Editor's note: Sugar Buzz columnist Hannah H. Carroll makes easy dessert recipes, serves them to co-workers and writes about the result.
Tradition reigns on Thanksgiving, and I learned that the hard way. One year I brought a funky (and delicious, I might add) cranberry relish to my then-future mother-in-law's house, only to watch it sit untouched. It was sort of heartbreaking. Now I go with the favorites -- starchy sides and desserts.
But there's room for innovation on Turkey Day if you stick to familiar foods and fall flavors, and Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie does both. With cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in its filling, the creamy cheesecake -- a recipe by Hilton Head Island chef David Vincent Young of Roastfish & Cornbread -- is a natural fit for the fall feast.
Preparation: Staying true to David's recipe in "Burnin' Down South" ($24.95), I started by boiling my sweet potatoes in water and lots of sugar. "(This process) really intensifies the flavor of the sweet potato," the chef writes. But for the sake of time, calories or cleanup, this step could be skipped.
The recipe makes one 10-inch deep dish pie. If using a smaller pan, as I did, you will need to make some adjustments. If you use the measurements as listed, you should have enough batter to make two small pies. Instead, I made one pie and filled four, small ramekins with the remaining crust and filling. I kept a watchful eye on the oven, and found my pies were done at the lowest end of the suggested baking time -- about 30 minutes.
Taste: The pie's texture and spices are most like pumpkin pie, but it also boasts the creaminess of a cheesecake. The sweet potato flavor shines through, and it makes for an interesting, delicious dessert.
The bottom line: Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie will be a welcome addition to your Thanksgiving spread. Play it safe by making it pumpkin pie's neighbor, not its replacement.
Hannah's rating: 4 stars
Hannah H. Carroll is the assistant features editor for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, and enjoys making desserts for her family and friends.
Overall rating: 4 stars
Straight from the taster's mouth
The samplers: 15 employees of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette
"I think it's a nice spin on the traditional pumpkin pie. It has the same texture and the same flavors, but a little different." Tom Barton, reporter (4 stars)
"I thought it would be really sweet, but it's the perfect combination of sweet potatoes and cheesecake. The consistency is just right." Cassie Foss, reporter (5 stars)
1 star = Ewww!
5 stars = Seconds, please!
Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie
Makes: 10-inch deep dish pie
Chef David Vincent Young of Roastfish & Cornbread infuses the sweet potatoes with simple syrup to intensify their flavor. The remaining syrup can be used in the pie itself and to top it.
FOR THE SWEET POTATOES:
4 medium sweet potatoes
3 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
FOR THE FILLING:
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 to 2 cups hot mashed sweet potatoes
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup E&J Brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons sweet potato syrup or molasses
FOR THE CRUST:
3 cups graham cracker or ginger snap crumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Scrub and peel sweet potatoes. Cut potatoes into medium diced pieces. Place in a 4-quart sauce pan. Add sugars and cover potatoes with water. Boil until tender, 15-25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and reserve the sweet potato syrup. Bring the syrup back to a boil. Boil until syrup thickens. Allow to cool. Mash sweet potatoes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, condensed milk, sugar and spices. Beat until smooth. Add mashed sweet potatoes and remaining ingredients (eggs, brandy, vanilla, flour and syrup). Mix until smooth.
For crust, combine crumbs and butter. Press into pie pan.
Pour batter into crust. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until filling has set. Bring pie to room temperature on a cooling rack. Refrigerate. Serve chilled with whipped cream and sweet potato syrup.
Recipe from "Burnin' Down South" by chef David Vincent Young