Tag Archives: cheesecake

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

I am not a fan of pumpkin. There, I said it. I like pumpkins for decoration, like seeing them growing in patches, maybe painting one for Halloween, but in terms of pumpkin bread, pumpkin pies, pumpkin spice lattes? Not my thing. Growing up, we were a sweet potato pie family and that’s always stuck with me. Now the experienced foodies out there probably know by now that with most dishes, whether you use sweet potato or pumpkin, the spices are often the same and there’s probably only a slight difference in taste depending on how much sugar is used… but you still won’t see pumpkin “delicacies” coming out of my kitchen.

This sweet potato cheesecake recipe was a result of the combination of my love for cheesecake and the rapidly dwindling supplies of frozen homemade sweet potato pies that my aunt would send us each year. I’ve made sweet potato pies before, but somehow they don’t seem to impress and/or entice as much as cheesecake. I admit it, sometimes I make a dessert to bring to an event that will impress. I’m only human!

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Crust*:

  • 14-ounce bag of gingersnap cookies, finely ground
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Cheesecake:

  • 14-ounce can of canned yams in light syrup*, mashed with fork until it makes 34 cup
  • 24 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider
  • 34 teaspoon ginger
  • 34 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 34 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 10 1 12-inch springform pan. (Optional) Line the bottom and sides of the pan with buttered parchment paper to make for an easier removal.
  2. If you’re a kitchen gadget person–like me–grind the cookies up in a food processor, if not, place the cookies in a large zip-top bag and crush them to your desired fineness with a rolling pin or empty wine bottle.
  3. In a mixing bowl, combine the gingersnap crumbs and melted butter and stir well. Pour the crumbs into the bottom of the springform pan, pressing out from the center and up against the sides to roughly an inch. A thicker base crust will mean less height on the sides. Use any round smooth-bottomed glass, measuring cup or kitchen tool to tamp down the crumbs, forming an even crust.
  4. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, the edges of the crust should pick up a bit of color but the crust will not be set. Remove from oven to cool slightly while completing the cake batter.
  5. In a mixer with paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, butter and sugar. Mix until smooth and combined. You may need to pause to scrape down the bowl once or twice.
  6. Add the reserved sweet potato puree and mix to blend. Add apple cider, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cream and mix well. Add eggs, two at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions and mix just until incorporated and the batter is smooth. (With most mixers, paddle attachments are pretty good at collecting "potato strings" for easy removal.)
  7. Pour batter into the prepared crust and bake at 350° F for an hour. It should be just set around the edges, and slightly jiggly in the center.
    • Employ your own "cheesecake baking/cooling method" here. I prefer an hour at constant temperature, then turning the heat off and leaving it in the oven another hour or two until it’s cooled down to help avoid cracking.
    • Some cheesecake recipes call for a slow reducing of temperature over time. Ex: 20 minutes at 350, then 20 at 325, 20 at 300, etc. That’s too much bother for me, but your miles may vary and you know your oven better than I.
  8. Once the cake has cooled, refrigerate it for a few hours or overnight before serving.

* Notes: My default crust for cheesecakes is now ginger snaps as opposed to graham crackers. It generally adds something extra and I’ve had friends that wanted to nibble on the crust more than the cake. I think the cookie better complements this cheesecake, but feel free to substitute your preferred crust.

I drain the yams and reserve the syrup, adding it back in as needed to make a smooth puree. It’s ok to mash together everything in the can, but be mindful of the level of sweetness.

As I note in the recipe, everyone has their particular cheesecake baking quirks, usually based on their oven or aversion to cracked cheesecakes. Sometimes I use a water bath or just a baking pan filled with water for steam, but the addition of the sweet potato puree to this one seems to ward off cracking, but if you have a standard baking method, there’s no need to deviate just for this recipe.

