the moveable feasts

Some thoughts on baked sweet potato fries

with 18 comments

sliced

Sweet potato fries is a food trend I am wholeheartedly happy about (unlike some other trends…cupcakes and cake pops, I’m looking at you). Because as much as I love regular french fries, I’ll take any excuse to trade them in for anything that has a higher sugar content. If their rising popularity then means that I can make this sugar-addict substitution at almost every restaurant/bar/diner that I go to, well, then all the better.

This trend has circulated through the internet, in the most common form of baked sweet potato fries. Although they never, ever compare to their deep-fried counterparts that I so greedily order every time I see them on a menu, I make them. A lot. In these many trials of baking batches of sweet potato fries, I’ve learned certain ways that I like them, and certain ways that I don’t. This recent post by My New Roots made me reconsider how I made them even more, and has sent me on a renewed frenzy of at-home efforts of baked sweet potato fries. At the end of all this, I figured why not share my newly gained and (obviously) valuable wisdom with you all? So, I present to you, in order of importance:

try and make same thickness
roughly equal size

My Thoughts on Making the Most Ideal Sweet Potato Fries Possible (considering their unfortunate position of not being deep-fried)

1. Space. You can’t just dump a pile of cut sweet potato fries onto a baking sheet and expect them to develop into anything other than soft, steamed piles of mush (this is a situation where I actually do not want mushy vegetables, surprising as that may be). I know it seems like a pain to individually place them onto a baking sheet, and perhaps even having to use two baking sheets in order to leave enough space between each fry, but trust me! It’s worth it, always worth it.

air dry

2. Size. This is an obvious one, but the fries should be cut into as close a size as possible. It’s not so much how big or small the fries are, but how big or small they are in relation to one another. Otherwise you’ll end up with pure-crisped-black carbon sticks alongside fat and still raw hunks of sweet potato. This can sometimes be tricky, I mean have you seen sweet potatoes? They are a big misshapen bunch. You just do the best you can, that’s all you can ever do.

3. Soak (& Dry). I got this one from My New Roots’ post, and I think it’s awesome. She recommends that you swish the cut, raw fries in a bowl of water to release some of their starches. This allows them to crisp up better. However, in doing this, it is of the utmost importance that you thoroughly dry the fries, and preferably let them air-dry for at least a good 10 or 15 minutes or so while the oven is heating up. While this is happening, I rinse and dry out the bowl (thoroughly), and use this bowl to swirl the dried fries with the olive oil, salt, and either cornmeal or cornstarch. It makes for a nice little system.

swish swish

4. Cornmeal or Cornstarch. Ah, the coating. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter what you try to coat the fries with, because they’re never going to taste deep-fried and they’ll never have that crispy-crunchy-bite like they do when deep-fried. This is a sad fact of life, but if you can’t get over it I don’t know why you’re stooping to the level of baking your sweet potato fries in the first place. Anyway, the cornmeal idea came from My New Roots, and it does indeed lend the fries to have a certain crunch to them. I think I prefer the cornstarch though, as it kind of makes the surfaces of the fries puff up and get a little airy. Once again, these coatings only go so far, but they add a certain nice edge that regular, non-coated fries don’t have.

ready to be baked up

5. Good Dipping Sauce. Sauce makes everything better (especially sub-par things like baked versions of fried things). I’ve been pairing my sweet potato fries with a thick tahini-honey sauce for awhile now, and the combination is seriously awesome. Really, if you haven’t tried dipping your sweet potato fries in tahini, you’re missing out. (If you need convincing of this flavor combination, I’ve got the legitimacy of Ottolenghi on my side.) I’ve posted a really sloppy recipe that I made up below, but it’s the type of thing I go by taste with.

tahini-honey dipping sauce

So, that’s about it. I think these little tips actually make for some pretty good baked sweet potato fries, so much so that every time I make them I consume a whole baked sweet potato for myself along with the entire small batch of tahini-honey dipping sauce. Then again, I always eat the entire baked sweet potato whether or not it was done well or not, so perhaps this is saying more about me and my eating habits than it is about the qualities of these fries. But you get it! These taste good.

cornmeal coated sweet potato fries
cornstarch coated sweet potato fries

(Oh, photos! What strange lighting you have! Sigh.)

