Did you ever want to have your cake and it eat it too? Here’s your chance. This is a delicious cheesecake packed with the nutritious power of sweet potatoes. At first glance, you might be thinking there’s no way this thing works, but trust me. It does, in spades. (And in your belly.)
This recipe was given to me by a friend. Actually the same friend whom I had made the Salted Caramel Apple Pie for. (And yes, I meant to end that sentence with a preposition. You’re allowed to.) She had given me the recipe a long time ago, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to try it yet. So I tried it for Thanksgiving. (Yes, I realize that Thanksgiving was a while ago, but I bake things a while ahead of when I write about them.) I have made pumpkin pie in the past, but this year I thought I would try something different.
The first thing to do was roast the sweet potatoes. I had originally looked for sweet potato purée in the grocery store when I went shopping in order to save myself the trouble. They didn’t have any, so I got some sweet potatoes. I was worried that it was going to be difficult to roast and purée them. I was pleasantly surprised.
I found and followed some very easy instructions. I laid them out on foil, pierced them with a fork, and baked them. (Those of you who read last week’s post know that I baked them while I was waiting for my bread to rise.) It was fun to hear them whistle and see them ooze while they baked. (Whistle and Ooze would be a good band name, IMHO.) When they were done, I peeled them. The peel came right off. Easy peasy. I thought, “Why don’t I do this more often?” I then mashed them with a masher and stuck them in the fridge overnight, so I could make the cake in the morning to be ready in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Making the crust was pretty easy. The hard part was figuring out how many crackers equaled how much in the way of crumbs. In case you’re wondering, it was a pack of crackers for a cup of crumbs. (I think 9 crackers in a pack.) I made crumbs via the rolling pin/plastic bag route. (I’m old-fashioned that way.) Some of the crackers were already a little crumbly and some were already crumbs. I joked they were overachievers getting ready for the crust ahead of time.
I’ve often used Annie’s Bunny Grahams to make graham cracker crust. They’re much harder than your run of the mill graham crackers, so they take a bit of effort to turn into crumbs. This time I used Trader Joe’s graham crackers and they were much softer and easier to crush. Even so it takes a little bit of work. 2 cups is much more than I thought. I ended up needing a bigger bowl. (This seems to be an ongoing issue. One day I’m going to write up a list of things that I learned while baking. A set of baking “rules” or something. This will be one of them. Always use a bigger bowl than you think you’ll need.)
The recipe called for a 10″ springform pan. I didn’t have one. I used a 9″ cake pan. I knew it would be a little smaller, but I didn’t realize till later just how much smaller. However, the crust didn’t seem too big. At the time I thought that the crumbs seemed to be just enough. In retrospect, they probably would’ve worked fine for a bigger pan if they had just filled in the bottom, and not gone up the side. I think my crust was a little thicker and later I realized it was bunched up where the bottom met the side. (See below.)
When I was mixing the cream cheese, it reminded me of making the red velvet frosting. At first, it looks like nothing. Then for a while, it continues to look like nothing, and like it will never be anything. But after a while it makes something awesome. (When I make this “rulebook,” perhaps the next one will be: always have patience, especially where cream cheese is involved.)
The cream cheese mixture was very thick. There was cream cheese flying everywhere while I mixed it. After adding just a couple of eggs, the consistency changed completely. It became smooth. With a capital smoo. After adding the sweet potato purée it looked like peach yogurt. (Mmm. Peach yogurt. I used to eat a lot of that.) When it was all done, there was a lot of it. I mean, it was two pounds of cream cheese and at least a pound or so of sweet potatoes.
I put the cheesecake together and then I setup the cheesecake bath. Fun! I got a baking pan full of hot water and put the cheesecake in. I had never made cheesecake before, but you learn something new every day.
I had a whole bunch of filling left. And when I say a whole bunch, I mean a lot. The dish I used was a bit smaller than the one the recipe needs. It wasn’t just being an inch smaller. I didn’t realize how much bigger springform pans are. I ended up with two containers worth of filling left. So I had to start looking for ideas on how to use it. (You’ll hear about what I came up with in next week’s installment.)
I hadn’t gotten started on it as early as I had wanted to. So the turkey had to wait a little bit till after the cheesecake was done before it went in. It delayed our expected start time by a little bit, but it was just my wife and I and one friend. It wasn’t how I planned it, but thankfully it wasn’t a big hungry crowd waiting for food.
And now to the important question. How was it?
It was delicious. Absolutely delicious. Who knew the humble sweet potato could be so delicious? It was even better the next day, according to one source who got to try it two days in a row. It had a yummy cheesecake taste and texture. It also had the taste of sweet potato. It was a great combination.
One note about the crust: as you can see in the pictures, the crust bunched up at the seam between the side and the bottom. That was all me. I was trying to make sure it wasn’t too thin on the side or at the seam. I was also trying to make sure it all held together. I’ll try things differently next time.
While I enjoy pumpkin pie and sweet potato pie, this was definitely a good way to mix things up. What’s your go-to Thanksgiving dessert? For that matter, what’s your favorite cheesecake? How does graham cracker crust treat you? Let me know in the comments below!