Sweet Potato Casserole

I like potlucks, because they give me a reason to cook. At the moment, however, I don't have enough motivation to cook without them.

The finished product. (20121116)
For today's potluck, I asked the audience whether they wanted a sweet potato dish, green bean casserole*, or cranberry sauce. When I next checked back, the vote was more or less spread evenly. So I tipped the scale by introducing my preference and decided to make a sweet potato casserole.

*I did, however, eventually make green bean casserole for Thanksgiving dinner.

Steps I Took:
Listening to Last.fm Radio Station: Norah Jones

Bake the sweet potatoes:*
Washed the potatoes. (Should have been Step 3)
Poked the potatoes with a fork. (Should have been Step 4)
Lined baking sheet with aluminum foil. (Should have been Step 2)
Set oven to 400 degrees F. (Should have been Step 1)
Baked for an hour.

Pounded dark brown sugar which dried out. Sifted. 4:17PM
Sifted 1/3 cup flour twice. Added the flour and sugar to a bowl and mixed.
I forgot I was going to double the topping.

The (poked) sweet potatoes. (20121116)
I opened a box of light brown sugar and added a 1/2 cup to the mix.
I added another 1/3 cup flour.
Next, I cut up (1 cup) butter into pieces and then added it to the mixture. I sliced the butter into smaller and smaller pieces.***
Added 1 cup chopped pecans. 4:37PM

Took out the potatoes at the 1 hour mark.**** Lowered oven to 325.

Potato Mixture:
Measured 1/4 cup sugar.
Beat two eggs and mixed them with the sugar.
Ground and added 1/2 tsp salt.
Added 1/2 cup evaporated milk.
Added potatoes.
Blended it.
Mixed in 1 tsp cinnamon by hand.
99% certain I added 1 tsp vanilla extract and 75% certain I added 4 tbsp butter.
Threw topping on top of potato mixture.
Put mixture into the oven. 5:15PM.
Planned to take it out around 5:45PM.

Topping mixture, pre-pecans. (20121116)
*Things would have been more efficient if I had done the steps as numbered in parentheses.
**I doubled the topping ingredients except for the butter
***The recipe instructed "to cut in the butter" and to do it until coarse. Then I found this snippet on About.com:
"Cutting in" means incorporating shortening or butter into the flour in such a way that little lumps of the raw fat remain whole within the flour mixture. When the dough is baked, these little lumps create separation in the structure of the product, which is what gives it that flaky consistency.
****My one undoing might have been not baking the potatoes long enough. I was crossing my fingers.

Starting the baking process at 3:50PM was problematic for a 5:30PM deadline. But I could have used the time the potatoes were baking as preparation for the dish.

Doing some reading while I waited for the casserole to bake, I learned that preparing the topping first would be another problem. The topping would be less flaky, due to the softening of the butter. Apparently another option would have been to put it in the refrigerator. Live and learn.

Potato mixture in glassware. (20121116)
I can attempt to make this dish again for Thanksgiving! Though I might consider looking up a marshmallow version. I think I had such a sweet potato dish once and loved it. Though I like sweet dishes. It might depend on how sweet this one turns out.

Follow-up Comments:
The dish together with the glassware was heavy and I wasn't sure if I would make it to my destination without dropping it. It was about a fifteen to twenty minute walk and I had to use an oven mitt on my left hand and pot holder on my right hand. The glass underneath felt a bit slippery, but thankfully the lid on top is plastic and provided a sufficient grip.

While the heat made it difficult to hold, it eased my mind knowing that the dish would still be cooking, if not already cooked. It also eased my mind to know that the topping crumbled and behaved the way I would expect topping to behave.

Being rushed, I didn't have time to precisely measure the amount of potato that was suppose to go into the potato mixture. However, I happily succeeded with using my intuition to get the right consistency. Furthermore, the amount made perfectly came to the brim of the glassware I used.

The finished product. (20121116)
In hindsight, I could have gotten away with perhaps one-and-a-half topping instead of doubling the topping recipe. That is, I preferred the topping thick, but it ended up being too thick. Also, doubling all but the butter worked out just fine.

