Sara's Sweet Potato Casserole

By • September 29, 2011 • 39 Comments

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Author Notes: I'm a sucker for the Cook's Illustrated Sweet Potato casserole published in the November 2005 issue. I've made it for Thanksgiving every year since it's been published. Other recipes have come and gone, but this one has stuck like fly-paper. Inspired by AntoniaJames I will be making an all food52 Thanksgiving dinner this year. Gulp! That means no CI Sweet Potato Casserole!! So what's a girl to do?? She must take the best parts of the recipe, and give it her own twist! Like the original, I use baked sweet potatoes, and leave some chunks for the filling. I also keep the pecans in the topping. Don't worry, though, I've definitely made some changes. For the filling I used orange juice, maple syrup, and buttermilk to sweeten and add depth. For the streusel I've added dates, coconut, and orange zest. Both the filling and the streusel are gently seasoned with French four spice which is a blend of white pepper (or sometimes black pepper), nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. The combination of flavors is warm and slightly tropical. I can happily say I am willing to make a new sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving this year! - hardlikarmourhardlikearmour

Food52 Review: We made this to serve alongside a bison meatloaf, and were amazed at the natural pairing. Hardlikearmour's fragrant seasonings and the touch of sweet was perfect with the bit of natural sweetness in bison. And the egg yolks give the sweet potatoes a lovely, silken consistency. She knows I have an annoying nut allergy, so wrote to ask if we could test the topping with oatmeal in place of the pecans, which we did. It didn't suffer one tiny bit. Top to bottom, this is perfect. - boulangere
boulangere

Serves 6 to 8

Sweet Potato Filling

  • 3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (none larger than a pound)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons maple syrup (Grade B preferred)
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 medium to large orange
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (plus additional to grease pan)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon French four spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 egg yolks

Pecan Date Crumble Topping

  • 6 medjool dates, pitted and quartered (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon French four spice
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened & cut into 3 pieces
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans or rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 400º F with rack in the lower middle position. Line a rimmed sheet pan with foil. Arrange sweet potatoes on the sheet pan so they are not touching each other. Pierce each sweet potato several times with a paring knife. Bake until cooked through, 60 to 90 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. The potatoes should be soft, and when cut in half no white streaks should be visible. Remove from oven, and cut in half to allow steam to escape. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375º F.
  2. While sweet potatoes are baking, butter 2-quart baking dish, and set aside. Zest and juice the orange. 1 teaspoon of zest will be used in the topping, and 1/4 cup juice will be used in the filling.
  3. Also make the crumble topping while the potatoes are baking. Combine the orange zest, dates, coconut, flour, salt, and French four spice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse until no large date pieces remain, 5 to 6 pulses. Add butter and pulse until mixture starts to become crumbly, another 5 to 6 pulses. Add pecans (or rolled oats) and pulse until mixture is combined, and few largish pieces of pecans remain, another 4 to 5 pulses. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Return food processor bowl and blade to processor.
  4. Use a spoon to remove sweet potato flesh from skins. Transfer half of the flesh to a food processor, and half to a medium to large bowl. Break the pieces in the bowl into roughly 1-inch chunks.
  5. Add orange juice, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, buttermilk, melted butter, salt, French four spice, cinnamon, and vanilla to the food processor. Process until smooth about 20 to 30 seconds. Taste for sweetness, and add additional maple syrup if needed. Add egg yolks, and process until well combined, about 10 seconds.
  6. Transfer sweet potato mixture from processor into bowl containing sweet potato chunks. Fold together gently but thoroughly so the chunks remain intact. Transfer the mixture to the buttered baking dish. Smooth into an even layer with a rubber spatula.
  7. Evenly distribute the crumble topping over the sweet potato mixture, leaving about a half inch rim of uncovered sweet potato around the edges (to prevent over-browning of the topping.)
  8. Cover with foil. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove foil, and bake and additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges have puffed and the topping has browned. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
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almost 2 years ago Cooldaddyo

This will become a Thanksgiving classic for our family. I opted for a pecan streusel for the topping and it was exceptional. My brother-in-law commented that this is what Thanksgiving tastes like.

