Friday, November 19, 2010

The Carb That Cures Cravings: Dried Sweet 'Taters

Editorial note:  I've talked to many people who have expressed frustration in getting that magical crunchy and chewy texture after baking.  After getting them all prepped, it's really lame to ruin a batch and end up w/ burnt sweet potato char-crisps.  So after much experimentation, I believe I've fine-tuned the cooking process.  So you don't have to search for it, I'll lay it out here in the beginning.

Once you prepare the pan with butter or oil and cinnamon or whatever spice you want, put the pan in the oven for 45 minutes at 325.  It could be that you could use 50 or 55 minutes; this depends on how even your oven heats and how many trays you are cooking at a time.  I cook 3 trays at a time in a convection oven and 45 minutes works for me.

When the buzzer sounds, take out the trays and check to see which ones are done.  Usually at the initial buzzer, very few are done.  Perhaps 1 in 10 or so are ready.  The way I tell if they are ready is by lightly pressing down on them. They will be hot, but if I can push on it and there's no mushiness at all, then they are done.  Even a tiny bit of mushiness is okay if it's on a small part of the Tater.  I take them off the silpat and place them on a cooling rack.  They will continue to harden a bit on the cooling rack, so what you pull off the silpat is not what you end up with.  Interestingly, putting them in the fridge re-softens them a bit.

After this initial check, set the timer for 10 minutes and put 'em back into the oven.  Repeat the process as needed.  I'll often move some less done ones to the edges of my baking trays as well.  In my experience, I pull off 10% during the first check, 25% during the second check, 55% during the third, and the final 10% after the final 10 minutes.

Of course, the thinner you slice them, the shorter the cooking time.  The more consistent you slice them, the fewer 10 minute intervals you need.  The more even  your oven heats, the fewer intervals you'll need.

If this sounds like a lot of work to you, well, that's because it kinda is.  In my mind, it's worth it because these have replaced so many snacks in my life.  I need sugary carbs in my life at least a little bit.  These do so much less damage than anything else that they're worth keeping around the house for me.  Hope you enjoy them!  Now, on with the recipe and quick lesson in fructose metabolism.

Have you ever found yourself demolishing a large bag of Sour Patch Kids or Starbursts and decided to stop because you were just full? If you're at all like me, a recovering candy addict, the answer is no. I've reluctantly put down the bag of sour/sweet goodness because I was sick to my stomach, or because I had accumulated an embarrassingly large display of wrappers, or because it seemed my ratio of swollen to nonswollen tastebuds was nearing 1:1. But I've never stopped because I was full.


Come to find out that "neverfull" feature of the fruity goodness I used to inhale is actually a byproduct of how my body digests the addictive morsels. So, really, it's not my fault, it's the fault of my metabolic pathway and how my body deals with fructose overload.

While a little bit of fructose is okay, the standard American diet includes way too much of it, particularly in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Even sucrose (white sugar) is half fructose. All this fructose is problematic for you liver, which is the only place it is metabolized. When it gets full, all that extra fructose runs amuck in your bloodstream, turning into triglycerides while, unlike glucose, not suppressing ghrelin (the hormone that tells your body you've eaten enough). Furthermore, all those extra triglycerides also mess with leptin secretion, another hormone that regulates satiety.

All that to say that foods high in fructose don't make you full. It's fine for mouth-exercise but if you want your body to feel satisfied from a meal or snack, minimize the fructose.

At this point you should be starting to anticipate the magic of the "Dried Sweet Tater". Everybody needs a snack; something they can grab and consume without a lot of prep time. This is particularly important after a workout, when muscle glycogen stores are depleted and there is strategic benefit to triggering a bit of an insulin spike. It's counterproductive to replenish your liver glycogen at the expense of muscle glycogen, so you should favor carbs that contain higher amounts of glucose and lower fructose.

It also helps when the carbs are super yummy. Sweet potatoes fit the bill.  They are sweet, but that sweetness comes almost entirely from glucose.  Seriously, 200 calories worth of sweet potatoes has as much a little more than 1 gram of fructose, or about as much as 200 calories worth of alfalfa sprouts.  Granted, too much glucose can be bad too, but you're less likely to load up on glucose because it promotes leptin and suppresses ghrelin, i.e. your body recognizes that it's eating something and gets full.

