Saturday, November 10, 2007

For Thanksgiving, sweet potato cheesecake

My uncle’s special Thanksgiving dessert is sweet potato pie. My brother’s special Thanksgiving dessert is pumpkin cheesecake. And since I’m going to see both of them on Thanksgiving, I decided to make a hybrid of the two—sweet potato cheesecake.

Growing up, cheesecake was a rare treat—considered extremely fancy and not something you ate at home. Mom instead made a berry yogurt pie with a granola crust, which while not as rich and dense as cheesecake but was still a creamy sweet treat. But still, it wasn’t quite the same.

One day our next-door neighbor made a cheesecake from scratch. It was a plain cheesecake with tall sturdy sides topped with a thin-layer of sour cream. Each bite was luscious and I thought she must have some special skills to make something so satisfying. A few years ago my dad gave me a generous Williams-Sonoma gift certificate. I raided the store, splurging on items I wouldn’t ordinarily buy and one of those was a spring-form pan. I had decided it was time to teach myself how to make cheesecake.

I went through a myriad of recipes, and some were super complicated, insisting you separate your eggs, folding in the yolks and whites at different times. Some called for baking it for an hour and then leaving it in the turned-off oven to cool for another half hour. Some used crusts while others didn’t. What I soon learned, however, was that cheesecake doesn’t have to be a lot of work—given the right circumstances you could whip one every night, which I practically did when I lived with a guy who was on a low-carb diet.

The basic formula is simple, 1 egg per 1/2 pound of cream cheese. If you don’t have time to get your cream cheese and eggs to room temperature (as every recipe will recommend), then just rest them on top of the oven as you preheat—they’ll soon be warm enough. Then just throw your eggs, cream cheese, sweetener, some vanilla, some spices and some lemon juice into the blender, and in minutes you’ll have a batter. If you’re forgoing a crust, you’re pretty much done save for baking it for a half hour or so, and then chilling (though warm cheese cake is just as appealing as cold). Sometimes they’ll crack on top, and I reckon the experts would say that I pulled it out of the oven too fast or over beat the batter. But an ugly cheesecake isn’t a problem because I always spread on top some sour cream mixed with a bit of sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, which deliciously masks all imperfections.

When I was as at the farmer’s market recently, they had mountains of sweet potatoes in several varieties for only a dollar a pound. That was a third of the price they were at the grocery store, so I grabbed a few. My original intention was to make sweet potato pie, but since my uncle already does that, and I had a ton of cream cheese on hand, I decided to make the cheesecake instead. After baking one of the sweet potatoes for about an hour, I threw the mashed vegetable into my blender with some eggs, some cream cheese and some spices. In no time I had a batter. I had some ginger snaps and pecans, and even though I’m lazy and usually do without a crust, I decided that a ginger snap cookie and pecan crust would go well with the spicy, earthy sweet potato. My hunch proved correct.

So Thanksgiving’s still a week or so away, and there won’t be any of this cheesecake left by the time I head to Texas, but it was such a snap I may just whip it up again—if my uncle and brother don’t mind.

Sweet Potato Cheesecake
Ingredients:
For the crust:
35 ginger snaps, crushed
1/4 cup of pecans, finely chopped
1 stick of butter (113.4 grams), melted

For the cheesecake:
3 8oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of cooked, mashed sweet potato
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of flour

For the topping:
1 cup of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ginger
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 cup of chopped pecans
3 tablespoons of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of brown sugar

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
2. To make the crust, mix together the crushed ginger snaps, chopped pecans and melted butter.
3. Press the crust into a 9-inch spring-form pan, evenly covering the bottom and going up the sides about 1/4 of an inch.
4. Place in the fridge or in near an open window with a cold breeze.
5. To make the batter, using a mixer or a strong blender, throw in the softened cream cheese and eggs. Mix until smooth and combined.
6. Add the sugar, the maple syrup, the sweet potato, the spices and the flour, and blend until smooth. (Don’t mix it too long or too many cracks will appear on top when it bakes.)
7. Pour into spring-form pan, and bake for 45 minutes. Cheesecake will be done when the sides are set and the center is still a big jiggly. Turn off the oven, and then leave the cheesecake in the oven with the door open for about half an hour.
8. To make the topping while the cheesecake bakes, place 1/4 cup of chopped pecans in a heated dry iron skillet, and toast for about five minutes.
9. Mix the sour cream, vanilla, spices, syrup and sugar together. Add the pecans.
10. Take cheesecake out of the oven, spread on the topping, and let sit for another half hour.
11. Chill in the refrigerator for 4 to 8 hours and then serve.
Notes: A 1-pound sweet potato cooked in the oven at 425 degrees for a little over an hour will yield enough for the recipe. Alternatively, you can use canned sweet potato. The topping and crust are purely optional. If you bake without a crust, baking time will be about 35 minutes.

