This time of year the end caps of grocery stores are re-arranged to group together ingredients for traditional Thanksgiving dinner dishes. One finds such items as cans of green beans, fried onions, and cream of mushroom soup grouped together on one end cap, and cans of sweet potatoes next to bags of marshmallows together on another end cap. The sweet potato and marshmallow combo for the ubiquitous sweet potato casserole is a classic American dish served alongside the other savory dishes during the meal, but it just screams dessert.
The two major ingredients of sweet potato casserole, though tradition Thanksgiving now, appeared at different points in American food history. Sweet potatoes as a food source date to Central and South America before Christopher Columbus sailed to the Americas. Introduced to Europe by the Spanish explorers, the sweet potato then made its way to North America. By the 19th century, the vegetable found its way, in some form, onto Thanksgiving tables in the United States. Conversely, marshmallows as a traditional ingredient in the sweet potato casserole has a much younger history than the vegetable is complemented, dating to 1917, and is a testimony to the successful tradition of America marketing. The Angelus Marshmallows company, the maker of the first mass-produced marshmallows (1907) as well as the first manufacturer of Cracker Jacks, desired to help Americans find uses for its product. The company commissioned Janet McKenzie Hill, founder of Boston Cooking School Magazine, to develop recipes using marshmallows. As a result of its collaboration with Hill, the company published Recipes for the Use of Angelus Marshmallows in 1917, which includes the recipe for sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows. Over one hundred years later this casserole still graces the holiday tables of Americans.
The flavor of sweet potato casserole with marshmallows is too delicious to relegate to the dinner table just a few times a year, which is why I like to use sweet potato flour to make a treat that can be enjoyed all year round (except that it still feels best saving it for the autumn season). Interestingly, sweet potato flour is not an invention of the 21st-century alternative flour movement. Like marshmallows and sweet potatoes, it has a lengthy history. George Washington Carver experimented with sweet potatoes at the end of the 19th century, even publishing recipes that include a method for making sweet potato flour. In fact, Quentin R. Skrabec, in his work The Green Vision of Henry Ford and George Washington Carver, notes that Carver convinced the people who ran the dining hall at Tuskegee, the university where he taught, researched, and experimented, to replace a third of the wheat flour with sweet potato flour. This substitution helped the dining hall to save $12 daily since sweet potatoes cost less than wheat flour at the time. Additionally, during WWI the US military called Carver to help it substitute sweet potato for wheat flour to ease the shortage of wheat during the war (North Carolina: McFarland and Co, Inc, 2013. 82-83).
Using sweet potato flour for a twist on an American holiday classic casserole, then, isn't so far from tradition! Instead of using marshmallows for this recipe, however, I use marshmallow creme (which popularized by one Archibald Query, coincidentally, dates to the same year as sweet potato marshmallow casserole). Marshmallow cream is easier to spread on the warm sweet potato bars when they come out of the oven. These sweet potato bars, covered with glazed pecans, will become a new fall favorite in your house!
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Dessert Bars
This delicious sweet potato recipe turns the traditional Thanksgiving sweet
potato marshmallow casserole into a dessert that can be eaten any time of the
Prep Time 30 minutes Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes Servings 9
Author Teresa Morris
- 4 oz butter
- 100 grams sugar
- 100 grams grated piloncillo (or brown sugar)
- 40 grams sweet potato flour
- 40 grams oat flour
- 40 grams arrowroot starch
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 7 oz jar marshmallow creme
- 1 cup pecan halves
- 2 tablespoons pure cane or pure maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon butter
For the Sweet Potato Bars: Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8 inch or 9-inch square pan. Melt the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the dry ingredients to the melted butter and stir or whisk until the mixture is smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350F until slightly browned and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean (about twenty minutes).
For the Glazed Pecans: While the sweet potato bars are baking, prepare the glazed pecans. Melt one tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of either pure maple or pure cane syrup in a pan. Stir over medium heat until the butter melts into the syrup and the mixture becomes bubbly. Add the pecan halves to the syrup mixture. Stir the nuts in the syrup for about three minutes. Pour the pecans onto a piece of parchment paper, spreading to separate into a single layer. Allow to cool. When the nuts have cooled, cover them with another sheet of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, gently roll over or pound the nuts until they are coarsely chopped.
Assembling the Sweet Potato Bars: Spoon the marshmallow creme into a bowl and stir until smooth. Spread the marshmallow creme onto the sweet potato bars as soon as the bars come out of the oven, while still hot. If the creme doesn't spread easily enough, zap it a couple of seconds in the microwave. After spreading the marshmallow creme evenly over the bars, place the pan under the broiler and broil until the surface of the marshmallow creme is roasted as desired. After removing the sweet potato bars from under the broiler, immediately press the coarsely chopped glazed pecans evenly into the warm roasted marshmallow cream. Cool on a wire rack completely before serving.
Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Bars Teresa Morris