Everything old is new again.
(At least that’s what I keep sayin’ to the mirror!)
My maternal grandmother, a world-class baker and pincher of ears, used to make a version of this Sweet Potato Crisp years ago. I thought it was weird. Sweet potatoes were for Thanksgiving! With a pile of marshmallows and swimming in syrup! So I ran out the door when it came out of the oven because there was NO WAY I was going to eat SWEET POTATOES like that! I was an 8 year old with very specific ideas about how food was supposed to be. Bologna sandwiches ONLY with chocolate milk! Fish sticks on the LEFT side of the plate, not touching anything else! Fried eggs, cooked so long you could bounce them off the pink Formica! I was a picky little brat, and it’s a wonder I’m not deaf or even have any ears at all after all the pinching they endured when I was a kid.
I have an old wooden box full of old family recipes, mostly from my grandmother (my Mom mainly just tried to make sure we all didn’t die of rickets and wasn’t too concerned about recipes...she approached cooking much like a zoo keeper approaches feeding the monkeys) that I rummage around in from time to time. Every time I make the chocolate chip cookie recipe, the lasagna, the chipped beef and gravy, I am amazed how quickly I am transported back to my Grandma’s tiny kitchen and how she never gave up trying to teach me to cook and bake.
(This is not quite what it looked like....)
“Now, listen to me…and quit fidgeting! This is how you dissolve yeast! Stop eating your braid! Look at this dough, now, isn’t it just lovely….what did I tell you about crossing your eyes?? Do you want them to stay that way?? In order for bread to rise, it has to…if you don’t stop cutting the cat’s fur, I’m telling your Mother, the poor soul. Why did she marry your father anyway???”
(No, my father wasn't Paul Newman, but that pose looks awfully familiar...)
Thank goodness I grew up (everybody quit laughing!) and figured out that food and the process of baking and cooking is a marvelous, enjoyable creative thing. Thank goodness some of my grandmother’s wisdom somehow penetrated my preoccupation of trying to teach her parakeets to talk. Thank goodness she knew that some day I would want her recipe for Sweet Potato Crisp.
There has been some tinkering with the recipe (the addition of candied ginger, etc.), but mostly it’s hers. The sauce is mine – yes, thank you very much, it is fabulous isn't it? Try not to slurp it all up before you get a chance to pour it over the crisp, ok?
Sweet Potato and Candied Ginger Crisp with Coconut Caramel Sauce
Serves 6 (or just me with a big spoon)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup oats
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
5 cups peeled and thinly sliced North Carolina Sweet Potatoes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
To prepare Crisp:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position rack to middle of oven.
2. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, nutmeg, allspice, and 2 teaspoons of the cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the chilled butter into the bowl. Using your fingertips, lightly mix until butter and dry ingredients start to come together, being careful not to over mix.
3. In another large bowl, toss the sweet potato slices with the lemon juice, the chopped ginger, and the remaining cinnamon
4. Transfer the sweet potatoes to a non-stick 8” X 8” baking pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top of the sweet potatoes.
5. Bake, uncovered in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, or until topping is bubbly and brown and sweet potatoes are fork tender.
To prepare Sauce:
1. While crisp is baking, place the sugar into a heavy medium-sized saucepan. Heat, over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is melted and golden brown. Slowly add the coconut milk, stirring vigorously. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring, until sauce thickens slightly, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
Scoop warm crisp into bowl and spoon warm sauce over top