldn't worry about adding some of this or substituting a pinch of that but since this was a pie in tribute, and it was me doing the baking, I didn't want to take any chances. I did anyway:) The two main ingredients I had decided on, besides the sweet potatoes of course, were pineapples (Hawaii) and coconut because I know Mr. Obama likes Coconut Custard Pie. Including pecans was also a matter of thought. I know now it wasn't very diverse but, at the time it seemed to be to me. I pretty much followed the following recipe except, I added one cup of crushed pecan halves, I used the rest for the make shift pecan praline topping (I can't bake, you can imagine what I did to the praline topping, I added light cream to make it more agreeable to work with, omitted the maple syrup flavoring and halved the recipe:) Some how, it worked. It is so creamy and sweet with a hint of pecan.) Actually, my very best favorite piece of the pie. Unfortunately, since I had to remedy a sticky problem I don't know how I did it. I really dislike when that happens:) Here are all the recipes which will open larger if you click them:)

The adjusted recipe not only included pulverized pecans. I also included one cup of pineapple juice macerated coconut. I let the coconut sit up until the very last moment. Then I squeezed out the pineapple juice, which I happened to use on a ham slice I was also making for dinner, and added it to the pie mixture. The only real problem I had was grating the lemon rind. I decided to use the smallest part of a cheese grater which I feel was a mistake. The lemon zest could have, should have been finely grated. I'll be buying a new lemon grater ASAP, just in case:) I was thrilled to use my antique nutmeg grater. It's a keeper! As you can imagine, I wanted my first pie baking post to look amazing! I took tons of pictures. I don't know how you food bloggers do it. After concocting this tribute pie, I have gained even more appreciation for you guys. It's a lot of work! Thank goodness it is frosted with pleasure. So, I will spare you the enormous amount of pictures. My favorite is the one at the top. I only wish I had my Obama 7-11 cup here in PA. I sliced a piece of the pie as soon as the pecan praline glided to the edge of the pie plate. I think I should have waited. It hadn't firmed up yet and the flavors didn't get a chance to settle. It was good but not fit for Mr. Obama. However, this morning, I'm still in PA., it was absolutely delicious if I do say so myself! Silky sweet potatoes garnished with a hint of diversification. Oh yes, I substituted the white sugar in the pie crust with vanilla sugar which I have had stashed safely for I think, years. I guess sugar does keep that long when preserved with vanilla beans. I have decided to call the recipe Yankee Doodle Sweet Potato Pie. Hey, it's my recipe!

Happy Inauguration Day!


  • 1. Feasting on Obama Nation
  • 2. The President's kitchen
  • 3. Menu Collection of the Heinz Bender Collection (Bender executive pastry chef for the White House during the Ford administration)
  • 4. Michelle Obama's Shortbread Cookies
  • 5. Campaign Cuisine
  • 6. Mr. Obama's Zodiac Menu Ideas (previous post from Election day)


  1. Mommy,
    I am so very proud of you for BAKING. A wonderful cook, yes you are, but I must say, baking has never been your forte so to see that you actually did it makes me truly believe that ANYTHING is possible. I am impressed at how well you did to mostly follow directions and equally at how well the pie turned out. I love your sense of adventure and I admire you tremendously. I love you, Michele
    P.S. You asked for it!!! (:

  2. Look at you! You baked a pie and it looks delicious.Hes even inspired you to bake!

  3. For someone who doesn't bake, you sure turned out a nice looking pie! Very interesting inauguration day post--fun to read.

  4. After such an exciting day, you have set out quite a presidential feast here! And, was there ever such a pie??!!! Beautiful! Can't wait to see what new food trends emerge in The People's House!

  5. Dee, put up the pot for macaroni!! I love this ;)

  6. I'd love to try this pie! It looks great for someone who doesn't bake! :) Better than I make!

  7. Thank you Pumpkin.

    His Inauguration was absolutely my inspiration, Courtney...

    It was FUN Kathy, once I got past touching the flour:)

    Thank you T.W. I surprised myself. I'm hoping it's back to basics at "The People's House," food included.

  8. I used to bake, but it's been years. Your recipe has inspired me, and we're all inspired now by the new First Family.

    I have a list of Presidential Mysteries on my blog today, but not a lot with food in them.....

  9. Wow that looks YUMMY! If I'm President Obama, I would hire you on the spot to be my Top Chef in the White House Kitchen!

    So informative, so historical, so valuable and instructive to many food bloggers out there!

    Thanks for all of these, Louise!

  10. Oh Janet, it was so much FUN! but, I will admit, not something I will be doing on a regular basis. Please, please, please let me know if you bake the pie. You know, tomorrow (23rd) is National Pie Day!

    Thank you Dennis, I can't wait to see if President Obama chooses a new White House Chef. So far, I think he is keeping the Chef that is already there. Thank yo so much for dropping by...

  11. Presidential food! Now why, oh why, couldn't my US history class have covered that topic?

  12. Perhaps, they will now Adele. Food really does transcend the boundaries of the world.

    Thanks for stopping by...

  13. I do love your "rolling pin!" lol
    For someone who dosen't bake that pie sure looks good!
    BTW, thank's for the link love Louise ;)
    xo, Marie

  14. Wow, you even made your own crust! For a non baker it certainly looks delicious. I like how you made the recipe your own.

  15. Oh Marie, you should have seen me trying to use that tiny rolling pin, rolling and rolling while the pie plate kept creeping further and further away. I'm sure it was quite a sight. thanks for the link. It fit perfectly!

    Hi Rochelle, thanks for visiting. One of the reasons I don't bake is because I have such a problem following recipes. My mind starts to wander and I want to add ingredients that don't always meld. Thank goodness this worked!

  16. Your posts are always so informative. Love all your research and facts. The pie sounds good too!

  17. Thanks for stopping in Maryann, I had a feeling you would get a kick out of that "command."

    Oh duckie it would be such an honor if you tried this recipe. I bet the "little ones" would enjoy it too!

    Thanks Stef, it is so much fun and I discover so many future links while researching.


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise