Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wrong Food: Candied Yams

Buffy: It *is* a sham. But it's a sham with yams. It's a yam sham. 
Willow: You're not gonna jokey-rhyme your way out of this one. 
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 4, Episode 8, "Pangs".)

Melting butter with sugar.I like candied yams. (Sweet potatoes, to be technically accurate.) Or perhaps I should say that I like butter and brown sugar, and I like them even better when they're yam-flavored.

You might, too, so I offer my candied-yam method, extensively tested this holiday season. It's not fundamentally different from anyone else's, except possibly for the alarming amount of butter and sugar, and the long slow cooking. Well, and the lack of marshmallows.
The steps are:
  • Boil raw yams in a pot large enough to submerge them (cut them in large chunks if you have to) until you can stab them with a fork with only mild difficulty. The yams will still be fairly raw.
  • Cool the yams long enough to allow you to rub off the skin.
  • Slice the skinned yams in flat slices roughly three-quarters an inch thick. If the yams are pretty big, cut these slices in half. If they're huge, quarter them. The more surface area, the more space for the butter and sugar to soak in.
  • Lay the yams flat, in single layer, in a baking pan. (Or two or three baking pans - the single layer is essential.)
  • Dot the yams with butter chunks roughly the size of a pea, each chunk a couple of inches away from the next chunk. Alternatively, you could grate plenty of frozen butter across the top of the yams.
  • Sprinkle on a modest amount of salt, using a little bit more if you used unsalted butter.
  • Sprinkle brown sugar across the yam/butter landscape, so generously that you have to peer to see the orange of the yam through the sugar.
  • At this point, you can put the sugared and buttered yams in the fridge in the covered baking pans, for at least a couple of days. I put some away for a week, which is probably not a food-safety recommended practice, but they were good when I finally baked them.
  • Bake uncovered at 275 Fahrenheit, turning them every half hour or so. You can slow down on the turning when both sides are nicely coated with sugar that doesn't drip off. 
  • Keep baking until the butter/sugar has boiled down to thick syrupy goo and the yam slices are getting just a little bit wrinkly. The longer and slower they're cooked, the better; 275 is just the lowest temperature that I have the patience for. I think that the baking takes about two hours, but don't count on that - keep an eye on them.
This is a nice low-maintenance way to cook yams, until the very end, when they're prone to go from wrinkled gooey perfection to a blackened mass of fibrous sugar in minutes. Keep a careful eye on them at this point, and if you have more than one pan, check each pan - the pan type and the rack that they're on can make a big difference in how fast they're done.

Those yams that I left in the fridge for a week candied up better than any I've made before. My theory is that the half-cooked yam slices shed much of their water - when I pulled the baking dishes out of the fridge, there was a fair bit of water and dissolved brown sugar on the bottom of the pan. I'm guessing that this gave me a head start on whole yam-wrinkling process. I'll test this theory next time, leaving a pan in the fridge for a day or two.

Yams. Mmmmmm.

Photo by Jessica Merz. Wikimedia Commons.
Sugar photo by DO'Neil. Wikimedia Commons.


  1. Wow. Okay I just found this blog of yours, and I love cooking, love yams, love Buffy.

    You had me at "yam sham."

    Love it!

  2. Yay! Thanks!

    I'm seriously considering a Wrong Food Dinner tomorrow of yams and fried chicken wings. (Yams and Chicken Chips would probably be going overboard.)

  3. I bet you could put buttter and brown sugar on anything and it would taste good. I think I'm having a craving for a sweet potato for diner.

  4. Welcome, Bo! Yep! It's really all just an excuse to eat the butter and brown sugar. Excuses in the kitchen are good. :)