old-fashioned sweet potato tart
Makes one 10-inch tart, 8 to 10 servings
A flavorful change from the eternal pumpkin pie, sweet potato tart is as Southern as you can get. This version is loosely based on one by Leah Chase, proprietor of the Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. There seems to be a lot of confusion about sweet potatoes versus yams, and some people even use the terms interchangeably. You can easily find a sweet potato in a supermarket or farmers’ market in the United States, and the color of its flesh or skin varies. Yams are another species of tuber altogether, which have a completely different flavor. They grow mostly in South America, though I’m sure some Latino markets in other places carry them.
3 medium sweet potatoes, 1 ½ to 1 ¾ pounds
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
1 cup light cream or half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
One 10-inch tart crust made from
Sweet Pastry Dough (page 14)
1 Set an oven rack in the lowest level of the oven and preheat to 375˚F.
2 Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven until they feel soft when pressed with a fingertip at the thickest part, about 1 hour. Cool and peel them, trimming away any dry spots on the pointed ends after peeling.
3 Place the sweet potatoes in a shallow bowl and use a potato masher to reduce them to a heavy puree. Stir in the sugar, spices, and salt.
4 Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the cream and vanilla.
5 Pour the filling into the prepared crust. Place the tart on the lowest rack of the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350˚F. Bake until the edge of the crust is deep golden and the filling is set, about 40 to 45 minutes.
6 Cool the tart on a rack. Unmold and slide the tart from the pan bottom to a platter. Serve at room temperature.
Serving: In New Orleans they often decorate each portion of the tart with a pecan half, then serve it with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Storage: Keep the tart at a cool room temperature until serving, or wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Add 1/4 cup finely ground pecans to the dough when preparing it. Scatter 1/2 cup chopped pecans over the filling before baking.
sweet pastry dough (from page 14)
If you’ve long shied away from preparing pastry, this is a perfect dough to begin with as you conquer your fear. It’s easy both to make and to use, and it always bakes through dry and golden on the bottom, ensuring a successful tart with no filling leaks or inconsistent patches.
Makes about 18 ounces dough, enough for two 10-inch tarts, or the bottom and top crust for a 10-inch tart
2 cups all-purpose flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 10 pieces
2 large eggs
1 To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and stir well to combine.
2 Cut each piece of butter into 4 or 5 smaller pieces and add all of them to the bowl.
3 Use both hands, palms upward, to reach under the dry ingredients to the bottom of the bowl, and lift them up through the contents of the bowl several times to distribute the pieces of butter evenly among the dry ingredients.
4 Use your fingertips to pinch the pieces of butter into smaller pieces, alternating with rubbing the mixture between the palms of your hands and occasionally repeating step 3. Continue rubbing in the butter until no visible pieces remain and the whole mixture is cool and powdery.
5 Add the eggs and use a fork to break them up. Use one hand to move the bowl back and forth across the work surface in a straight line while you stir up from the bottom with the fork until the dough is almost completely mixed.
6 Invert the dough to a floured work surface and gently knead it into a consistent mass. Continue with step 10.
7 To mix the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the work bowl fitted with the metal blade. Pulse several times to mix.
8 Add the butter and pulse repeatedly at 1-second intervals until the butter is finely mixed into the dry ingredients.
9 Add the eggs and pulse again until the dough forms a ball. Invert the dough to a floured work surface and carefully remove the blade.
10 Divide the dough in half, then flatten each half into a disk. Use immediately or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Nut dough: Add 1/2 cup ground nuts such as almonds or hazelnuts to the dough. No adjustments are necessary, since the ground nuts won’t absorb the eggs.
Cocoa dough: Use 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour and 3 tablespoons alkalized (Dutch process) cocoa powder, sifted after measuring, in place of the 2 cups flour.