Camotes Poblanos – Puebla Style Sweet Potato Candy

There is a rule in caramel making. Against all logic, at least once or maybe twice, the caramel maker will stick their finger into a molten batch of caramel. Caramel, I am convinced, is much like standing at the edge of a precipice. The longer you stare at it, the more tempting it is.

When making caramel, I stare fixedly, almost unblinkingly at it. Everything else stops until that caramel is finished. It has to. Caramel is a jerk that will turn on you the moment you take your eye off of it, much like a homicidal house cat.

Unlike the homicidal house cat, caramel and candy making can be very rewarding. There is no other reason why an otherwise logical individual would choose to stand for a seemingly endless amount of time stirring a bubbling mixture of melted sugar and sweet potato mash capable of bursting into volatile splatter the moment the spoon is put down.

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Obviously, the nuns of XVII century Puebla, the likely creators of camotes Poblanos (sweet potato candy) liked to live on the edge. Like convents and monasteries everywhere, convents in Mexico produced specialty food items to supplement their income, and many of Mexico’s sweets owe their popularity to enterprising nuns.

Dulce de Camote Poblano - Puebla Style Sweet Potato Candy

  • 500 g (approx. 1 lb. 2 oz) sweet potato
  • 500 g (2 1/2 c) granulated sugar
  • 1 c water
  • Juice and zest of 1 large lime, or 2 key limes
  • Confectioners sugar, as needed
  • Parchment or wax paper

Cook the sweet potatoes in a 400ºF oven until very soft. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and pass through a potato ricer or food mill. Add the lime zest and juice, mixing well.

While the sweet potatoes are cooling, place the sugar and water in a 3 quart stainless steel pot. Cook over medium heat until the caramel reaches hard ball stage, between 250 to 265ºF. Test the caramel with a candy thermometer, or by pouring a small amount into a glass of water and pushing into a small ball with a spoon.

Remove the caramel from the heat, and very carefully, mix in the pureed sweet potato and lime mixture. Return the heat and cook while stirring continuously, over medium heat, until the mixture is very dry and the bottom of the pot is easily visible while stirring. The candy should stick to the spoon, and if any drops it should be in a large and sticky dollop.

Line a baking tray with parchment or wax paper. Pour the candy onto the tray and spread in an even layer. Allow to cool completely.

Cut 20 pieces of parchment or wax paper into 3″ x 4″ rectangles. Dust the working surface and hands lightly with confectioners sugar. Pinch off a small piece of candy, rolling smooth and forming a small log on the sugared surface. Place on a paper rectangle. It is easier and faster to shape all the candy before wrapping individually. When wrapping, place the candy log at the bottom of a long edge. Roll the candy. Pinch the ends and twist in opposite directions.

The candy should keep for two weeks. If it lasts that long.

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