Pain patate in French, pen patat in Haitian Creole, petit pain pa’ as a term of endearment…sweet potato pudding in English…
For a while I struggled with this Haitian dessert staple. I could not for the life of me find an accurate recipe for it.
To be honest, I wasn’t actually looking for just any recipe. I wanted to replicate the best pain patate I have ever had: the sweet potato pudding my aunt prepares like no one else.
Though I wouldn’t stop asking, my aunt was never able to write specific instructions down. Her eternal answer has always been that, if I wanted to one day master her sweet potato pudding, I had to join her in the kitchen.
Truth is, true to her Haitian roots, my aunt prepares her pain patate to taste.
She thus cannot possibly share a recipe. She can only pass on her know-how in the kitchen. That is exactly how she taught a French friend who now makes it a point to share this dessert with her family and friends in Europe.
That same friend is now, however, unable to give precise directions herself. Her instructions are as follows:
“ It’s easy. All you have to do is grate the sweet potatoes, add some milk, sugar and sweet spices. You cook the whole thing on the stovetop while stirring constantly. Once it’s ready you transfer everything to a baking dish and let it cook in the oven… oh and don’t forget to mash a banana into the mix…!”
I am sure you’ll agree with me that that was quite a surprising answer coming from a foreigner. Not once would I have imagined that, just like my aunt, she would be able to successfully prepare our Haitian sweet potato pudding to taste.
To think, I was secretly wishing that she would be the one to help me solve my aunt’s pain patate mystery. I was clearly wrong.
I knew then that, if I ever wanted an accurate recipe, it was up to me to go take my own sweet potato pudding cooking class. I finally did so a few weeks ago.
My experience in the kitchen helped me understand that my aunt does in fact prepare her pain patate on a hunch. The word hunch might be inaccurate as there is actually a method to her madness. She must eyeball the ingredients or measure them using the palm of her hands in order to get it right.
It was thus up to me to jot down notes and make sure I measured every single ingredient before handing them to her so she could “measure” them like she best knows how.
But I do understand her now. Our famous pain patate, can and should be prepared to taste.
I can imagine the scared look on your face after reading that last line. I was in your shoes not so long ago. But worry not. The recipe below does include proportions and detailed instructions.
I do however urge you to adjust the flavors to your own taste. That is the only way you will master our Haitian sweet potato pudding.
Haitian pain patate (sweet potato pudding)
- 2.5 Lbs Sweet potatoes
- 1 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 Tsp Nutmeg
- 1 Tsp Ginger Optional
- 1/4 Tsp Salt
- 1/4 Tsp Pepper
- 2 Tsp Vanilla
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 12 Oz Evaporated milk
- 14 Oz Coconut milk
- 28 Oz Water
- 1/2 Stick Butter
- 1 Banana
- Wash and peel the sweet potatoes
- Grate the sweet potatoes
- Mash the banana and mix with the sweet potatoes
- In a thick pot, mix all the ingredients
- Cook while stirring constantly about 45 minutes
- When the mixture starts detaching from the sides of the pot, turn off the heat
- Transfer to a baking dish
- Bake for about 1h30 mns or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean
- Let cool and enjoy