Travelgiving: Sweet Potato Tartlets with Five Spice Fluff

Travel Inspired Sweet Potato Pie for Thanksgiving

Last year I wrote a series of recipes I called "Thanksgiving Basics" in case you're far from home or hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and just want to keep it classic and simple. You can find them all here. This year I'll be doing things a little more travel inspired for our second annual big expat Thanksgiving (we'll be hosting around 25) but definitely keeping some of the classics in the mix.

Our 3rd Stop: Thailand, where I bought our star anise heavy five spice powder or China, where five spice comes from.

Our T-Day Inspiration: Candied Yams (I'm using the common name for this dish even though what you're eating in the US is always a sweet potato)

I grew up eating plenty of sweet potatoes as baked potatoes but the classic marshmallow topped candied yams never graced my Thanksgiving table so even the recipe I wrote last year isn't the most traditional. I love sweet potatoes and I love home-made marshmallows so I figured there had to be a way to make this dish my own. Unfortunately, when I did a more traditional casserole with my homemade honey five spice marshmallows (delicious, and will definitely get a write up of their own) they just totally melted without browning. I'm not entirely sure why. It also was so sweet when I tried it, I just couldn't imagine serving it with the main course and decided to revise and make a dessert. I remembered a few years ago, I worked at a catering company where we had a bride specifically request this Martha Stewart cake with it's toasted marshmallow frosting and I knew that was something I could make my own that would stand up to either a torch or a broiler. I will say, even as a dessert, this ends up being a little much for me, but if you've got guests know for their sweet tooth, this is bound to be a winner.

Ingredients:

  • A basic 3-2-1 Pie Dough, like 1.5 times this one

For the Sweet Potato Filling:

  • 1.5 pounds Sweet Potato*
  • 2 ounces Butter (melted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Five Spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 tablespoons AP Flour
  • 3/4 cup cream

For the Fluff:

  • 1.5 sheets Gelatin
  • 1/4 cup Egg Whites
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons Water

*I've found two types of sweet potatoes in Korea. The smaller, more widely available ones are too starchy to work well for this recipe. The ones to use are the "pumpkin sweet potatoes" (which can be found at Costco this time of year) which are more similar to American varietals but still a little on the starchy side. I bet this recipe turns out even better with soft US sweet potatoes. I think if I do this again with Korean sweet potatoes, I'll probably cut out the flour.

Directions:

  1. First things first, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take out your chilled pie dough and divide into six pieces. Roll out a piece into circle 3/8th inch thick. Place into tartlet pan, making sure to go all the way down into the corners. Trim around the edges so you have an overhang about the height of the tart pan. Fold the overhang around the circle, creating a double thickness tart edge. You can now use a paring knife to trim off any height above the pan for a clean look or just leave it for a more rustic look. Repeat with the remaining five pieces of dough. Blind bake the tartlet crust to light golden brown. (You can also just do this recipe as one 9 inch pie)
  2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes. Cook until fork tender and drain. In a large bowl, mash potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Mix in butter, salt and spices.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to whisk together yolks and sugar until pale yellow and creamy. Fold into the sweet potatoes. Next mix in the flour and then the cream.
  4. In a clean bowl, use a stand or hand mixer, whip egg whites to soft peak. Fold 1/2 the egg white mixture into the sweet potato mix. Repeat with the remaining half until just incorporated.
  5. Divide sweet potato filling evenly between the six tartlets. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is just set.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Once cool, you can store for 24 hours in an airtight container before adding the fluff.

Adding the Fluff:

  1. Place the sheet gelatin in ice water until soft
  2. Begin beating egg whites to soft peak
  3. While the eggs are beating, heat sugar, honey, five spice, salt and water to 235 Fahrenheit. Immediately remove from heat. squeeze excess water off bloomed gelatin and then mix into the hot sugar.
  4. With mixer on low, slowly pour hot sugar into the eggs whites. Once all the sugar is in, turn up to high speed and let whip until cool and shiny (this will probably take about ten minutes, that sugar is HOT).
  5. I used a piping bag with a round tip to pipe the fluff until it completely covered the top of the tart and then I used a small offset spatula to shape it how I wanted. You can pipe or spread in whatever design you want.
  6. Once all your tartlets are covered with fluff, you can either torch them or stick under the broiler for about five minutes to brown. I don't have a torch here, so I used my "fish drawer" which is basically the Korean version of a broiler.
  7. Serve immediately or store at room temperature up to six hours.

Gluten free version: I'm fairly confident you could also do this as a casserole. Depending on the size of your casserole dish, you'd probably want to do one and a half times to double the recipe. Don't make a crust and omit the flour in the sweet potato filling. If you're serving it with the main course, don't double the fluff recipe, if you're doing it as more of a sweet potato pudding dessert, go to town.

Thanksgiving Basics: Candied Sweet Potatoes

I've now looked at maybe every candied sweet potato recipe on the internet and what I learned from them is that it's almost impossible to take an attractive picture of candied sweet potatoes. Candied sweet potatoes weren't really a fixture on my Thanksgiving table growing up (we mostly just went with mashed potatoes and also more mashed potatoes) but we've been getting a fair amount of sweet potatoes in our CSA and I've been making a much (much) lazier, much more haphazard version of this recipe on an almost weekly basis. When one of my Thanksgiving guests requested sweet potatoes on the menu, I figured it was time to fine tune it. This version is still incredibly easy to make but a little more decadent than what I usually make for myself.

Recipe serves 5-7

Ingredients:

  • 4 Medium Sweet Potatoes
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) Salted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Maple Syrup (Grade B if possible)
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes (2 is quite spicy, which I'm into, but I'll be making it with 1 for my guests)

How to make it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While the water is coming to a boil, peel and chop your sweet potatoes into roughly one inch cubes. Boil the sweet potatoes until they are tender and can be pierced with a fork and then drain.
  3. While the sweet potatoes are boiling, combine butter, brown sugar, maple, cinnamon, salt and red pepper flakes in a small heavy bottomed sauce pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter is melted, the brown sugar is dissolved and the emulsification comes to a simmer.
  4. Evenly distribute the sweet potatoes in a 9 by 13 glass baking dish and pour the syrup over them. Stir to make sure the sweet potatoes are evenly coated.
  5. Place the pan in the oven and bake for fifteen minutes. Give the sweet potatoes another stir to coat them evenly and bake an additional ten minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Serve as soon as they're cool enough to eat.

Protip: I'll be making these one day in advance, cooling completely at room temperature, wrapping well and refrigerating overnight. In an ideal world, I'd have to space to reheat them in the oven but my oven is only big by Korean standards, so I'll probably be reheating them in the microwave.