Some more thoughts on … San Francisco & Santa Barbara: So in approximately 18 hours,  more or less, I will be in a car with two of my closest friends headed for that great yet confusing state of California. It’s my last spring break of college, and my friends and I decided that this time would be best spent in the pursuit of a little sunshine and good food. We’ll be in San Francisco for 4 days or so, then down in Santa Barbara (a place you may remember that I go to every so often). I know San Francisco is a food mecca, and I’ve gotten the chance to go to some great places in a brief trip there last summer. But you all (Linda! Em! Etc!) know of probably a lot of great food bites. I’ve got Little Star and Zachary’s Pizza written down. Anything else you want to throw my way? Hopefully I’ll make a little post over next week, but if not, see you in a little bit. x

One Year Ago: Crustless Kale and Quinoa Quiche

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted & Inspired from My New Roots

1 medium-sized sweet potato, scrubbed, sliced into equally sized 1/4- to 1/2-inch sticks (no need to peel)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons cornmeal or cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Fill a medium-sized bowl with water. Add the uncooked sweet potato sticks, swish them around for about a minute or so, then remove and thoroughly dry. Allow to air dry for at least 15 minutes or so (while the oven heats up or while you throw together the dipping sauce).

Rinse out and thoroughly dry the same medium-sized bowl you rinsed the sweet potato sticks in. Add the air-dried cut potatoes and the olive oil, and swish them around together with your hand to coat evenly. Add in the cormeal (or cornstrach) and salt, and continue to mix so the potatoes get coated evenly. Place the sticks on a greased or lined baking sheet, spaced evenly apart so they’re not overlapping. If you run out of space, use two baking sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until they are golden brown, puffed, and crisp looking. I honestly don’t think it makes too big of a difference to flip them halfway through (especially considering the extra work it requires), but if you’d like, towards the end you can shake the pan gently so that some get turned over. Enjoy while hot!

Tahini-Honey Dipping Sauce

As I said before, these are really rough estimates. I usually just mix together a couple fairly big spoonfuls of tahini, a little spoonful of honey, a good squeeze of lemon, and enough water to get the right consistency. Obviously I can’t just say that though, hence why you see a little recipe below. But adjust to taste.

3 tablespoons tahini paste
1-2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Combine the tahini, 1 tablespoon water, honey, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk until smooth, streaming in a little more water as necessary until you have a thick consistency. Adjust for taste and thickness.

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Written by Amy

March 21, 2013 at 4:23 pm

18 Responses

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  1. http://www.carlitos.com/

    But I think you already know about this place!
    Wish I could be there with you!

    Mutti

    March 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    • Of course we’re going there! The girls are already psyched. Wish you could be here too. xx

      Amy

      March 23, 2013 at 5:47 pm

  2. These look truly delicious, and even though I never cook with sweet potatoes, I just might have to go buy some this weekend.

    I also currently live in Berkeley, and in terms of Bay Area food, you should definitely visit Smitten Ice Cream in Hayes Valley (http://smittenicecream.com/home/Home.html). If you find yourself in the East Bay, stop by Cheeseboard in Berkeley (http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/pizza) for some truly delightful thin crust (although Zachary’s is killer). Have a wonderful trip!

    nomibars

    March 21, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    • Ah, thanks for your comment and recommendations. I love Berkeley! Went to cheeseboard and chez panisse when I was there in the summer– so good! I’ll have to check out the ice cream place, I’m always up for some delicious treats like that. ;)

      Amy

      March 23, 2013 at 5:49 pm

  3. Oh I’m so jealous of your trip! We’re planning to go to California next year and I cannot wait. In the meantime, I’ll have to make do sitting at home and chomping on these amazing sweet potato fries :-)

    thelittleloaf

    March 21, 2013 at 11:47 pm

  4. I absolutely love this post, because the crispy sweet potato fry is so elusive! :) Will definitely be trying yours next time I make them. The tahini dipping sauce sounds incredible!!!

    Marie @ Little Kitchie

    March 22, 2013 at 4:41 am

  5. i have been on the same quest for quite a while now myself. i found that using a lower oven temp helps. i set the oven to 375 degrees, and cook the fries for 30-35 minutes, then i raise the temp to 400, and cook them for an additional 15-20 minutes. but my oven is a little funky, and it likes to burn sweet potatoes. so i’m sure if this is a problem for everyone. thanks for sharing, and your fries look awesome!

    dollyandoatmeal

    March 22, 2013 at 5:27 am

    • Very handy tip, I’ll be trying this for sure. I’ve only had an instance of burnt sweet potatoes once, but I will try this to see if it comes out with more evenly caramelized fries.

      Amy

      March 23, 2013 at 5:53 pm

  6. Aw! For my last spring break ever, I went to New York City. Bad mistake. It was like 40 degrees, we were all underdressed, and couldn’t properly any of the sights. A drive down Highway 1, however, is quite possibly the best way to spend a week off that I can think of!

    Now, I’m trying to comb through my memories of my favorite food experiences, and I think I will leave you with just a few, so as not to overwhelm you. Drumroll please:

    My favorite restaurant is Burma Superstar. It’s kind of out of the way, but since you guys will have a car handy, I see no reason why you shouldn’t stop by after a day wandering around the Presidio, Land’s End, or Baker Beach. Get the tea leaf salad and samusa soup! Oh, and the coconut sticky rice, and the mango chicken! So so good.

