Do you remember the great pumpkin shortage of 2011?
If not, lucky you. Here’s a brief history lesson: Hurricane Irene stifled the pumpkin crop that summer, and aside from leaving us with a dearth of pumpkin-flavored goodies, it also pretty much crippled society. Families cut ties when informed that there would be no pumpkin pie on the Thanksgiving dinner table; teenage girls broke up with their boyfriends en masse when they didn’t come back with Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes; and many a tree suffered unspeakable damage as rowdy 12-year-old kids with no pumpkins to smash took to TP’ing trees on Halloween.
Dark times, indeed.
Through it all, McDonald’s remained a beacon of hope for pumpkin lovers. For just a buck, I remember getting their warm and sweet baked pumpkin pie even when grocery stores were out of orange Libby’s cans. So if my local McDonald’s could sell pumpkin pie even amidst a worldwide shortage, why are some areas of the country instead selling sweet potato pies this fall?
After hitting up a half-dozen Baltimore-area McDonald’s I really have no idea why, but the good news for pumpkin lovers is that we probably shouldn’t care. I know sweet potato pie is something of a regular occurrence in the land of Dixie, but considering I’m about as southern as Winston Churchill, well, let’s just say it was a new and wonderful experience for me. To borrow a line from an Alabama song that hasn’t made sense until now, this is a pie that will make you shut your mouth.
It all starts with the crust. The outside of the pie looks exactly like the McDonald’s Baked Pumpkin Pie, right down to the cinnamon dusted freckles and scored top. Like the pumpkin pie, the crust is an enjoyable upgrade over most cheap, prepackaged single-serving pies available in grocery stores. There’s enough sweetness and cinnamon flavor to convince you you’re not just eating layers of shortening and flour.
I was surprised the McDonald’s Sweet Potato Pie’s filling had a creamier texture than their pumpkin pie’s, although it doesn’t have a necessarily creamier taste. In fact, if I do have one complaint (okay, two complaints considering there are no pecans), it’s that the filling lacks the richness of cream and butter and the emulsified body of a baked custard. I worried about a stringy interior or fibrous texture, but the tubular center (hooray for vegetable puns!) was stuffed with a smooth and fully cooked purée that wasn’t excessively watery or diluted.
Even though it has more grams of sugar than McDonald’s Pumpkin Pie, its sweetness is mellow and just right with a hint of molasses and some cinnamon and cloves that help to round out the filling. Dare I say it, but the sweetness discrepancy between the pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie is a testament to the sweet potato’s natural and more starchy flavor. In this application, it just works. And with much better interior filling coverage than a Pop-Tart, it doesn’t feel like you’re getting shortchanged with nothing but crust.
McDonald’s Baked Sweet Potato Pie isn’t my beloved pumpkin pie, but it’s more than an acceptable substitute. The crust is flaky with a wonderful cinnamon sweetness, while the filling has a smoother, even creamier texture than McDonald’s Baked Pumpkin Pie. It’s so good that it might make you forget about driving around to look for their Baked Pumpkin Pie.
(Nutrition Facts – 270 calories, 110 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 150 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 39 grams of carbohydrates, 6 gram of dietary fiber, 16 grams of sugars, and 4 grams of protein.)
Item: McDonald’s Baked Sweet Potato Pie
Purchased Price: 98 cents
Size: 2.7 oz.
Purchased at: McDonald’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Flaky, slightly crunchy crust with tastes of cinnamon and sugar. Plenty of sweet potato filling with molasses-type sweetness. Creamy texture. Just a buck. A crapload of Vitamin A and fiber. Regional delicacies finally understood.
Cons: Lacks taste of cream and butter. Not a true custard filling. No pecans. More calories than McDonald’s Baked Pumpkin Pie. 1980s country music songs.