Chow Town

New cookbook means testing recipes

I’m working on a new cookbook, Bake Happy, which will be out in Spring 2015.

In order to make and taste-test all the recipes without putting on 500 pounds, I’ve become the Dessert Fairy, bestowing baked goods wherever I go. It’s actually a pretty great gig. And it does make people happy.

Here’s a great autumn dessert I can share with you.

Sweet Potato Crostata with Sugared Sage Leaves

With its beautiful fall colors, this free-form tart evokes autumn leaves, wood fires, and harvest home.

Makes 12 servings

For the sugared sage leaves

1 large egg white or prepared powdered egg white 16 fresh sage leaves 1/3 cup granulated sugar

For the filling:

2 cups apple cider 1/4 cup granulated sugar 2 pounds sweet potatoes, about 4 large 2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground coriander 1/8 teaspoon ground ancho chile 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the pastry:

1 cup unsalted butter, chilled 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon almond extract 3 tablespoons ice water

For the sugared sage leaves, whisk the egg white until foamy. Brush the leaves with the egg white, then dip in sugar. Leave to dry for 2 to 3 hours on a wire rack. (You can also just scatter fresh sage leaves on the tart as presentation, if you prefer.)

For the sweet potato filling, stir the cider and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the cider has reduced to 2/3 cup and remove from the heat. Meanwhile, prick the sweet potatoes all over, using a paring knife. Microwave on High for 12 minutes, or until they are soft when squeezed in the middle. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Wearing an oven mitt in one hand, slice each potato down the middle and scoop the cooked sweet potato pulp into a medium bowl. With a fork, mash the sweet potatoes, then stir in the eggs, coriander, ancho chile and salt until well blended. Stir in the cider syrup until well blended. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have 2 sheets of parchment paper and a large baking sheet ready.

For the pastry, place the butter, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade or in a medium bowl. Pulse the food processor or use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is the size of small peas. Sprinkle with the almond extract and water, then pulse again or mix with a fork until the dough comes together in a ball.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a flat work surface. Transfer the dough to the center of the parchment paper and form into a 6-inch long cylinder. Place the second sheet of parchment paper over the dough and roll the dough into a large oval, roughly 9 by 13 inches. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper. Transfer the pastry, still on the parchment paper, to the baking sheet. Spoon the filling onto the dough, leaving a 2-inch perimeter and smooth with a spatula. With your fingers, fold the perimeter of dough over the filling. Bake for 27 to 30 minutes or until the pastry has browned and the filling is firm to the touch in the center.

Let cool in the pan for 30 minutes. When the crostata is firm, transfer it to a serving platter and scatter with Sugared Sage Leaves.

Award-winning cookbook author Judith Fertig lives, cooks, bakes, grills and writes in Overland Park, Kan. She is the author of “Heartland: The Cookbook” and “I Love Cinnamon Rolls,” and the co-author of “The Gardener and the Grill” and the IACP award winning “The Back in the Swing Cookbook.”