I tried very hard not to get ahead of myself this year, and I suppose I both won and lost that battle. I did manage to create a thanksgiving post… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t listening to Christmas while writing this.
I can’t be blamed though. There’s snow on the ground and eggnog in the fridge. When the days get shorter and shorter, you need that Christmas spirit to cheer you up. The gloom can be heavy and somewhat overwhelming if it catches you unprepared, so I think the holidays must’ve been invented as a necessary sort of therapy for everyone missing the sun. There’s not much else to do besides cook and eat and sit, so why not make it an event? Thanksgiving approaches faster than I can think, which is probably due in part to the fact that I do tend to mentally skip it every year… but the one part of the holiday that I have a newfound love for is sweet potatoes. As a child I didn’t like them (which is odd considering they’re likely the sweetest thing on the table, and basically all of my teeth are sweet ones), but in recent years, starting with my days as a vegan, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the vegetable. (Should I give Thanksgiving more credit for showcasing it? Probably.)
As a grown-up, I love, love the fluffy, sickly sweet, marshmallowy stuff we call “yams” (yeah, I know they’re not yams, but that’s my family always called them), at a typical thanksgiving meal… but I wanted to try something different this year. Not only have I been trying to stretch my creative muscles with food, but lately I’ve been trying to be much more conscious of what I put in my body. Not to lose weight, per se, but more just to generally feel better. I am an admitted sugar addict after all. BUT, if anyone out there isn’t trying to be particularly healthy… please top this with the streusel from my Jumbo Apple Muffin recipe. Seriously. Substitute the walnuts for pecans, but do everything else the same. I’m practically begging for someone to try this. I feel like it’s meant to be.
Also, do not try to cut the potatoes by hand if you are going for the spiral arrangement in the photos. If you value your time and fingers, just don’t even try. Use a mandolin slicer or only make short slices (like those in the outer ring of the tart) and layer them on top of each other. I had this vision in my head of a gorgeous, rose-resembling swirl of potatoes. I even wanted to make a second tart layering the potatoes with bacon…. but then it took so. long. to cut the potatoes for the first tart, that I had to quit. As you can see, I didn’t even bother finishing the inner swirl pattern all the way to the edges. It was that bad.
I used maple syrup in this recipe because it seemed the seasonally-appropriate thing to do, but honey would work just as well. Or brown sugar. My tart turned out to be very mildly sweet. Just a hint of maple. But if you’re used to the sugar bomb fluff stuff, then you’ll definitely want to add more sweetness. I’d guess a more “classic” taste would be something like brushing the tart with a 1/3-1/2 cup maple syrup/honey and coating with the aforementioned streusel. But, ya know, you can just follow your heart. Do whatever you want.
maple & Pecan sweet potato tart
For the crust:
2 c. all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1/2 c. cold butter
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 t. sugar
about 1/4 c. ice water
In a food processor, add flour, sugar and salt, blitz for a moment to mix. Cut butter into approximately 1/2 in. cubes and add to food processor. Add shortening and blitz until the mixture becomes crumbly and fats are incorporated evenly (but still chunky, you don’t want a smooth dough at all). Add water and blitz again, if the mixture doesn’t begin to come together, add more water a tablespoon at a time. Remove dough (it’s okay if it’s still somewhat crumby, just sort of mush it together), and form a large disc. Wrap with plastic film and refrigerate.
For the filling:
5-7 medium sized sweet potatoes (orange or white)
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped pecans
Slice all potatoes (lengthwise, and then in half, so you have long, thin strips). Preheat the oven to 350. Take your crust dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface. I used and 11 in. tart pan, and had just a bit of leftover dough, but you can definitely use a smaller size tart pan if you want, and halve the dough recipe. Pat dough into pan, making sure to press it into the edges for a pretty texture when baked. Use the thinnest slices of potato to start rolling the center, and gradually wrap the thicker ones around as the “circle” becomes bigger. If your slices are too stiff, microwave them for 45-60 seconds to help them bend more. Continue wrapping slices until you reach the edge of the pan, or, to achieve the look in the photos, stop wrapping about 1.5-2 in. from the edge and fill the remaining space with layered “half moon” shaped slices.
Mix syrup, cinnamon, and cloves, and use a pastry brush to evenly coat the potatoes. Sprinkle with chopped pecans (or streusel, if desired) and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Check halfway through to make sure the pecans and crust are not over-browning. If they are, place some foil over the top, covering all edges. For extra shine on the finished product, mix a tablespoon of olive oil and two tablespoons of maple syrup, and brush the mixture onto the hot tart before serving.