For the longest time ever I visualized the epitome of truly living to be hopping on a flight to an unexplored destination when the urge to go somewhere struck. Definitely somewhere with stunning blue waters running parallel to the whitest softest sand. Someplace where the locals spoke a different language, or at least speak a common tongue in a different accent. I’d make a bad decision or two, temporarily lose my way, spend hours immersed in a world within this world. Maybe invent a new identity for myself, talk to strangers, and return back to reality with the entire experience captured in memories like an all too realistic dream.
So I did.
I book a flight to Okinawa on the spur of the moment and landed on the island surrounded by the sparkling aquamarine sea. On one of the days I took a ferry from the main island to a smaller one and hiked for twenty minutes in flip-flops to a beach so that I could be near those waters. For three hours I sat under a blue-and-white-striped beach umbrella, wind tousling my hair and my feet buried in the warm ivory sand. As it turns out, the rumours are true – time passes differently in this part of Japan. As the hour to board the ferry back to the main island neared, I took perhaps one hundred pictures too many in an attempt to freeze a scene that I know would inevitably lose its lustre in my mind.
Inspiration arrives through various channels. Sometimes it’s a taste, sometimes it’s a texture. This time it was color.
Specifically, it was the juxtaposition of the blue of the Okinawan sea against its surroundings that gave me the idea to bake with purple sweet potatoes that are commonly found in that region to bring out the brilliance of color in each in photos. I made a mont blanc because despite the summer climate in Okinawa, it’s actually autumn back in Tokyo and I thought that a sweet potato mont blanc would be a good way to integrate these two seasons. A bridging of different realities, if you will. From past to present, a memory continued.
Sweet Potato Coconut Mont Blanc
makes five 2.5 inch tartlets
For the tart dough:
102 grams all-purpose flour
30 grams icing sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
64 grams unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 large egg yolk
For the almond filling:
60 grams unsalted butter, softened
60 grams sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon rum
20 grams cake flour
60 grams almond flour
For the coconut cream:
100 ml heavy cream, chilled
100 ml coconut cream, chilled
2 teaspoons icing sugar
For the sweet potato topping:
read notes below
1 whole, large sweet potato steamed/baked with the skin on, cooled
Make the tart dough: Put the flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the pieces of butter and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely. Add in the egg yolk and pulse to combine.
Take a large piece of plastic wrap and lay it on your work surface. Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap and press it into a thin, even layer about a 1/4 inch thick. Wrap it up and place it in the fridge to chill for about an hour.
Remove from fridge and roll out the dough to an 1/8 inch in thickness. Cut out a section of the dough and press into a tartlet mold, trimming off the excess. Prick the bottom of the crust all over using a fork. Repeat with the remaining dough. Return to the fridge for at least an hour.
Make the almond filling: Beat the butter until smooth. Add in the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg until combined. Stir in the rum. Stir in the cake flour and almond flour until combined.
Preheat oven to 170C. Divide the filling evenly amongst the tartlets. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the tarts have taken on a golden brown color. Let them cool completely before decorating.
For the sweet potato topping: The most common way to go about this is to use steamed sweet potato that you mash finely through a sieve before combining with butter, sugar, and cream – a method I didn’t use because I chanced upon a packet of purple sweet potato in a powdered form that I thought would allow me to bypass the whole steaming and mashing process while achieving the same delicious results. I … wouldn’t recommend using prepackaged sweet potato powder (if you even manage to locate it, it’s not the most common product, at least in my experience). There’s a powdery aftertaste that’s seemingly impossible to circumvent within the boundaries of how much liquid you can add for a pipeable consistency. Long story short, I loved the rich purple hue that the powder gave but if taste is your priority, allow me to direct you to this recipe that I found that sounds like it’ll taste pretty dang good.
Make the coconut cream: Combine the heavy cream, coconut cream and icing sugar in a bowl and whisk until just shy of stiff peaks.
Assemble the tarts: Skin and cut the sweet potato into five large cubes. Place a cube onto the center of each tart. Transfer the coconut cream to a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip and pipe enough cream to cover the sweet potato cube. Transfer the sweet potato topping into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped piping tip and pipe around the cream.
* In all honesty, I feel that 2.5 inch tartlet molds make mont blancs that are definitely too huge because of the volume of cream that you’ll have to pipe on top to achieve an aesthetically-pleasing balance between the overall width and height of each tart. If you have 2 inch tartlet molds – which I didn’t – I strongly encourage you to use them instead.