Travelgiving: Sweet Potato Tartlets with Five Spice Fluff

Travel Inspired Sweet Potato Pie for Thanksgiving

Last year I wrote a series of recipes I called "Thanksgiving Basics" in case you're far from home or hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and just want to keep it classic and simple. You can find them all here. This year I'll be doing things a little more travel inspired for our second annual big expat Thanksgiving (we'll be hosting around 25) but definitely keeping some of the classics in the mix.

Our 3rd Stop: Thailand, where I bought our star anise heavy five spice powder or China, where five spice comes from.

Our T-Day Inspiration: Candied Yams (I'm using the common name for this dish even though what you're eating in the US is always a sweet potato)

I grew up eating plenty of sweet potatoes as baked potatoes but the classic marshmallow topped candied yams never graced my Thanksgiving table so even the recipe I wrote last year isn't the most traditional. I love sweet potatoes and I love home-made marshmallows so I figured there had to be a way to make this dish my own. Unfortunately, when I did a more traditional casserole with my homemade honey five spice marshmallows (delicious, and will definitely get a write up of their own) they just totally melted without browning. I'm not entirely sure why. It also was so sweet when I tried it, I just couldn't imagine serving it with the main course and decided to revise and make a dessert. I remembered a few years ago, I worked at a catering company where we had a bride specifically request this Martha Stewart cake with it's toasted marshmallow frosting and I knew that was something I could make my own that would stand up to either a torch or a broiler. I will say, even as a dessert, this ends up being a little much for me, but if you've got guests know for their sweet tooth, this is bound to be a winner.


  • A basic 3-2-1 Pie Dough, like 1.5 times this one

For the Sweet Potato Filling:

  • 1.5 pounds Sweet Potato*
  • 2 ounces Butter (melted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons AP Flour
  • 3/4 cup cream

For the Fluff:

  • 1.5 sheets Gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Egg Whites
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons Water

*I've found two types of sweet potatoes in Korea. The smaller, more widely available ones are too starchy to work well for this recipe. The ones to use are the "pumpkin sweet potatoes" (which can be found at Costco this time of year) which are more similar to American varietals but still a little on the starchy side. I bet this recipe turns out even better with soft US sweet potatoes. I think if I do this again with Korean sweet potatoes, I'll probably cut out the flour.


  1. First things first, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take out your chilled pie dough and divide into six pieces. Roll out a piece into circle 3/8th inch thick. Place into tartlet pan, making sure to go all the way down into the corners. Trim around the edges so you have an overhang about the height of the tart pan. Fold the overhang around the circle, creating a double thickness tart edge. You can now use a paring knife to trim off any height above the pan for a clean look or just leave it for a more rustic look. Repeat with the remaining five pieces of dough. Blind bake the tartlet crust to light golden brown. (You can also just do this recipe as one 9 inch pie)
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes. Cook until fork tender and drain. In a large bowl, mash potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Mix in butter, salt and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to whisk together yolks and sugar until pale yellow and creamy. Fold into the sweet potatoes. Next mix in the flour and then the cream.
  4. In a clean bowl, use a stand or hand mixer, whip egg whites to soft peak. Fold 1/2 the egg white mixture into the sweet potato mix. Repeat with the remaining half until just incorporated.
  5. Divide sweet potato filling evenly between the six tartlets. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is just set.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once cool, you can store for 24 hours in an airtight container before adding the fluff.

Adding the Fluff:

  1. Place the sheet gelatin in ice water until soft
  2. Begin beating egg whites to soft peak
  3. While the eggs are beating, heat sugar, honey, five spice, salt and water to 235 Fahrenheit. Immediately remove from heat. squeeze excess water off bloomed gelatin and then mix into the hot sugar.
  4. With mixer on low, slowly pour hot sugar into the eggs whites. Once all the sugar is in, turn up to high speed and let whip until cool and shiny (this will probably take about ten minutes, that sugar is HOT).
  5. I used a piping bag with a round tip to pipe the fluff until it completely covered the top of the tart and then I used a small offset spatula to shape it how I wanted. You can pipe or spread in whatever design you want.
  6. Once all your tartlets are covered with fluff, you can either torch them or stick under the broiler for about five minutes to brown. I don't have a torch here, so I used my "fish drawer" which is basically the Korean version of a broiler.
  7. Serve immediately or store at room temperature up to six hours.

