This Sweet Potato Casserole Has a Delicious Candy-Like Crust
At first glance, this sweet potato casserole from the November 1998 issue of Bon Appétit seemed pretty straightforward: Sweet potatoes are mashed with a little sweetener and topped with a brown sugar and pecan topping. But there are a few things that set it apart. First, instead of roasting sweet potatoes, as many other recipes call for, you boil them before puréeing them in the food processor. Then, two full tablespoons of vanilla extract and a whopping four eggs are added. These factors had me intrigued enough to give the otherwise basic-looking recipe a try.
Get the recipe: Bon Appétit’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans
How to Make Bon Appétit’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans
This recipe has you peel and chop five pounds of sweet potatoes and boil until tender. Let them drain and sit in the colander for 15 minutes to remove as much moisture as possible.
Mix the sweet potatoes in a food processor until completely smooth, then transfer them to a large bowl and mix in four eggs, three tablespoons maple syrup, two tablespoons vanilla extract, two teaspoons of salt, and a little lemon juice before transferring to a casserole dish.
Gently mix together brown sugar, pecans, and cubed, chilled butter in a small bowl, then scatter over the sweet potatoes. Bake for a full hour.
My Honest Review of Bon Appétit’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans
Most recipes I came across have you roast the sweet potatoes to concentrate their flavor instead of diluting it with water. I found that boiling didn’t affect the flavor and was much easier, even with the added prep work. It was much easier to do some chopping than it was to peel hot-from-the-oven sweet potatoes. Plus, there’s a lot more guesswork involved when roasting whole potatoes. The variation in size means you’re not guaranteed the timing the recipe promises. But chopping the sweet potatoes yourself means you have more control and that 15 minutes of cook time is actually possible. Plus, letting the potatoes fully drain reduces the risk of watered-down flavor.
As someone who prefers chunky mashed potatoes, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the smooth purée, but it was really lovely. Together with the eggs and the little bit of sweetener from the maple syrup and the good dose of salt, the texture was dense but not heavy, and really well-balanced. I was worried about the vanilla extract, but it doesn’t overwhelm.
I was also skeptical of the three-ingredient topping that didn’t require cutting together butter and flour. But because this casserole bakes at a lower temperature for twice as long as the others, the butter and brown sugar melt together, then form a lovely crust. It could definitely be dessert, but it is in no way too sweet.
Overall, this recipe only had a slight edge over the Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock recipe. With less filler, this one has more pure sweet potato flavor, and my taste testers seemed to slightly prefer its streusel. This casserole also holds its shape pretty well, which I think is helpful when your Thanksgiving plate is heaped with half a dozen different dishes. And I also appreciate that you only need to turn the oven to one temperature instead of adjusting the temperature as other recipes require. This dish will definitely have a place in my Thanksgiving spread from here on out.
If You Make Bon Appétit’s Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Pecans, a Few Tips
- Process the sweet potatoes in batches. Five pounds of sweet potatoes barely fit in my large 14-cup food processor. I had to keep pausing to push down the potatoes on top with a spatula. Most food processors are a little smaller, so definitely divide the potatoes into two batches. It’s a little finicky, which is why I knocked off half a point.
- Leftovers are just as good cold as they are warm. They’re reminiscent of a not-too-sweet pie!
Overall rating: 9.5/10