So it is almost time for the pinnacle of all that seasonal autumnal eating; Thanksgiving. Now, I’m not American, but the few years I spent living stateside were enough for me to become an obsessive fan of it. Who wouldn’t? After all, it is a festival that has preparing and sharing food at its heart, without a lot of the commercialisation that so often goes hand in hand with Christmas nowadays. I absolutely adore the colours, flavours, and the way that all the best of autumn seems to be condensed down onto one plate. This doesn’t just stop with the main course; the seasonal flavours are also echoed in the desserts, and that’s just the way it should be.
Deciding which ones to serve can be a challenge, the contenders all well deserve their traditional thanksgiving dessert status; but where would we be if we didn’t try to put our own mark on tradition. I’d never not serve an apple pie, but I don’t think you can go wrong with a creamy pumpkin cheesecake as as slightly different twist on the pumpkin pie. Nigella Lawson’s is particularly good, although I do like to make a caramel topping to finish it off to perfection. I’d also consider serving the Pumpkin Treacle Tart I tried out a few weeks ago, but this year I’m most excited about serving up one of my latest experiments. I may well not be the first person to come up with this idea, but from the moment I thought of it I was jittery with excitement about putting it to the test (sadly I was a long way from an oven, eggs and even sweet potatoes so had to delay) and am happy to report success. But then again, what could not be to like about a recipe that is essentially taking one of nature’s best from this time of year, mixing it with eggs (and a couple of other things) to create light fluffy dessert? If you’re like me, and like to pile your plate high at such gatherings (I know, but it is a holiday), but also finish the meal with with something sweet, with all those lovely fall flavours, you’ll also need to keep it light (or do as we often do, have dessert after a post prandial digestive aiding stroll), then this may well be the recipe for you. Give it a go, but make sure that you are ready to eat it as soon as it is ready; soufflés don’t hang around long.
Sweet Potato Soufflé
6 eggs (separated, but you only need 4 yolks)
2 largish sweet potatoes
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon
About 6 tbsp light brown sugar (but do bear in mind your potatoes are supposed to provide a lot of the sweetness)
4 tsp cornflower
20g plain flour
120 ml double (heavy) cream
165 ml semi skimmed (2%) milk
Butter either one large, ovenproof dish, or 6 small ramekins.
Roast the sweet potatoes in their skins in a hot oven until they are tender. Allow to cool then mash them up (without skins, obviously). Then turn the oven down to 180 deg. C.
Whisk the flour, cream and cornflower together and beat the sugar into the egg yolks.
Heat the milk until it is almost boiling, then take it off the heat and pour a splash into the cream/ flour mixture. Whisk throughly, then pour in the rest, with the cinnamon and vanilla. Put back on the heat and bring to the boil slowly, whisking ferociously all the time. When it starts to thicken slightly, take off the heat again.
Pour the egg/ sugar mixture in, whisk again, then return to a gentle heat, just until it starts to bubble.
Take it off the heat and add the mashed sweet potato and allow to cool.
When you are almost ready to serve, whisk the egg whites until they are stiff and holding their shape. (Try the turning the bowl upside down over your head test if you dare, and if your thanksgiving finery permits it)
Fold the egg whites into the custard mixture carefully, trying not to lose any of the vital air, then spoon the mixture into your prepared dish, or ramekins.
Bake for around 30 minutes if you are cooking a large one, probably around 20 for 6 smaller ones. Keep an eye on the oven; soufflés are notorious for overcooking, burning or collapsing whilst you are not looking.
Serve immediately, and enjoy!