What we in the United States refer to as a yam is actually a variety of sweet potato. Yams have brilliant orange flesh and are moister and sweeter than sweet potato varieties labeled as sweet potatoes. Think of yams as moist-fleshed sweet potatoes. The garnet yam is a variety of sweet potato with smooth reddish skin and deep-orange flesh. Every Thanksgiving, my girlfriend makes this sweet potato cheesecake for the special dessert. Its a smash hit and she raves about it. It is an old Sunset magazine recipe.
Makes 12 to 16 servings
2 dark orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. total), such as jewel or red garnet (sometimes sold as Garnet yams)
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Maple Cream (recipe follows), for serving
1. Preheat oven to 375° (convection not recommended). Peel sweet potatoes and cut in half lengthwise. Place in a 9- by 13-inch baking pan and brush with melted butter. Bake until potatoes are soft when pressed, 45 to 55 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, prepare crust. Pecan Crust: Whirl 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans in a blender until finely ground; you should have 1/4 cup. In a bowl, mix pecans, 1 1/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 5 tablespoons melted butter. Pour into a 9-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim (2 1/4 in. tall). Press mixture evenly over bottom of pan.
Bake crust in same oven with potatoes until lightly browned all over, 10 to 12 minutes.
3. Scrape any charred spots off potatoes, then cut potatoes into chunks. Whirl in a food processor or mash in a bowl with lemon juice until smooth. Reserve 1 cup; save any extra for another use.
4. Reduce oven temperature to 325°. In a bowl, with a mixer on high speed, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in granulated and brown sugars, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until mixture is well blended and smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Add reserved sweet potato mixture, the whipping cream, sour cream, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Mix on low speed until well blended.
5. Wrap bottom of cheesecake pan with heavy-duty foil, pressing it up the sides. Pour batter over crust. Put cheesecake pan in a 12- by 15-inch roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Set pans in oven and pour enough boiling water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cheesecake pan.
6. Bake until cake barely jiggles in the center when gently shaken, about 55 minutes. Remove pans from oven. Lift cheesecake pan from roasting pan and let cool completely on a rack, about 1 hour, then chill until cold, at least 1 1/2 hours, or up to 3 days (cover once cold).
7. Up to 6 hours before serving, cut around inside of pan rim to release cake; remove rim. With a pastry bag, pipe dollops of maple cream onto cake. Garnish with cream up to 6 hours before serving; cover and chill until serving. Or serve maple cream separately, to spoon onto each wedge.You can make this cheesecake up to 3 days ahead; cover and chill.