Finally, I'm not sure how essential the cinnamon was, but I'm glad I remembered to add it.

I liked it. I don't think it was too sweet. But as I mentioned in the follow-up comments at the end of this post, I could have balanced the dish out by reducing the amount of topping.

Given the amount that remained, about five spoonfuls in spots along the edge, I'd consider the dish a success. Of course, my standards for a successful dish are low. I'm happy if I make something that people are willing to eat.


I was looking forward to baking this dish for a second time for Thanksgiving dinner, but unfortunately things didn't go as smoothly.

Baked sweet potatoes. The one at the right broke open prior to being prodded. (20121122)
Steps We Took:
Listening to Last.fm Radio Station: Ingrid Michaelson

Part 1:
My friend Mark set out to wash the sweet potatoes while I lined a baking pan with aluminum foil. We set the sweet potatoes on the foil and baked them at 400 F.

Listening to Last.fm Radio Station: Florence + the Machine

Part 2:
I just went to check on the sweet potatoes at the two hour mark (2:30PM) and I realized I forgot to prod them with a fork before putting them in the oven. One potato had opened on its own, but the others had internally bloated. I guess that's why you have to prod them. From this experience, I've learned that you don't have to prod them too much, just a couple here and there to allow the steam to escape.

Listening to Last.fm Radio Station: Jack Johnson

Part 3:
Potato Mixture:
After letting the sweet potatoes cool, Kalina set out on peeling the potatoes. Afterwards, she worked on the sweet potato mixture.

Potato mixture in the glassware. (20121122)
1/4 cup sugar, 2 eggs (beaten), Ground and added 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 tbsp of butter

I didn't buy a can of evaporated milk, because I had a can at home. Unfortunately it was already expired. You could tell, because it had turned yellow. Then I saw a can of condensed milk, but that had expired too. So then I started boiling some milk and was happy until I realized it was fat free! So I added 4 tbsp of butter. The pot had about 2 cups of milk. I continued boiling it and used half a cup. Thus there was approximately 1 tbsp of butter to make up for any loss of fat.

2/3 cup flour. Sifted once.
1 cup light brown sugar.
Kalina began chopping some pecans, but she was doing it ever so carefully. So when I said we needed a cup of chopped pecans, she didn't look so happy, and I took over.
Then I cut 3 tbsp butter into the mix of flour, sugar, and pecans with two table knives.
In the end, I poured most of the topping on top, but not all of it. I made the assumption that the topping should be like icing on a cake: put a bunch on and let the person eating decide how much to ignore.

Part 4:
At 4:31PM, I put the sweet potato casserole in the oven. The oven was at 375 for the lasagna but the recipe calls for the sweet potato casserole to bake at 325.

Topping. (20121122)
I decided I should wait until about 5:00PM to check on it.

At around 4:50PM we moved the temperature up, as it was short of 375. We'll need to add some cooking time on the lasagna (because the oven was at 325 instead of 375).

Comments and Results:
Darn! I didn't take out the sweet potato casserole on time; I took it out at the same time as the green bean casserole. As a result, it was slightly burnt, if not in taste, then certainly in color. And since I believed the look of a dish affects one's perception on how it should taste, I was a bit disappointed.

On the plus side, it was still sweet and delicious. I could taste a smoky and burnt flavor every once in a while, but I was still satisfied with the overall taste. As such, the dish didn't turn out as well as the first time around, but it turned out well enough and it showed I still have a lot to learn.

Focusing on what went right, while I didn't prod the potatoes, I definitely baked them long enough this time around, and so the potatoes could easily be mashed by hand. Thus, the resulting consistency and color of the sweet potato mixture turned out nicer than the first time around.

[20121130][20161107 Edit]

A week later... the last portion. (20121130)

Relevant Links:
Yummy Sweet Potato Casserole (AllRecipes.com)
Baked Sweet Potatoes (RealSimple.com)
My Thanksgiving Dinner (Table of Contents) post

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