Monday, December 31, 2007

Sweet Potato Scones

As the New Year's holidays approach, shops start putting food on sale to clear their stock before they close up for a day or two. Usually, shops are closed at least on the January 1 and some for as long as 3 days from the 1st to the 3rd. Sales are also held from January 2nd at some department stores located near or on the way to the most famous or heavily trafficked shrines. Nothing stands in the way of a consumerist opportunity!

In preparation for their closure, one of our local markets was offering some moderate bargains on various foodstuffs, particularly fruit and vegetables that they didn't want rotting away during the holiday. Of paramount attraction to me was a bag of 5 small sweet potatoes on sale for ¥100 (89 cents). I didn't quite know what I was going to do with them, but I'm too big a fan of Japanese sweet potatoes to let an opportunity pass.

While perusing various baking sites, I came across a recipe for sweet potato scones and the idea seemed quite appealing. However, it needed adapting for Japanese sweet potatoes in my opinion. To me, a scone has to have at least a reasonable amount of fat in it to add texture and the recipe I found only had 1 tablespoon of butter. I also felt it was important to account for the difference in moisture of Japanese sweet potatoes as compared to American ones. To be honest, I was almost certain the result was going to be dense and tough the first time around, but they turned out beautifully. I credit what I learned from making traditional Japanese sweet potato cakes with helping me make the right sort of modifications for the scones to turn out so well.

I'm pretty sure that these can be made with American sweet potatoes, but you'll have to keep an eye on the moisture. Japanese potatoes are exceptionally dry and may make a different sort of dough. Using American potatoes may require you to use more flour.

Sweet Potato Scones:
  • 3 tbsp. butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 packets Splenda or heat stable artificial sweetener (optional)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • *1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (specially prepared-see below)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

*To prepare the sweet potatoes, steam them until they are soft. Err on the side of overcooked rather than undercooked. Do not boil them as it will introduce more moisture. Peel them and press them through a fine sieve to mash them. This will remove any lumps or heavily fibrous portions and help make the dough lighter.

Cream the butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add the salt and Splenda (if desired) and eggs. Beat again until well incorporated. Add the mashed potato and beat again. Sift the flour and baking powder into the potatoes and mix. Knead it a little to make sure the flour is incorporated but make sure not to over-mix it as it will make the scones tough. Pat the dough into a rectangle about 3/4 of an inch thick and cut into triangular shapes. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C./425 degrees F. and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 20 minutes (until the edges are golden brown).

Splenda adds more sweetness to the scones without upsetting the balance of the moisture absorption of the sugar. Using Splenda allows you to enjoy the scones without jam, honey, or other sweet spreads and makes it possible to mainly taste the sweet potato without any sort of spread masking the flavor. If you'd like a more traditional-looking flat, crispy-topped scone, you can brush the tops of the dough with an egg wash to keep them from rising. I just didn't want to waste an egg for such a trivial difference in the final result.

Having one of these scones plain with tea or coffee for breakfast really hits the spot. :-)


mjgolli said...

Another great recipe!

Mom and dad tried to make french fries the other night...from real potatoes, frenched and deep fried to a golden brown.

Well, it didn't work. The potatoes lost all cohesion and turned to a greasy mush. They made them from baking potatoes, so I would assume that there wasn't enough starch and too much moisture for them to together well.

I have never had the opportunity to try a Japanese Sweet Potato, but they do sell them at our local mega-mart. I know some people that have tried them and they like them better than our typical sweet potatoes...they stated that the Japanese variety are milder and starchier, if that means anything...

Happy new year, and I hope to try the recipes from your last couple of entries real soon.

Shari said...

I don't think I've made real French fries for years. I tend to make "oven fries" as I consider myself a bit of a disaster at deep frying...the oil is usually too hot or too cool. I'm also really not much of a fried food fan anyway... I have made the mistake of using the wrong potatoes for au gratin potatoes (May Queens) and they wouldn't get tender enough and it was rather unpleasant.

Using the right potato is really important and it's something you don't appreciate until you get the wrong one.

I actually never used American sweet potatoes as I didn't cook so much when I was younger, but I discussed it with my friend Shawn and he said that he thinks U.S. sweet potatoes are sweeter, darker, and wetter. Japanese ones aren't as sweet and are very fibrous (hence the reason to press them through a sieve to finely mash them).

Anyway, if you try out any of the recipes, please blog about it and show pictures of your results. :-)

Happy New Year to you, too.

Anonymous said...

I tried making the sweet potato cakes recently. Not the recipe you used, but from the book I'm cooking Japanese from. Japanese sweet potatoes are quite different from the usual ones in the groceries here in the U.S. It might be they are starchy? Or dry? They taste almost like chestnuts to me. Very delicate. I think the recipe I made was written for using regular sweet potatoes, though the Japanese author specifies satsuma. The "dough" was very much softer than mashed potatoes. I am planning to try the recipe you used last fall because the flavor was very nice.

Shari said...

Hi, Tess, and thanks for commenting.

They do have a bit of an overtone which resembles chestnuts. I can't speak to how "starchy" they are, but I have read that sweet potatoes in general are starchier than white ones. And Japanese sweet potatoes are dry as a bone which is why I think adding an extra egg yolk and more butter is essential to making recipes with them.

I had read your post on sweet potato cakes and I've never actually seen anything like them here. They are quite fancy and beautiful. Though you said they were "blobs, I thought the picture looked like a sweet potato sushi roll and was quite artful.

You mentioned that you couldn't find a large enough potato. I've noticed that there are both quite small and gargantuan potatoes. The larger ones tend to be more expensive and won't fit in my steamer so I always go for the small ones. Your potatoes look a lot less purple than mine though it might be a color adjustment difference with our cameras.

I'll be looking forward to seeing your future experiments with Japanese cuisine!