Sweet Potato Cheesecake

Is it a yam or a sweet potato? This question comes up every year and, true to form, my sister-in-law and I talked about the very subject yesterday.

The answer is: unless you go to a special, local market or grow them yourself, you are not going to be able to buy yams. You will be buying sweet potatoes, no matter what the supermarket or greengrocer calls it. Yams are not grown commercially in the United States.

There are many varieties of sweet potato. Some almost white, some yellow, others are dark, rich almost burgundy-orange.

They’re all sweet potatoes.

As is the stuff in the cans.

Centuries ago some sweet potato varieties were called nyami by American slaves, who thought the vegetable looked like the African yam, a completely different plant species. And that’s how the confusion all began.

No matter. Whatever you call them, most people love them and will be making some sort of sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving.

If you need a really quick and easy recipe without all the sugar and butter and other stuff, here’s the simple way I make yams, er — sweet potatoes: I buy the dark orange organic sweets, roast them and when they are cool I spoon the flesh into a bowl. I grate the rind of a fresh orange over it, sprinkle in a few shakes of cinnamon and mix. Then I stir in enough orange juice to get the texture I like. That’s all there is to it.

This recipe is less caloric, less fatty. So that if you have any leftovers you can make an awesome, not-so-low calorie cheesecake for the rest of the weekend. Here’s a recipe:

Sweet Potato Cheesecake

ground toasted almonds (about 2 tablespoons), optional

1-1/2 pounds cream cheese

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon grated fresh orange rind*

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 large eggs

3/4 cup pureed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup dairy sour cream or plain yogurt

confectioner’s sugar, candied ginger, etc. for garnish, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch or 9-inch springform pan (or cheesecake pan). Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and twirl the pan to lightly coat the sides and bottom with the nuts. Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Add the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, orange rind and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Mix in the sweet potatoes and sour cream, blending thoroughly.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough water to come up about 1-inch on the sides of the springform pan. Bake for about one hour or until set. Remove the springform from the larger pan and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before removing the cake from the pan to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar or candied ginger if desired. Makes one cake, serves 8-10

*if you use leftover mashed and seasoned sweet potatoes, cut down on the orange rind by half.