Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The main reason? It’s about food and sharing. But also because it has no religious undertones nor does it have anything to do with gift-giving; it is just about togetherness. Each year, I look forward to Thanksgiving months in advance. Thanksgiving is frequently about traditions, which normally means repetition year after year. Tradition is actually something I did not experience a lot of growing up. My parents divorced when I was very young and as a result, per the court mandated custody agreement, I split my holidays between my mom in NYC and my dad in Arizona. Tradition gets lost a bit when you find yourself traveling on the actual holiday in order to see both parents the same day. My husband and I work hard on establishing traditions with our boys, but we’ve worked in a few twists. So, for me, Thanksgiving does not mean making the same food every year, and instead I focus on foods that remind our family of happy things, whether new or old. Old and new memories meet. Only on Thanksgiving can your grandmother’s green bean casserole follow a duck liver pate appetizer, with no one blinking an eye.
Since moving to California, Thanksgiving holidays have changed for me once again, and I’m ok with it (especially the super fresh produce!!!). So, in that fashion, this year, instead of pumpkin pie, I’m rooting for this delicious sweet potato tart instead. If you follow me, you know, I love tarts, so this should come as no surprise. I happen to really like pumpkin pie, but I think I like this sweet potato tart more.
If you read my pumpkin cookie or pumpkin curry soup post you already know I am a fan of pumpkin, but I have also come to love sweet potato as an alternative. Most don’t realize that sweet potatoes are loaded with protein (more than pumpkin) and are very high in fiber (again, even more so than pumpkin). While pumpkin is lower in calories, sweet potatoes have broader nutritional value. Also, interesting, sweet potatoes have made their way to The Environmental Working Group’s “clean 15 lists”, meaning they contain few traces of pesticides even when they are not organic–another bonus!
I have noticed some confusion between sweet potatoes and yams. It may surprise some people to learn that what they think is a yam is simply a sweet potato that has been mislabeled (I see this all the time). It’s possible in fact, that you may never have had a real yam as they are actually rather hard to find. Sweet potatoes are root vegetables from a plant in the Morning Glory family. They have tapered ends, thin smooth flesh with beige, orange or purple flesh. They can be long and skinny or round and plump and have a sweet taste. Sweet potatoes are grown in the US, mainly North Carolina. A yam is an edible root related to lilies and grasses. They have rough and somewhat scaly skin and a dry, starchy taste. Yams are grown in Africa (where they originated), Southwest Asia, the Caribbean and Central America. The FDA, which regulates food labeling, does not have a standard for identifying either sweet potatoes or yams, so both are used interchangeably further, increasing the confusion in grocery stores.
In this recipe I use my simple pie/tart dough recipe because it’s super easy. Even with making your own tart dough, this tart could not be easier to whip up, even during the busy holiday crunch. That said, I know that not everyone is going to make their own crust from scratch. If you want to cut this particular corner, just use a good quality dough made with butter and not shortening. I prefer to roast my sweet potatoes in the oven, which takes time. But you can cut another corner and microwave them for 8-9 minutes if you prefer. This tart is sweet but not overly so. With hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, it is similar to pumpkin but slightly creamier and subtler, making this slightly more appealing to the younger folks.
The recipe below is for a standard 10-inch tart, but for this post I made smaller 5-inch tarts instead. I do this often, as I love to have smaller bite-size pieces of all different types of desserts, especially on Thanksgiving.
So, whatever you are doing (or serving) for Thanksgiving this year, wherever you may be traveling to or whomever you are celebrating it with, and whether it’s filled with old traditions or new ones, I hope it’s a wonderful one.
Sweet Potato Tart
- For the Tart Dough:
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- dash of salt
- 1/4-1/2 cup cold water
- For the Filling:
- 2-3 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 cups cooked and pureed)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- pinch of mace
- Step 1 For the Sweet Potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.
- Step 2 Scrub the sweet potatoes, then pierce in several places with a sharp knife. Wrap the sweet potatoes in aluminum foil and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 45-60 minutes until soft. Allow to cool before peeling.
- Step 3 For the Tart Dough: Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor, such as a Cuisinart, fitted with a metal blade attachment. Pulse on/off to incorporate. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the dough resembles a coarse meal. With the machine running, slowly add the water in a steady stream. Pulse until the dough has just come together. Be careful not to over mix.
- Step 4 With your hands form the dough into a round flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Step 5 Keep the oven temperature at 425 degrees F.
- Step 6 Once the dough has chilled, roll it out on a well-floured surface into a 14-inch round. Transfer the dough to a 10-inch tart pan and line the pan with the dough. Use your hands to gently press the dough down to adhere. Dispose of any extra dough. Refrigerate the tart shell for an additional 15 minutes to set.
- Step 7 For the Filling: Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, use your hand to remove the peel. Place the sweet potato flesh in the bowl of a kitchen mixer, fitted with a metal blade attachment. Puree for about 1 minute until smooth. Set aside.
- Step 8 In a large mixing bowl add the sugar, eggs, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and mace. Using a whisk, mix well to incorporate. Stir in about 1 1/2 cups of sweet potato puree and whisk to blend.
- Step 9 To Assemble: Place the chilled tart shell on a baking sheet and pour the filling into the shell. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake until the filling is firm and slightly puffed around the edges, about 35-40 minutes. Check the tart after about 20 minutes to make sure the crust is not browning too quickly. If it is, use strips of aluminum foil along the edges to prevent further browning while baking. Cool slightly to allow tart to set completely and serve as is or with freshly whipped cream.