I love roadside snacks almost anywhere. In the American Southwest I chomp on Cornuts. In Virginia or at the movies, nothing is better than cherry Twizzlers. When I took a three week tour of China about fifteen years ago, the other members of our little tour group started calling me “snack man” because I would buy anything and everything from little hole-in-the-wall shops to nibble. Brazil is no different. There they’ve got a lot of “rustic” sweets made from pumpkin, peanuts, coconut or sweet potatoes. I particularly adore the doce de batata roxa, or “purple potato sweet.”
On our recent visit to attend Hegui’s nephew’s graduation from engineering school (congratulations, Neto!), we stopped to refuel and stretch our legs a bit at this large market/restaurant/bar/gas station/rest stop. Inside they had an extensive array of homemade sweets, including doce de batata roxa. I was in heaven!
You can see me in the pic devouring my sweet right outside the store in the parking lot. These candies are typically either log-shaped or come in lumpy, freeform disks. The color is always dark purple. When you bite into the better ones there’s a chewy, almost crunchy outer shell hiding a soft, creamy interior. It tastes very sweet, a little like sweet potato, and sometimes coconut-y.
I wanted to reproduce the magical dessert here at home, so looked around online for some recipes to try. Most of them were for a pudding made of sweet potato rather than the firmer candy. Finally I discovered one recipe that added gelatin to make the sweet into bars that could be individually cut and served. I had to improvise a bit as I can’t find sweet purple potatoes. I used the red ones instead. Mine didn’t quite turn out as I had hoped. It tastes wonderfully. That’s not it. The problem is that it didn’t firm up enough to cut. So it was sweet potato pudding after all.
Sweet Potato Pudding
3 lbs sweet potatoes (about four medium sized ones)
2 cups sugar
2 whole cloves
¼ cup light coconut milk
6 g. Gelatin
some water for gelatin
brown sugar as garnish
Clean sweet potatoes and put in a large pot. Cover potatoes with water and heat to boiling then simmer for about half an hour to cook potatoes and soften skin. Test them with a fork for doneness. Remove when soft.
Drain and rinse to cool. Peel off and discard skin (I did this by hand as it was quite easy). Throw into food processor and process a few minutes until smooth.
Put potato purée, sugar, coconut milk and cloves in medium sauce pan over high heat. Once it heats up to boiling, lower heat to simmer. Stir with wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Cook about an hour until it glistens.
Dissolve gelatin in some cold water for a minute. Pour half a cup boiling water over gelatin and stir until fully dissolved, about five minutes.
Mix gelatin into potato. Pour into a baking dish and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Here’s where my recipe diverged. The original says that you “Corte o doce em quadrados ou em losangos e role no açúcar cristal um pouco antes de server,”or ‘Cut into squares or lozenges and roll in crystallized sugar before serving.’ Ah, if only it had been so easy!
I ended up serving mine in a bowl sprinkled with brown sugar and ate it with a spoon. It has a very intriguing flavor from the clove and coconut milk: really quite good and better than pumpkin pie filling. Nevertheless, if you know a reliable recipe for the bars, please send it to me!