***********************

Speaking of baking, Lydia over at the informative and entertaining blog The Perfect Pantry has a wonderful idea for the holiday season. A few years ago she and a group of friends gathered to bake and decorate cookies. Finding themselves with too many cookies, she called a local shelter that helped needy families and asked if they’d like the decorated cookies. Would they ever, the shelter said. The reception to the decorated cookies was tremendous.

Since then, every year she and her friends have repeated this new tradition of decorating cookies and giving them to those in need. She calls it Drop In and Decorate. Not only is it a fun way for friends and family to spend time together, but it makes others happy as well. She’s written a guide on how to host your own Drop In and Decorate party, and brought King Arthur flour on board to sell a Drop In and Decorate party kit (Lydia does not receive any profit from this).

With cookie baking season in full swing, this is a perfect time to bake for others. Though as Lydia notes, it’s not limited to just the end-of-year holidays as cookies make people smile year round. So drop into Lydia’s blog and see how you can host your own Drop In and Decorate party.

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36 comments:

Kalyn said...

OMG, this sounds just fantastic. It's even pretty healthy for a dessert too! (Not that we care when it's Thanksgiving, nor should we!) Love the sound of it.

BTW, what a buy on sweet potatoes. They're a lot more than that here.

jerry said...

Man I wish my wife liked sweet potatoes!

I may just make this anyway, as I happen to have all of the ingredients on hand.

then again, I may go for a cranberry cheesecake, since I have all of those ingredients on hand as well....

Decisions, Decisions!

jerry said...

I hate it when I screw up and don't leave my information correctly...

Frank said...

I'm not a huge dessert guy, but I did grow up(as I'm sure you did) on sweet potato pie, and I do love cheesecake, so this one goes in my (very limited) desert file. Holler if you are down here for T-day and have time!
FM

Lydia said...

Lisa, thanks so much for helping to spread the word about Drop In & Decorate Cookies for Donation! And yum, your sweet potato cheesecake might just make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table this year.

JEP said...

I so love cheesecake & will try this one soon. Working on T-G so will prepare it sometime after.

Olivia said...

Well, probably the only way you could get me to eat sweet potato is in the pie, .... but even though I'm no lover of cheesecake, this looks delicious too!

radish said...

Oh god, this looks good!! I need to give this a go! :)

hensteeth said...

Thank you. Your sweet potato cheesecake will grace my thanksgiving table. And those warm lovies will be coming from Dallas.

Cynthia said...

This is a brilliant idea! The slice you've profiled looks soooo creamy good.

Kevin said...

I like the idea of a sweet potato cheese cake!

Meeta said...

Oh Lisa that looks lovely. I am in pumpkin heaven.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

OMG, that cheesecake looks awesome!!! Extremely scrumptious! I've never had sweet potato cheesecake, but I bet that it tastes wonderful...

Cheers,

Rosa

Kitty said...

Oh man does that look good....

Homesick Texan said...

Kalyn--I don't know exactly how healthy it is, but it is fantastic!

Jerry--The wonderful thing about this dessert is even those who don't like sweet potatoes love it--it's creamy, sweet and spicy--what's not to love? Cranberry cheesecake sounds awesome, too.

Frank--Yep, we always have sweet potato pie, so creamy and delicious. Sadly, I'm only going to be outside Dallas for a little over 24 hours, but I'll definitely give you a holler next time I'm in Austin.

Lydia--You're very welcome. You've created an amazing thing and I'm honored you asked me to help spread the word.

JEP--Hope you like it!

Olivia--Yep, it's a sneaky way to get those who don't normally like sweet potatoes to change their opinion.

Radish--Thanks! Enjoy!

Hensteeth--You're welcome--hope your family enjoys it!

Cynthia--Thanks! It's the best of both worlds--cheesecake and sweet potato pie.

Kevin--It's good stuff!

Meeta--Thanks! You can substitue pumpkin for the sweet potato and get similar results.

Rosa--It does wonderful!

Kitty--Thanks!

Julie said...

It's like eating your vegetables, right? Sweet potatoes are good for you!

