Sweet Potatoes on the Half Shell
(makes 14 individual servings)
What you can prepare a day ahead
7 medium sized baked sweet potatoes made the day before you prepare your dessert, sliced in half and chilled overnight.
7 medium sized sweet potatoes sliced in half and scooped clean to the skins (reserve 1 and 1/2 cups for the filling; use the rest in meals later in the week)
9 oz. ginger snap cookies
1/2 cup pecan halves
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1-2 pinches salt
4 tablespoon unsalted melted butter
1 oz. bourbon (used in winning recipe – add more butter if you do not use the bourbon)
Place the gingersnaps, pecan halves, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until a nice even medium crumb has formed. Add in melted butter and bourbon and process until the crust starts to pull together. Place a scoop of crust mix into each sweet potato half and press along the inside of the skins until a nice even uniform crust is present all along the inside up to the rim, should be about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the sweet potato halves in a large round cake pan or a 9 x 13 cake pan, pressing them as close together as possible.
1 1/2 cup baked sweet potato
1 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
2 cups heavy cold cream
16 oz. cream cheese (cut into several large pieces)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs room temperature
3 large egg yolks room temperature
Puree the sweet potato in the food processor until the consistency is that of canned pumpkin. Combine the sweet potato puree in a saucepan with the turbinado sugar and heat on medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook 3-5 minutes until the mixture is thick and glossy. Place the mixture back into the food processor and process for about a minute with the feed tube open to vent steam.
While the processor is running add the cold cream and the cream cheese that has been cut into several large pieces. Process 30 seconds or until well incorporated and smooth. Scrape down the side of the food processor. Pulse in your spices. Add the eggs and yolks and process for 5 seconds. Pour the mixture into the potato shells, place cake pan in a larger pan filled ½ full with water and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, then turn off the oven and let the cheesecakes cool for 1 hour in the oven. Drizzle with your favorite caramel filling and garnish with pecan halves.
Lisa’s Notes: Use medium to large sweet potatoes or you may have some filling leftover. I would also recommend making a recipe and a half of the crust. Michael Hodge of Raleigh took first place at the 2011 NC State Fair with this recipe in the Anything But Ordinary! Sweet Potato Recipe Contest.