    If you haven’t walked through the Ferry Building on a farmer’s market day, you must! It is happiness. Some of my favorite vendors within the building are Frog Hollow for their lattes (are you into coffee?), Acme Bread, and Ciao Bella.

    El Farolito for their messy, stuffed carnitas burrito, Papalote for a slightly more civilized Mexican food experience (the salsa is the BEST), and my favorite taco truck in the city… well, I won’t bother telling you about it because it’s in the middle of nowhere: next to a Best Buy parking lot, hahaha.

    And if you have a craving for brunch, I love Mission Beach Cafe. I used to live close by, a little north of Market, and we loved coming here, always a treat. A less virtuous brunch experience lies within Brenda’s French Soul Food (I’m sure you can imagine why). Both are wonderful.

    Oh! And check out 7×7’s list of 100 Things to Try Before You Die (this is the 2010 version. I haven’t looked at the latest): http://www.7×7.com/eat-drink/2010-big-eat-sf-100-things-try-you-die It was a big thing when I lived in the city.

    Also, finally, when you’re driving down the 1, past Monterey, past Big Sur, just a little north of Santa Barbara actually, look out for a tiny beachfront town called Cayucos. You might pass it by in the blink of the eye because it’s pretty small. It’s where Chris and I are getting married in September!

    Have fun! And please excuse the longest comment ever. :)

    Linda

    March 22, 2013 at 8:34 am

    • Linda!! Thank you for the comment. I am just now reading it as we are nearing the evening in day 2 in San Francisco, but I loved reading this! We just went to the Ferry Building to go to the saturday market this morning… so fantastic! Everything here is like a dream, it’s all so surreal and beautiful. Ahh and I’ve heard of Burma Superstar. Just looked it up on the internet, looks awesome. I’ll have to try and convince my friends to go there. ;) We are so overwhelmed by all that is here!

      And I’ll keep a lookout for Cayucos. So exciting! We’re kind of crossing paths, right? Just at different times. Thanks again for the comment. x

      Amy

      March 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm

  7. These sweet potato fries look just about perfect! I’ve never tried the soaking trick before–interesting! We’re definitely going to have to try it out.

    Eileen

    March 22, 2013 at 11:59 am

  8. These look so, so good. I bookmarked that same recipe. I’m hoping to make some now that Andrew is out of town for a week+. He doesn’t particularly share the same sweet potato love that I do, so I eat them next to never. I also can’t justify paying the nearly $3 most places charge for substituting them [I'm an accountant, can you tell?].

    Have a WONDERFUL time in SF. I’ve only been there a small handful of times, and it’s been a couple years since! The only places I can really vouch for are Ike’s Place (http://ilikeikesplace.com/) in the Castro, Pork Store in the Haight (http://www.yelp.com/biz/pork-store-cafe-san-francisco), Giordano Bros in North Beach (http://www.giordanobros.com/), and La Traviata and El Farolito in the Mission.

    Michelle

    March 22, 2013 at 1:09 pm

  9. Humphry Slocombe. You’re going there, right?

    And thanks for sharing your experiences with baked sweet potato fries. Both Octavian and I love sweet potato fries, but I hadn’t thought about trying to make them at home. He is often sceptical about “healthy” re-interpretations of things (guess who won the metabolism lottery?), but I think he could be won over with these. They look really good!

    Hope you have a fabulous time in SF!

    Katie

    March 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

  10. I love sweet potatoes, but I usually dont buy them because they always come from the US, to Switzerland, and it seems kind of silly buying American sweet potatoes here when you could actually grow them here, too.
    I made baked potato fries yesterday, and boiled the fries quickly before baking them. I don’t remember where I read that tip, but they turned out really great. I don’t know whether that works with sweet potatoes, too, but I found that boiling them works better than swishing in cold water.

    Lena

    March 25, 2013 at 12:09 am

  11. “sub-par things like baked versions of fried things” – Heeeeee. Adored this post.

    I spent about 48 hours in San Francisco, and cannot recommend hard enough this tiny place: http://www.unapizza.com/sf/ – it’s amazing. And across the road there’s this really great, way fancy bar. Have fun!

    hungryandfrozen

    March 26, 2013 at 1:20 am

  12. These are fantastic tips – I love sweet potato fries but have never had great success in creating deliciously crispy ones at home. Have a great spring break – I’ve never been to San Francisco, but hope to get there one day. Enjoy!

  13. I always love to find more tips on perfecting sweet potato fries. What is this hold that they have on us food bloggers?! hehehe I’ve never tried soaking them before–what a cool idea! I’ll definitely give that a try next time I make some.

    Kocinera

    April 12, 2013 at 2:37 am

    • Haha I’m not sure… but it certainly does appear that we love them. I remember when you posted about them yourself– I think that was the first time I had heard of putting cornstarch on the fries before baking! Hope the soaking tip helps.

      Amy

      April 12, 2013 at 7:23 am


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