Our little corner of the world has just as much Haiti in it as it has Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica or Eastern Europe: we live less than a block from a Haitian church, and the only Haitian restaurants in Chicagoland, so far as I know, are right around the corner. Many of our neighbors are of Haitian descent, and so the earthquake affected them immediately and directly. Nearly one year ago, I'd been casting about for something more meaningful than adding an extra $5 to our grocery bill. So it was with gratitude that I read about a bake-sale benefit, organized by My Vegetable Blogger, Joanna Miller. (Thanks also to Martha Bayne for the heads-up!)
At the time, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to offer Sparky a shot at some social action, so off to the Rogers Park Fruit Market (a local market specializing in Caribbean goods) I went. I'd done a bit of research into Haitian sweets, and discovered a recipe that fascinated me: Pain Patate, which translates into "potato bread." Rather than bread, it's actually a custard of rich white-sweet-potato (also known as boniato, or Japanese yam;) fortunately, for the abovementioned reasons, boniatos are readily available in my neighborhood. Since I needed something that could be sold by the piece, I decided to make Pain Patate Hand Pies, using the pastry recipe I love so much from Smitten Kitchen.
Pain Patate Hand Pies
5 Cups of flour
4 sticks of butter, frozen and diced
1 cup sour cream
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup water
1 tsp salt.
First, we blended the flour, salt, and frozen butter together until it resembled coarse meal, using a stiff whisk and our fingers. We then made a well in the center and added the liquid ingredients, stirring them together and then folding them into the dry until it made a heavy dough. (we kind of threw caution to the wind and assumed we would need all the liquid; we were lucky to be right.) This went into the fridge to chill while we ran some errands.
Next, we peeled the boniatos, cubed them, and steamed them until they were mashable (I decided to create a hybrid of a couple recipes I found online) to make 2 cups of mashed bonaitos. This was blended with 2 large mashed bananas.
To the 2 cups of mashed boniato, and 2 large mashed bananas, we added the following:
3 medium eggs,
1 cup brown sugar
1 12-oz can of evaporated milk
1 tsp fresh grated ginger root
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
zest of one lime
1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
1 tsp ground cinnamon
(To fill the pies, you will also need 1 cup of raisins and about a cup of rum to add to the finished custard)
This was blended well with an immersion blender. The boniatos are quite interesting: they have a heartier, starchier texture than white potatoes, but taste very like Idaho potatoes with a good spoonful of sugar added. In future, I'd like to try this dish with American sweet potatoes, but I think these offer the other flavorings a chance to shine. The somewhat soupy filling was heated over a double boiler until it thickened slightly (don't overcook, you want it to be a heavy liquid.)
Cover 1 cup raisins with rum, microwave for 30 seconds or until warm, and leave them to soak as you continue to work with the potato mixture.
After the filling was mixed, we rolled out the dough, using our handy hand-pie forms to cut it into circles and create a divot to accept the filling. Pies were filled, first with the drained raisins, then with the thickened filling. They baked at 375 for 20 minutes.
If you enjoyed this post, please remember that Haiti has a long way to go, and continues to need support. You can donate directly to aid organizations that are working there; these pies were originally sold to support Partners In Health, a charity that has been working in Haiti for 20 years - but here is a more complete list of charities supporting the relief efforts in Haiti.