Gluten free version: I'm fairly confident you could also do this as a casserole. Depending on the size of your casserole dish, you'd probably want to do one and a half times to double the recipe. Don't make a crust and omit the flour in the sweet potato filling. If you're serving it with the main course, don't double the fluff recipe, if you're doing it as more of a sweet potato pudding dessert, go to town.

Thanksgiving Basics: Maple Pecan Pie

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Every year you buy a bottle of corn syrup to make pecan pie for Thanksgiving, get home and put it away only to discover you actually have five half bottles you never got around to using. Let's make pecan pie with something you'll actually want to keep in your house and use, maple syrup.


  • Basic 3-2-1 Pie Dough like this one
  • 1 1/2 cups Chopped Pecans
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 oz (1/2 stick) Melted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Maple Syrup (I almost always cook with Grade B if it's available to me)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • Generous slug of Bourbon (optional)

Yeah, that's really it.

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Roll out and shape your pie dough. Put the prepped crust in the freezer or fridge while you mix the filling.
  3. Whisk together melted butter, dark brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, salt and bourbon. Whisk eggs into the mixture until emulsified. If you're feeling fancy you can do this with and immersion blender but it's not really that much easier than whisking by hand.
  4. Take your crust out of the fridge/freezer and cover the bottom with chopped pecans. Pour the maple mixture over the pecans (they'll float to the top) and out the pie in your preheated oven. Bake 50 minutes our just until set.
  5. Let cool at room temperature. Can be made one day in advance. I store my pies at room temperature to avoid ruining the crust with the humidity of the fridge.
Maple Bourbon.png

Protip: Making a whole grip of pies for Thanksgiving? Make one large batch of pie dough. Portion out into discs for individual pies and plastic wrap really well. If you're making it over three days in advance, throw it into the freezer and move it into the fridge 24 hours before you plan on using it. If you're making the dough three days in advance or less, just store it well wrapped in the fridge.

Thanksgiving Basics: Pumpkin Pie (Plus a Variation)


This week I'm going to be posting a basic Thanksgiving recipe every day. Nothing too crazy, just slight updates on that recipe of Grandma's you KNOW you put somewhere. Let's start with the most sacred of the sacred Thanksgiving foods: Pumpkin Pie. This recipe will yield two pumpkin pies because we all know one isn't enough.


  • Basic 3-2-1 Pie Dough like this one  Doubled
  • 15 oz Pumpkin Puree (Honest talk: From the can is fine, just make sure it's plain pumpkin)
  • 1 cup Half and Half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon Ginger (powdered or fresh grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg (ground or grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt

Optional variation for Chocolate Pumpkin Pie:

  • 8 oz 72% Chocolate
  • 2 oz (1/2 stick) Butter

Let's Get Started

  1. Preheat your oven to 350. 
  2. Roll out your pie dough and shape into two pie pans. If you have room, put them in the freezer while you mix the filling. If you don't, the refrigerator is fine.
  3. For regular pumpkin pie, put all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well. Voila! Now you have pumpkin pie filling! Really, it's that easy. (For the chocolate variation, melt chocolate and butter together over a double boiler. Combine all the ingredients and whisk together. Now you have chocolate pumpkin pie filling!)
  4. Take your pie shells from wherever they're being chilled and divide the filling between them. Put them in your preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or just until set.
  5. Let cool at room temperature. Pumpkin pies can be made one day in advance. I keep mine out at room temperature because I don't want to risk ruining the crust with the humidity of the refrigerator.

Protip: Making a whole grip of pies for Thanksgiving? Make one large batch of pie dough. Portion out into discs for individual pies and plastic wrap really well. If you're making it over three days in advance, throw it into the freezer and move it into the fridge 24 hours before you plan on using it. If you're making the dough three days in advance or less, just store it well wrapped in the fridge.

Mini Chocolate Variation