Confession: Up until last week, I didn't know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams.
Sure, I had read about them in cookbooks, but make anything with them? No way, not me. I had a vague idea that sweet potatoes were yellowish and guessed that yams were not, but — really — I had no clue.
So, while shopping for this week's recipe, I spent most of my time in the produce aisle trying to figure out which long, scraggly thing was a yam and which was a sweet potato. I finally asked a clerk. I'm so glad he didn't laugh.
Back to my sweet-potato/yam aversion. When I was a kid, my mom would bake either sweet potatoes or yams — I don't know which — and serve them with pats of butter on top. One bite was enough to convince me I wasn't going to eat that — whatever it was — when I became a grown-up.
So I didn't. Until I got a recipe for sweet potato soufflé from Annie Thu Henrich, who teaches adult education cooking classes at Modesto Junior College. I picked up the recipe at a class I took years ago and have wanted to try it since.
Why on earth would I want to try sweet potato soufflé? Because it calls for sugar, butter, cream and nuts. How could you go wrong?
Shopping was easy, once the clerk pointed out the sweet potatoes. Turns out they range from yellow to orange to red and have pointed ends. Yams, it seems, have brown or black skin and don't have pointed ends.
I've since read that the yams most supermarkets carry are not yams, but really another kind of sweet potato. Can it get any more confusing?
I bought the yellowish sweet potatoes, the kind the clerk recommended. Peeling them was just as easy as peeling regular potatoes. The rest of the recipe was simple, too. I mixed the soufflé ingredients in my stand mixer for a long time — maybe 10 minutes — while I made the topping.
I bought chopped pecans for the topping, so I skipped the step where you chop the pecans, coconut and other ingredients after they're mixed. If you want to use local ingredients, chopped walnuts would work well, too.
When the soufflé got out of the oven, it was beautiful: golden and brown, with little flecks of coconut and bits of pecans on top. It tasted supersweet and creamy, and had a nice crunch.
Even my 4-year-old liked it. Which should tell you something: It is very sweet, almost like dessert. You can hardly taste the sweet potatoes.
Which, it turns out, is the way I like them.
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I said, "Sweet!" when I first saw this recipe, as I love sweet potatoes of nearly any variety. But with all that sugar, the unique flavor of the sweet potato was totally lost. And with all that sugar, cream and vanilla, how could it not taste like candy?
Note: The recipe didn't say how many it served, so I cut the recipe in half for the four of us; the full recipe would easily serve eight as a side. Also, I'd try to broil the top after baking to give it a sugar-crusted top and added crunch.