Sweet Potato Sonker

Ever heard of sonkers? They're a North Carolina specialty, similar to a pie or a cobbler. But different. They're traditionally made with just about any kind of fruit, or sweet potatoes. Which is what we've got here, courtesy America's Test Kitchen. It's perfect for Thanksgiving.

Photo courtesy America's Test KitchenSweet Potato Sonker
Serves 12

Sonker
2 (15-ounce) boxes pie crust
1 large egg, beaten
2 cups apple cider
4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup (7 ounces) packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Custard Dip
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

FOR THE SONKER: Working on lightly floured counter, unroll 2 dough rounds. Brush half of 1 round with egg and overlap with second round. Roll out dough to 17 by 13-inch rectangle and fit into 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat shaping and rolling with remaining 2 dough rounds; reserve beaten egg. Trim dough into rectangle and cut into ten 1-inch strips. Transfer dough strips to parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring cider to boil in Dutch oven. Place steamer basket in Dutch oven and fill with sweet potatoes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until potatoes are nearly tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and reserve sweet potatoes, leaving cider in pot.

Cook cider over high heat until reduced to ½ cup, about 5 minutes. Combine drained sweet potatoes, brown sugar, reduced cider, butter, flour, lemon juice, vanilla, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, allspice, and salt in large bowl. Spread out sweet potato mixture on rimmed baking sheet and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.

Scrape cooled sweet potato mixture into dough-lined dish and press into even layer. Brush edges of dough with reserved egg. With long side of dish facing you, lay 4 dough strips lengthwise over sweet potato mixture. Weave remaining 6 strips into lattice pattern. Press dough strips into bottom crust and trim excess. Fold dough sides inward under lip of baking dish and crimp with fork.

Combine granulated sugar and remaining 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in bowl. Brush dough with reserved egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until deep golden brown, 55 to 60 minutes, rotating dish halfway through baking. Let sonker cool on wire rack for at least 1 1/2 hours before serving. (Sonker can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

FOR THE CUSTARD DIP: Meanwhile, bring milk, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and salt to simmer in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, whisking frequently, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Off heat, add vanilla. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Serve with sonker.

About the Author

Katherine's role as the Living editor at KCET.org keeps her running from farms to markets to restaurants to pop-up swaps all over SoCal. She's been living in and writing about this area for over a decade.
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