I’ve had some spiced sweet potato puree for a cheesecake that I had made for a holiday celebration. The unused leftovers were sealed in ziplock bags and tucked away in the far recesses of my freezer. It was forgotten until my craving for ice cream let my hand grace the rugged terrain of the bagged container. It was then I remembered that it was time to transform this puree into a weekend friendly dessert for a small family. I also wanted to experiment (again! hooray) and create a duo of layers.
I would keep the cheesecake theme but fashion a pate brisee crust (Dorie Greenspan’s fits the bill perfectly) for the base instead of one made of Graham cracker crumbs. To the remaining 1 cup of puree I had, I added in 2 eggs, 2 packages of room temperature cream cheese and a small amount of honey to the spiced sweet potato puree, I took about 1/2 of this mixture and blended it with some melted bittersweet chocolate (about 3 oz).
I put the crusts in 6 large muffin tins–not bothering to crimp the edges or do anything fussy with it– and then filled them halfway up with the chocolate mixture. I was lucky to have the perfect amount! They were topped off with the orange hued sweet potato mix and then popped into a hot oven at 425F for about 15 minutes. I was scared to do this at first because I didn’t know what the texture of the cream cheese would take on, but I forged ahead.
With the high heat making the crusts golden brown and flaky, after the 15 minute mark, I lowered the temperature to 350F and cooked them for about another 20 minutes, or until they just became firm to the touch. Once out of the oven and cooled completely on racks, I popped them into the fridge to set up. My experiment actually worked (phew!) The cheesecake was silky and creamy while the crust was light and crisp.
Below I have included the original recipe for the sweet potato cheesecake from Epicurious.com You can do what I did by halving the recipe and filling the contents in muffin tins instead. You’ll end up with dainty desserts that are more eater friendly, especially if it is for a casual weekend dessert. One final thing, I would recommend against adding the shredded coconut to the filling (as suggested in the directions). When one eats cheesecake, they do not expect to come across a sea of chewy coconut, but rather a creamy, smooth texture. You could always use the coconut as a garnish for the top instead.
My comments and suggestions are in italics.
Coconut Sweet Potato Cheesecake
4 cups 1/3-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams)
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
3 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tbsp (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tsp unsalted butter
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (packed) finely grated orange peel
1 tsp (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp table salt
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 large egg
2 tbsp whipping cream
Powdered sugar (aka confectioner’s sugar)
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used gingersnap cookies instead)
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
(I doubled the crumb base ingredients because I like a thick New York style crust. I felt the crumbs were sweet enough, so I omitted the confectioner’s sugar)
2 1/2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature (I used three out of laziness and ended up with leftover filling.. so don’t be like me… instead follow the recommended amount)
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 15-ounce can sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)*
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp (packed) finely grated lemon peel
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (omitted this)
Additional sweetened flaked coconut, toasted (for the garnish)
Directions: (there are a lot of directions! Make sure you read everything through before you start)
For sweet potatoes:
Combine first 13 ingredients in large saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until potatoes are very tender and most of liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Transfer mixture to processor; puree until smooth. Whisk egg and cream in medium bowl to blend. Add 2 1/3 cups sweet potato puree and whisk to blend well. Cover and chill sweet potato mixture until cold. (at this point when I realized that I would NOT be using all of the puree, I was slightly irritated because I was concerned about the zests and extracts not being detected in the final product. To compensate for this, I doubled all of the spices, peels, and extracts. I was glad I did because the taste was quite faint in the cheesecake. The unused puree is quite tasty on its own. You can eat it as a side to a meal or freeze it for another use.)
For crumb coating:
Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 1/2- to 2 3/4-inch-high sides; dust with powdered sugar (I lined the bottom with parchment paper for easy removal). Mix graham cracker crumbs and melted butter in medium bowl until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture evenly over bottom and up sides of pan (coating will be thin). Chill 30 minutes. (Sweet potato mixture and crumb coating can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover; chill separately.) (to ensure a crisp crust, I baked it for about 15 minutes and let it cool completely before adding the filling)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese, ricotta cheese, and sugar in large bowl until smooth (a food processor works well here). Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add cream of coconut, lemon juice, lemon peel, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Fold in 1 cup flaked coconut (nixed this) and sweet potato mixture. Pour filling into prepared pan.
Place pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake cake until filling is just set in center, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Transfer cheesecake directly to refrigerator and chill uncovered overnight (center may sink…which I was not cool with. So upon reading this, I made a bain marie for the cheesecake– aka water bath. Slightly more time consuming to do but hey, since you’re going to the trouble of making a cheesecake, its 2 fillings, and crust, you might as well go all the way and be OCD like me. Wrap the cheesecake and its cooled crust WITHOUT the filling in it yet– with plastic wrap. Then cover it with 4 layers of aluminium foil (creating an X to overlap), making sure all the bottom and sides are covered. Tuck in any plastic wrap you see. You are doing all this wrapping to prevent any water from seeping into the springform pan. Set the cheesecake tin in a large roasting pan. Set the pan on a baking sheet and open your oven door. Carefully add piping hot tap water or just boiled water halfway up the sides of the cheesecake pan. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake for the time specified or until the sides are set and the middle– about the size of a loonie– is just the slightest bit wiggly. Carefully, take the cheesecake out and set on a wire rack. Careful about the water– it may have seeped into the aluminum foil, but not to worry! It has not gone into the cake itself, assuming you wrapped it tightly! When it has cooled completely, remove the foil and plastic wrap. Place a clean piece of wrap on the cooled cheesecake’s surface and wrap well with a plastic bag. Store in the fridge overnight (Can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)
Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen cake; remove sides. Place cake on platter. Sprinkle toasted unsweetened coconut over top edge of cheesecake. Serve chilled.
*Available in the liquor section of most supermarkets.
Yield: Makes 10 servings