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almost 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Pecan streusel is perfect on top! It's my favorite Thanksgiving left-over dish - makes a lovely breakfast.

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almost 2 years ago daringkelley

My screen shows the amount of buttermilk as a jumbled number. How much buttermilk does it call for?

Me

almost 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

My screen indicates 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons.

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almost 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks for answering! I wonder why it is jumbled? Make sure to contact the editors and let them know.

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almost 2 years ago daringkelley

Thank you!!

Me

almost 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I don't know HLA; I know I occasionally see comments like this where people can't see the ingredient amount. Not sure why?? But happy to help - Happy Thanksgiving!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I'm seriously considering putting this on my T-Day table instead of the butternut squash I'd planned . . . would probably go very simple on the top, just throwing on some toasted pecan pieces that have been tossed in melted butter and sea salt. (I'm making my Rustic Pear Tart with Streusel Topping for dessert, but with apples, so I'm thinking one streusel per meal will be sufficient.) Looks so good!! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I think it would be great with simple buttery pecan topping! Do let me know how you like it if it earns a place at your T-Day table. There are so many great dishes it's really hard to chose what to make!

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Mr. T's comment: Now *this* (pointing enthusiastically to this casserole, minus the streusel topping, using a few toasted pecans instead) is exceptional." Will definitely be making it again. I added about 1/3 cup half and half, which made it just a bit creamy. Loved it!!

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'm so glad it was enjoyed!

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about 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

We made this today to serve with bison meatloaf for lunch. What a natural pairing. The beautifully aromatic flavors in the sweet potatoes was perfect with the slight natural sweetness of bison. It was heavenly.

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'm ecstatic that you enjoyed it. If there's any left over, I swear it's even better cold the next day for breakfast.

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about 3 years ago growinggourmand

yum yum Sounds tasty!!!!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thank you, gg! I have a sneaking suspicion you'll get a chance to sample it.

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about 3 years ago erspo2000

I was wondering if i could use Brown Rice Flour instead of the all-purpose...I am gluten free and still want to make this for Thanksgiving. Looks amazing!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I don't have a lot of experience with gluten free flours, but suspect it would work out just fine.

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

and thank you!

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about 3 years ago JessicaBakes

That, oat flour or quinoa flour would work really well here, I think

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks for you advice, Jessica!

Me

about 3 years ago wssmom

swooning. really. yum. gosh.

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

you crack me up, wssmom!

Me

about 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I love this!! It's looks like the perfect side for a Thanksgiving dinner. I'd love to make it, but would need to rework the crust for my nut allergies. Could I just omit the nuts?

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'd maybe add some panko instead of the nuts to give it a little crunch. You could also increase the amount of coconut to help compensate. I did make a savory streusel topping with pepitas (Autumn Casserole recipe), but am not sure how well they'd work for this application.

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about 3 years ago EmilyC

This looks great, HLA, and sounds even better than the CI original! The all Food52 Thanksgiving is such a fun idea...hope you share your menu with us at some point!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thank you, Emily! I thought the idea was brilliant when I heard AJ did it. Luckily there are a LOT of great recipes to chose from, so I'm sure TG will be fabulous this year.

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Beautiful hla, what is french four spice? Perfect holiday side.

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I've really fallen in love with French four spice (aka quatre épices.) I have a blend from Penzeys that combines white pepper, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Some blends use black pepper instead of white or both black and white pepper. It gives a subtle heat to the casserole, but isn't overpowering at all.

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about 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

What a wonderful blend of spices, thank you.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Love the dates and coconut in the topping. Yum!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks, Midge! The dates replaced sugar in the topping, and I just love coconut!

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about 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

looks delicious! Wish i could take a great big spoonful!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks, mrsL! Guess what I'm eating for breakfast?

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about 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

HEY! You just won one! Quit posting awesome recipes! :-) Kidding of course - this looks fantastic.

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

LOL, aargersi!

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about 3 years ago lapadia

Love your topping, Sara!! Yum...

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks, lapadia! I really like the date, coconut, orange combo.

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about 3 years ago gingerroot

This sounds amazing. What lucky Thanksgiving guests!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks, gingerroot! I hope they think they're lucky.