This year, the contest had 1,034 entries, the highest number of entries since the contest started in 2005.
Entries, which were received from every state in the nation, were grouped into five categories: professional, appetizers, side dishes, entrées and desserts.
Students from the culinary arts program at Delgado Community College in New Orleans prepared the final recipes for judging. Judges for the contest assigned a first, second and third place winner from each category, as well as an overall grand prize winner. The winning recipes were decided based on overall flavor, texture, visual appeal, and creativity.
Grand prize winner Patricia Harmon of Baden, Pa., received $1,000 for her “Autumn Harvest Sweet Potato Spice Flan Cake.”
First place winners in each of the five categories were awarded $500.
Diane Halferty of Corpus Christi, Texas, placed first in the professional category for her “Sweet Potato Potstickers.”
In the appetizers category, Samantha Schaffer of Brunswick, Ohio, placed first with her “Sweet Potato Beggar’s Purse with Goat Cheese and Pecans” recipe.
Jan Valdez of Chicagowon first in the side dishes category for her “Sweet Potato, Swiss & Spinach Gratin” recipe.
Devon Delaney of Princeton, N.J., won first in the entrées category with a “Chipotle Pork and Sweet Potato Posole” recipe.
In the desserts category first went to Mary Peddycoart of Coon Rapids, Minn., for her “Sweet Potato Whoopies.”
The Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission additionally awarded $100 Williams-Sonoma gift certificates to culinary students who prepared the winning dishes.
Judges included René Simon, assistant commissioner of marketing for the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry; Nick Landry, executive chef of Bruce Foods Co.; Larry Thibodeaux, director of technical services at Bruce Foods; Poppy Tooker, New Orleans-based cook, author and television food personality; Ashley Roth of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board; Mary Gallent, marketing specialist at the Louisiana Department of Agriculture & Forestry; Christine Briede, president of Loubat Equipment Co.; Cheramie Sonnier of the Baton Rouge Advocate; Al McDuff and Nancy Steiner of Diane Allen & Associates Inc.; and Cherie Hinton, Bonnie Tuhro and Debbie Helmstetter of Louisiana Cookin’ magazine.
Louisiana Cookin’ magazine features the winners’ names, recipes and photos in its October issue and will post the winning recipes on its website. Recipes are also posted in the recipe section on the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission’s website at www.sweetpotato.org.
The commission was the main sponsor for the 2011 Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest.
Louisiana Cookin’ magazine, Bruce’s Yams, Alexia All Natural Foods, the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the culinary arts department at Delgado Community College were also sponsors of this year’s contest.
The next Sweet Rewards Recipe Contest will begin in January, 2012. Contest information, free recipes and nutritional information about sweet potatoes are available on the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission’s website. The Commission’s fan page is at www.facebook.com/louisianayams.
Here is the grand prize recipe.
AUTUMN HARVEST SWEET POTATO SPICE FLAN CAKE
¾ cup jarred caramel topping
½ tsp. rum or brandy extract, optional
1 15-ounce can Louisiana brand cut sweet potatoes in light syrup, drained, ½ cup syrup reserved
1 18.25-ounce package spice cake mix
11/3 cup water
2 Tbsp. canola oil
7 eggs, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened and cubed
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup evaporated milk
¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted
Heat oven to 350 F. Spray a 15-cup capacity Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour. Place caramel topping into a small bowl. Stir in rum or brandy extract, if using, and pour into bottom of prepared pan. Place sweet potatoes and reserved syrup into a food processor and process until pureed smooth.
Place cake mix, ½ cup sweet potato puree, water, canola oil and 3 eggs into large mixing bowl and blend with electric mixer until moistened. Beat with mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour cake batter into cake pan over caramel topping. Set aside.
Place softened cream cheese cubes into a food processor bowl and process until smooth. Add remainder of sweet potato puree and pumpkin pie spice and process until combined, 15 to 20 seconds. Pour condensed and evaporated milks into processor bowl and process carefully until mixture is smooth. Add remaining eggs, one at a time, processing only until combined and mixture is smooth. Pour mixture atop cake batter in pan.
Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray, and cover Bundt pan tightly with the foil. This is very important. Place covered Bundt pan into a larger pan with at least 2-inch sides and place on oven rack.
Pour very hot water (heated to just below boiling) around Bundt pan about ½ inch from the top of pan. Bake for 2 hours.
Remove Bundt pan from water and cool for 15 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and invert cake onto a large platter. Cool completely at room temperature. Sprinkle pecans over top of cake. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.