Tuesday, 4 December 2007

design dessert

Last weekend I finally got around to doing something with the sweet potatoes I'd had lying around for way too long - I don't use sweet potatoes all that often and all the lovely Thanksgiving posts I've been reading everywhere made me itch to try something new. I browsed through my cookbooks, thought about adapting and combining different recipes and was determined not to get myself into a catch-22 situation, where I end up making nothing at all because I'm unable to choose from all the possible dishes.

Also, I wanted to challenge myself a bit: I have a few cookbooks with complex dessert recipes, consisting of several components and looking oh so beautiful. Which I never get around to making, exactly because they're so complex. Not difficult - just a lot of work. Invariably, you need a gazillion different ingredients for all the parts, so it takes half a day doing the preliminary grocery shopping, another half day to make everything and when you're finished, the kitchen looks like a battlefield. And then, of course, just when you sigh and think 'that was ok', you take a last look at the recipe and you find that, under 'assembly' or 'presentation', a few more components and some complicated garnishes are thrown in for good measure.

So I often end up making just one component, rather than the whole dessert. Which tastes nice and looks fine, but not spectacular. And sometimes, you know, a girl just wants to show off and make something that looks as if it came out of a restaurant kitchen. This girl does anyway.

And so here it is, my first show-off (but no sweat) dessert: sweet potato and white chocolate flan on a gingersnap crust, sweet potato gnocchi and coconut custard, all flavoured with sweet massala spices. Very easy to make, because it doesn't use a million different ingredients, and looks like a million dollars. Just one warning: pretend you don't know how much butter goes into the whole thing.

Also, because the flan squares tasted rather nice all by themselves and because - in my mind anyway - the sweet potato thing has a decidedly American feel to it (plus they are not too showy by themselves and won't upstage a brand new house) I'm taking them to Peabody's housewarming party.

sweet potato flan squares

inspired by D & C Duby's Wild Sweets

100g roasted and mashed sweet potatoes
100g crushed gingersnaps (by all means, make them yourself if you want, but store-bought will do just fine)
195g + 25g butter
130g white chocolate
3 eggs
80 caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
1 tsp sweet massala spices

line a baking tin (I used a 20 cm square one) with baking paper, making sure it the sides of the tin are covered as well. Melt 25g butter, mix with the crushed gingersnaps and spread evenly on the bottom of the tin. Melt butter with chocolate (I used the microwave, in 30 second bursts). Combine sweet potatoes with eggs, sugar, vanilla and massala, then fold in the chocolate mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture over gingersnap base and bake in oven (150˚C) for 30 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to use.

sweet potato gnocchi
inspired by Hidemi Sugino The Dessert Book

125g roasted and mashed sweet potatoes
50g plain flour
1/3 whole egg
1 tbsp coconut milk
caster sugar with pinch of sweet massala spices

combine all ingredients in mixing bowl until incorporated. Cover bowl and leave to rest in fridge for at least one hour. Flour work surface and roll dough into a log, about 1 inch diametre. Cut into half inch cubes and cook in boiling water (they are ready when they float). Coat in massala sugar mix.

coconut custard
adapted from here

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp sweet massala spices
1/6 cup sugar

Combine 1/4 cup coconut milk and cornstarch in a bowl and blend until smooth. Whisk in yolks, beating until smooth. Combine rest of coconut milk, vanilla, massala and sugar in a saucepan and carefully bring to a boil. When the mixture just boils, whisk a ladleful into egg mixture to temper it, then whisk this back into the cream mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour into jug and cool.

To assemble: dust flan squares with icing sugar, add a few gnocchi and a drizzle of custard.


Meeta said...

Brilliant! I made sweet potato flan on Thanksgiving too. I posted it on Thanksgiving day itself as I could not wait to share it with all! LOL! YOur addition of the coconut flavor is great too!

Rose said...

Inne, I really thought this was a restaurant dessert review. It looks divine. I made once a butternut squash flan, but never with sweet potatoes. Sounds delicious and looks great. Have a Happy day.

Peabody said...

The flan looks fantastic...what a great way to use sweet potatoes! Thanks so much for making such a tempting treat for the party.

linda said...

Looks like a million dollars!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Oh, Inne!! You are so talented, everything you do is wonderful, no matter what you choose!
The photos are breathtaking.

Evelin said...

I love the sweet potato-coconut milk combo! The dish looks very professional indeed. You've inspired me to make some kind of coconut custard myself - now that's making me drool!

Deborah said...

What a beautiful dessert!! I am always wanting to make fancy restaurant-like desserts, but we rarely even make it to dessert because we are so full from dinner!

Tartelette said...

I love all the flavors of the dish. Brilliant all around! My man hates coconut shreads and I just made an involved multi component dessert yesterday and it had plenty of it. He ate some but left me the rest...yippeee!!
I love the gnocchi!

Inne said...

Meeta, the whole Thanksgiving thing is quite alien to me, but any reason is good to try something new methinks.

Thank you Rose, I love butternut squash - but I happened to only have some sweet potatoes...

Peabody, can't wait to 'taste' all the other dishes at your housewarming party.

Thanks Linda. At the current exchange rate, that's about half a million pounds :)

Patricia, thank you for the lovely comment. There's lots of things that don't make it on my blog though... And as for the photos, I have about a 2 hour window each day in which there is enough light and a picture might turn out ok. If it doesn't rain that is, which it has been doing non-stop for the past week!

Evelin, glad I've inspired you to make something coconutty.

Deborah, I always always always leave room for dessert! But then I have a serious sweet tooth.

Merci Helene. Can't wait to see your dessert, I'm sure it will be something incredibly elegant and delicious! I never liked coconut much (fibre-y Bounty bar childhood nightmares) but I'm starting to like it. Even the dessicated stuff. Now S, that's another story...

Annemarie said...

Sweet potato flan square...! Just the name sounds fantastic. I covet, I covet.

Gretchen Noelle said...

I just love sweet potato and I am sure that as a flan, with gingersnap, oh! it must be just delicious!