And before the purists get on my case, I know, the recipe says “sweet potato” and I’m using canned yams. I consider that a result of my upbringing as well since we didn’t really know the difference and more often than not bought cans labeled “yams” for the pie. I have made this with actual sweet potatoes–but not actual yams–before, and when it comes to the supermarket aisle, you’ll often see cans with both “yams” and “sweet potatoes” on the label. From what I can tell, what’s in the cans are sweet potatoes, but the cake will still taste great.

Obviously this cheesecake would be a hit at Thanksgiving and Christmas, but don’t be afraid to serve it anytime. Enjoy!

Sara Moulton at Hill’s Kitchen

Just over a week ago, I was fortunate enough to meet one of my food idols. I’d already planned to make it a “food excursion day” with some friends, grabbing a bite on the Hill and heading up to Bethesda to check out a tea shop when we saw that Hill’s Kitchen was hosting Sara Moulton for a cooking demonstration and book signing. You never saw plans change so fast!

If you’ve ever seen her shows Cooking Live or Sara’s Secrets, she is just as friendly and engaging in person. She reminds you of the friendly neighbor that might stop by to borrow a cup of sugar and then come back with a share of the cookies or brownies she baked with it.

Watching her talk about Food Network, Gourmet Magazine, her family, her recipes and the new book was like seeing her on TV all over again. One of the things she practices and stresses is that cooking shouldn’t be a burden. Many people resort to fast food or dining out because they see cooking as a chore, especially when they have families to take care of. The recipes in her latest book, Everyday Family Dinners are the cure for that. The longest “total preparation time” I’ve seen in the book is 2 hours and 30 minutes and that was for “quick” kimchi, most of the “hands on” times are 15-30 minutes. She even starts the book off with a “How to Use This Book” section explaining cooking terms, where to find ingredients mentioned, the difference in weight between box grated and microplane grated cheese and most importantly the equivalent between chopped fresh herbs and dried herbs–1 tablespoon fresh = 1 teaspoon dried. For most people, this is common knowledge, but it’s something that used to confound me when I started cooking, especially when finding fresh herbs wasn’t easy if you didn’t have a garden.

For the demo, she showed us how to make her Polenta Lasagna and Warm Chocolate Cheesecake (recipe below) and sent samples around the room for tasting. Chantal cookware is sponsoring her book tour, so she used their wares and was happy to show off its capabilities, but it didn’t feel like a sales pitch. Leah did make sure, however, to let us know that the items Sara was using were all available for purchase at Hill’s Kitchen!

When she was finished cooking, she answered our questions–about anything, not just food–and then the book signing began. Thankfully my friends were knowledgeable in the ways of book signings and explained the Post-It note thing to me. During her discussion, she admitted that she steered us wrong when she had her cooking show and never had a chance to correct herself. One of the classic cooking teachings is that when you oversalt something, you can add a potato to correct it… well this is a myth, and I now have her signed say-so! However, she did say that there are two things while cooking that you can’t undo if you mess them up: burning things and mashed potatoes.

I’m not a giant, she really is that adorably tiny in person. And when she found out my friend and I were food bloggers, she asked for our cards! Sara Moulton asked for my card! Believe me, I was buzzed off of that for days! It was a fun morning and simply amazing to meet her. There are few food celebrities/personalities that I consider must-see, and Sara is easily at the top of that list. Take a look at her book if you see it while out and about and Amazon has a Kindle edition for 1/2 price. This one won’t be collecting dust on my shelves for a while!

Warm Chocolate Cheesecake

  • One 3.5-ounce bar bittersweet chocolate
  • 
8 ounces full-fat or 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 
2 teaspoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter four 1/2-cup ramekins and place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Coarsely chop the chocolate and melt it in the top of a double 
boiler or in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. 
Combine the chocolate with the cream cheese and vanilla in the 
bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process 
until well blended.
  3. Stir together the sugar and flour, add it to the processor, and 
blend it into the chocolate mixture. Add the egg and pulse until 
smooth. Divide the batter among the ramekins.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the centers are set. Transfer to cooling rack to cool slightly before serving.