Your picture makes your cheesecake look particularly inviting -- creamy and rich.

Homesick Texan said...

Julie--Yes, it's exactly like that--the sweet potato completely cancels out the sugar, syrup and copious amounts of dairy!

ann said...

mmmm... you know what would be delicious in the topping? A little bourbon! Bourbon makes everything better ;-)

Dana said...

Oh man, this looks GOOD! Yum yum yum.

Kathleen said...

That cheesecake looks fabulous I think I am going to make it for my son. He is at A & M and can't come home for the holidays, his favorite is cheesecake and sweet potatoes. Great combination!

Chris said...

I've had sweet potato cheesecake once, and it was divine. Too bad I'm no baker!! I'd love to make this. :)

Wanda said...

Well this is something I would never have thought to do with sweet potatoes. I have them boiled and roasted and I luv em. However this recipe is easy and the photo looks great will definately give it a go

Wanda
from
www.only-cookware.com

Pille said...

I agree with Kalyn - this does sound - and look- fantastic!!

AT said...

I think the dreamiest part of this post is the idea of going into Williams-Sonoma with a "generous" gift certificate and getting whatever you want. (Swoon!) Okay, the cheesecake sounds yummy too.

Hope you're well - and enjoy TX next week! I won't be going home, but I'll be watching the A&M-UT game on Friday, that's for sure!

christine (myplateoryours) said...

Looks fabulous. But oh, my God, how can you eat this after a Thanksgiving dinner! I am full already!

Homesick Texan said...

Ann--Bourbon is like liquid bacon as it also makes everything better! Great idea!

Dana--Thanks!

Kathleen--I bet that'll make your son very happy.

Chris--It's pretty simple, trust me, as I'm not much of a baker either.

Wanda--Enjoy, it is indeed a snap to make.

Pille--Thanks!

AT--Yep, I was like a kid in a candy store with all that "free" money. I'll be on a plane when the game is playing, but sometimes when you fly out of Dallas the pilots give score updates. Happy Thanksgiving!

Christine--In my family we take naps and then go for a walk before dessert, so there's usually a wee bit of room to squeeze some more food into our bellies.

Kate / Kajal said...

This is definately very very original. Cheesecake is my fav too and it is the first ever sweet thing i tried to make. Actually for my boyfriends back thens birthday. I had no clue what i was doing but everyone lobed it , and everyone one though i was the best girlfriend ever ...hahaha , well thats history now :P

This combination is really something. Will have to try it :)

Tavo said...

Thanks, Lisa.

It's in the oven right now.

Smells great!

Homesick Texan said...

Kate--Thank! And as I'm sure you discovered, cheesecake is not only easy to make but quite the crowd pleaser as well.

Tavo--Excellent news! I hope y'all enjoy it!

Susan said...

Wow! Oh, wow! That looks scrumptious!

Tartelette said...

Well, with all the sweet potatoes on sale this week I went a little crazy and I was just starting to wonder what to make next...until this! Beautiful! Hope you had a very happy Thanksgiving!

Jessica "Su Good Sweets" said...

I'm crazy about sweet potatoes. For some reason, they taste funny in pies (I'm still for the traditional pumpkin pie), but cheesecake might be another story. Thanks for the formula.

BarbaraC1977 said...

I've been wanting to make this recipe ever since it was posted. Today we made it, as MINI cheesecakes for a party tomorrow. They are GREAT!

We put paper muffin cups into mini muffin trays, and scooped about 1 tsp of the crust mixture into each. I used a wooden tool (Pampered Chef #1590 "Mini-Tart Shaper) to mash and twist-release the crust into a more or less cohesive shape. Then a small cookie scoop (Pampered Chef #2530) of sweet potato cheesecake filling. Baked at 325F for about 15-16 minutes, let cool on stovetop. Small spoon of topping on each. These also freeze well, before topping.

Note: You can use other tools; I just thought the numbers made it easier than describing these clearly enough.

Thank you for this great recipe!

BarbaraC1977 said...

p.s. The recipe made a little more than 8 dozen mini cheesecakes.

Hill said...

I made these this thanksgiving, after mixing all the ingredients I noticed that the bottom to my spring form pan was missing!!

So I made them in cupcakes.
Wonderful!

Thank you for the outstanding recipe!

Aélis said...

I love sweet potatoes.
I never thought to cook them like that.
I will taste your cheesecake recipe : it seems to be so good !
Have a niece day
Aélis

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