Cambrian: Opinion

Winning pie recipes feature espresso beans, sweet potatoes

Kelly Johnson spent her time off from the U.S. Postal Service to prepare her family's favorite prize-winning pie.
Kelly Johnson spent her time off from the U.S. Postal Service to prepare her family's favorite prize-winning pie.

Never underestimate the magic of new technology to put your best foot forward in doing public relations and marketing, such as on-line news briefs and social media. You can teach an old dog new tricks, as well I have learned. The Cambria Historical Society reaped the benefits when we interfaced with Wendy Eachus of 15 West Design and Advertising in Fresno to expand upon what I have been producing for years, doing press releases to local print and broadcast media.

Now we have e-blasts and Facebook to augment our CHS website, and we got a very encouraging message on Oct. 11 through from Kevin Cruz, a new Internet fan.

“I’m flying from New York City to SLO in order to check out this Pie Baking Competitiongetting excited!” he wrote, complete with a happy face.

We were excited also, as more than ever folks sampled more than ever pie entries, which our non-professional local bakers provided to serve at farmers market.

As requested, three bakers so far have submitted their recipes to the Culinary Corner so, without the usual chat over tea, here are the first two winners in, ready for your holiday table:

Heather’s Chocolate Mousse Espresso Bean Pie

(Kelly Johnson)

Crust: 2 cups chocolate wafer cookies, crushed and blended with 2/3 cube melted butter, pressed into a 9-inch pie plate, and baked for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool before filling.


2 cups (12 oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

1 tsp. almond extract

Pinch of salt

1-1/2 cups cream, heated almost to boiling

6 egg yolks

2 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Chocolate covered espresso beans, to taste

In a blender, combine chocolate, extract and salt; mix 30 seconds. Add hot cream and mix another 30 seconds. Slowly add yolks, and mix 10 seconds; transfer to a bowl and let cool completely. Fold in beaten egg whites and pour into crust; drop as many beans into the filling as you’d like and press in with a knife. Garnish the top as you wish. ENJOY!

Kelly’s family has enjoyed this confection for years after her friend Heather Trimble shared it with her. In a humorous aside, she laughed, “Don’t be eating this before a 3 o’clock appointment in the dentist’s chair, or you’ll be wired like I was!”

Sweet Potato Pecan Pie

(Paige Spiller)

1 fresh 9-inch pastry crust, chilled


1 cup baked and mashed sweet potato or yam

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tblsp. granulated sugar

1/2 egg, vigorously beaten until frothy

1 tblsp. heavy cream

1 tblsp. unsalted butter, softened

1 tblsp. vanilla extract

1/4 tsp. each salt and ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. each ground allspice and fresh ground nutmeg

Pecan Pie Syrup:

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup dark corn syrup

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1 egg, plus 1/2 egg from above

1-1/2 tblsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt and ground cinnamon

1 cup pecan halves

Combine the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until batter is smooth, about two or three minutes; set aside. Combine all the ingredients for the syrup (except pecans) in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly on slow speed until syrup is opaque, about one minute; stir in pecans and set aside.

Spoon the filling into the chilled crust; pour the pecan syrup over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees for 1-3/4 hours in the lower third of the oven until set (ovens will vary). Cool and serve with whipped cream. You may store pie at room temp for the first 24 hours, but refrigerate after that.

Paige is a 15-year-old sophomore at Coast Union High and inherited this recipe (which was passed through several generations) from her grandmother. She’d like to go on to be a chef, and we’ll cheer her on to do just that!