Okay enough science.  Suffice to say that DSTs have become a staple around our house, universally loved by all. As a family of 7, we burn through them pretty quick, but at least it's a snack I can feel good about feeding my kids.  I'll be honest though; Amy and usually get most of them.


Cast of characters:

 
  • Sweet potatoes. I thought these were yams, but apparently they are sweet potatoes. Whatever, I don't really care. Just get the orange ones. The yellow ones don't survive being sliced after being baked and cooked.
  • Cinnamon. I've read that it improves insulin sensitivity. It's also delicious.
  • Coconut oil OR butter. If you're whole30ing, strict or can't handle dairy fats, you'll need the oil. I used to prefer butter, but then I tried the good stuff.


I'll never use butter again. The gold label virgin coconut oil (left) is just too good. It imparts a subtle coconut taste that rounds out the flavor of the DST in a truly marvelous way. The expeller-pressed variety will work, but, buy design, it lacks the coconut flavor. If you have the good stuff on hand, this recipe is worth it.

First you need to bake the sweet potatoes. I spread out a piece of aluminum foil (otherwise you get nasty drippings that are super hard to clean) on a middle rack and bake as many as I can fit on there for about an hour at 350. Sometimes I'll even rock two trays.


You want them soft and you want it so the skins easily pull away from the sides. After baking, I find it works best to peel them as soon as they are cool enough to work with. The hotter they are, the easier the peels come off. If you can't get to it, letting them sit in the oven overnight is fine.

Now you have to peel them. If you baked them long enough, you should be able to get most of the peel off with your fingers. Use a knife for any stubborn bits. This should leave you with a dish that looks like this:


Note that this amount will produce many pans of Dried Potatoes.  Another name for this is a dish full of awesome.

Now you need to slice them and arrange them on a baking sheet. I also like to use one of those liners (Silpat is what I use) to make removal of the finished product easier. I cut them about 1/2 a centimeter thick. You want a uniform thickness if possible and I find 1/2 cm gives me enough potato to keep it from becoming a mess when I transfer pieces to the pan. I like to arrange them flat side up.


Keep in mind that the more uniform the thickness, the more consistent the results will be when you bake them. If they are all over the map in terms of size, you'll end up with some magically chewy DSTs and some less-than-stellar crunchy ones and some not-as-good-as-it-could-be soft ones.

Now, melt your butter or coconut oil and paint the potato slices with fat using a pastry brush. They will glisten with goodness. All that glucose plus some hard-to-find medium chain triglycerides... this is truly better living through science.

Now give it a healthy dusting of cinnamon. I load up on it.  I mean have you heard how good cinnamon is for you?  As long as you aren't eating it in "roll" form, this stuff helps improve insulin sensitivity, lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), lowers tryglycerides, and  helps migranes, coughs, colds, and toothaches.  So load up; it's good for you.

Then back to the oven it goes for the "drying". This is the tricky part. I've experimented with various time and temperature domains in order to find something repeatable.

Once you prepare the pan with butter or oil and cinnamon or whatever spice you want, put the pan in the oven for 45 minutes at 325. It may be that you could do 50 or 55 minutes; this depends on how even your oven heats and how many trays you are cooking at a time. I cook 3 trays at a time in a convection oven and 45 minutes works for me.


When the buzzer sounds, take out the trays and check to see which ones are done. Usually at the initial buzzer, very few are done. Perhaps 1 in 10 or so are ready. The way I tell if they are ready is by lightly pressing down on them. They will be hot, but if I can push on it and there's no mushiness at all, then they are done. Even a tiny bit of mushiness is okay if it's on a small part of the Tater. I take them off the silpat and place them on a cooling rack. They will continue to harden a bit on the cooling rack, so what you pull off the silpat is not what you end up with. Interestingly, putting them in the fridge re-softens them a bit.

After this initial check, set the timer for 10 minutes and put 'em back into the oven. Repeat the process as needed. I'll often move some less done ones to the edges of my baking trays as well. In my experience, I pull off 10% during the first check, 25% during the second check, 55% during the third, and the final 10% after the final 10 minutes.

Of course, the thinner you slice them, the shorter the cooking time. The more consistent you slice them, the fewer 10 minute intervals you need. The more even your oven heats, the fewer intervals you'll need.

