I try not to get political on here because this is a blog about butter and sugar and chocolate. But this week after the clown circus that was Election 2016, it feels like nothing matters except the impending doom of the incoming Orange President. But with a heavy heart, we must go on, and I believe this is an important time to reflect on and be grateful for what we have during this Thanksgiving holiday.
As pumpkin season winds down, it’s nice to have something a little different, particularly as I am not the biggest fan of pumpkin pie (*yawn*). As per usual, BAKED delivers a traditional Fall dessert with a twist– this Sweet Potato Tart with Gingersnap Crust & Heavenly Meringue from Baked Occasions was a gorgeous addition to my Italian Friendsgiving celebration last night. I’m so glad Baked Sunday Mornings had this tart on the schedule for this week! (Okay okay, it’s not Italian, but it worked well alongside the other two desserts, which were Italian.) Over the summer, I was lucky to spend three weeks eating my way through Italy (still working on a series of blog posts), part of which was spent in Tuscany with a wonderful group of friends, and last night’s dinner was a mini reunion, chock full of delicious Italian food and great company. As the demise of our nation grows near, it was very comforting to be surrounded by love and fond memories of Italy.
Back when Baked Sunday Mornings was testing recipes for Baked Occasions, I tested this recipe, and let’s just say it didn’t go exactly according to plan. My crust looked like a rickety picket fence, and the filling was a pool of orange goo… I never made it to the meringue. I was therefore very apprehensive about making it again, but I was hopeful that this time would be more successful; I pulled out my testing notes and saw that the recipe had undergone several changes to the filling, which was promising. I was so beyond pleased this time– I still tweaked the crust a bit and the baking time was way off for me, but the result was everything I could have hoped for.
The first step is roasting the sweet potatoes, which simply involves sticking them in the oven until they are tender, about 70 minutes, then peeling, cubing, and puréeing them with a little water. (I needed 4 tablespoons, double what is recommended.) I’m not sure why we need 3 potatoes, since there is so much purée left over, but I’ll probably use it for biscuits or muffins at some point soon after it takes a nap in the freezer for a while.
While waiting for the potatoes to cool, I made the delicious gingersnap crust. The recipe just says “gingersnap cookies”– I wasn’t sure if there was a particular type that would work best (chewy? crispy? with or without ginger bits?), so I went with Trader Joe’s Triple Gingersnaps, which have chunks of crystallized ginger in them. Normally ginger isn’t on the top of my list, but it works so well in this tart. And the ginger bits didn’t break down in the food processor when I pulverized the cookies, so there were extra-gingery bites in the crust.
Okay sorry, I’m distracted by ginger bits– it’s been a long week. After processing the cookies to fine crumbs, I added brown sugar, salt, and melted butter and pulsed everything together to achieve a wet sand texture.
The first time I made the tart, I used a fluted tart pan, which as you saw above, did not work out super well. This time I decided to use a springform pan (lined with parchment on the bottom) for a smooth finish on the exterior of the tart. However, once I had pressed the crumbs into the pan, I felt that the crust was too thin, and since I tend to like a thick crust on anything-that-has-a-crust, I made another ½ batch and added that to the pan to form a taller, thicker crust. As I pressed in the crumbs (a shot glass works well to do this), I remembered that the crust is somewhat fragile, so I took a lot of time and care to press it very firmly and evenly along the sides. I then froze it for 8 minutes and baked it for another 8, just until set… So far, so good!
I then set about making that filling that I feared. I put the sweet potato purée in the bowl of my stand mixer and added a mixture of evaporated milk, maple syrup, and eggs. This created a loose, brownish-orange base, to which I then added brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and freshly grated nutmeg (friends don’t let friends use ground nutmeg), followed by melted butter.
The filling is then poured into the cooled crust and baked until a toothpick comes out clean. The baking time is allegedly 20-25 minutes, but at that point, my filling was still completely jiggly. I kept adding 5 minute increments, and finally by 40-45 (I lost count), it seemed almost firm enough, though the middle still looked wetter than the outer edges. I was worried about burning the crumb crust, so I pulled out the tart, which had puffed up nicely.
As it cooled, the tart leveled out perfectly, and I made the meringue on the day of serving, which I toasted with a handheld kitchen torch. Big thumbs up from my tasters; I expect that this will be in regular Thanksgiving dessert rotation in the future!
You can find the recipe for this Sweet Potato Tart with Gingersnap Crust & Heavenly Meringue at Baked Sunday Mornings. I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.