If this sounds like a lot of work to you, well, that's because it kinda is. In my mind, it's worth it because these have replaced so many snacks in my life. I need sugary carbs in my life at least a little bit. These do so much less damage than anything else that they're worth keeping around the house for me.

Here's how mine look when they are done. I snagged a few for PWO this morning.



I store them in a ziploc bag. I don't know how long they keep because we've never had a bag last longer than a few days. They are amazing post-workout and you won't believe how much satiety you get from something so sweet.


Enjoy.  I pretty much live on these right now.  They are my favorite food in the whole world and before them, I was never too big a fan of sweet potatoes.  If you don't like them, then I would say you're probably doing something wrong.

14 comments:

Stacy said...

I want to try these!

Here's the problem: I don't like cinnamon.

Do you think it would work to go salty (salt & paprika or something?)

KAMILLE said...

these look great Mike.

Stacy--if I could add in my two cents...smoked paprika would be even better. Or you could use some nutmeg, just not nearly as much as the cinnamon.

Maybe an allspice, nutmeg, ginger blend.

Stacy said...

Kamille~ You're funny. See, when I say "paprika", that's *JUST* what I mean. I don't do paprika UNLESS it's smoked! ~smile~ :)

:) And I love your two cents, always!

Crystal said...

great recipes! Keep posting.

jess o. said...

I've been dreaming about these since I tried them at your house several weeks ago...folks, they REALLY ARE every bit as good as Mike claims!

Since I'm a BIT maxed out with what is on my plate at the moment, I have two questions:

1. What would you charge to make me a huge bag of this goodness?

2. Next time you get the coconut oil goodness, can you get me some too? I'm good for it, I promise! :) (honestly, when I noticed two days ago that i'm almost out I meant to call and ask you where you buy it and when you're planning to get more?)

I do appreciate the yummy recipes...but I gotta tell ya...not sure I appreciate the guilt that comes along with reading them......

:) :) :)
~jess o.

Carolynn said...

It took me awhile to read this, but I am glad I did, I was going to ask where the coconut oil goodness comes from and how much is it??

Josh said...

Mike,
Saw your post on Whole30 about your bulk-buying of grass-fed beef, pork, etc. I commented there, but thought I'd track you down @ your blog too. I'd love to get some help/advice from you on how to start finding a source like yours. Thanks in advance!

Mike said...

Carolynn, sorry for taking so long. I get my coconut oil from www.tropicaltraditions.com. They seem to always have crazy sales so I just wait until they have what I want on sale then I load up.

Honestly though, I've made them a few more times and I definitely prefer the taste of butter.

Josh, acually I just searched craigslist for "grass fed beef" and it came up. Some guy was selling a few huge cows and bought half of one. I bought a pig at the county fair. A little on the pricey side but tastes great. The salmon I got via a friend.

I think once you start digging in and asking around you'll figure stuff out. Online is a good place to research but your best deals on meat are usually going to be local.

Ashley said...

I made these two nights ago and at first I dismissed the recipe thinking that baking twice would be annoying but it's so worth it.

One question, I placed my leftovers that I didn't eat right away in the fridge and I noticed they sort of lost a little bit of their awesomeness. Do you keep them in the fridge afterward and warm them up or just keep them at room temperature?

Mike said...

Ashley, I find that if you cook them to the right doneness, then refrigeration softens them up just enough to be more awesome than when you pulled them off the cooling rack.

Sorry everyone for taking so long to update the recipe. Shameful, I know.

Elizabeth said...

yumm ... I loved this !
I made them the other day - with just coconut oil, with pumpkin pie spices instead of just cinnamon, and sprinkled some dried, unsweet coconut on a few just to try:)
nice blog !!

Midori said...

Found this post via Stacy's blog. Love this recipe idea! Steve (lifts weights heavily) and I (run with some strengthening excercises) both work out regularly and eat well...at least most of the time. :) This sounds like a must try in our household. Thanks for sharing!

prussic said...

Amy and Mike's (along with other home school parents) input would be helpful over here: http://wp.me/pVf8p-h4

Thanks!

❦ fitcetera said...

I'm going to try these using garam masala.
They look like they're really mouth-worthy.

Thanks for posting the wonderful pics and step by step instructions.