A Rebel with a Cause: Spiced Sweet Potato Ice Cream

If you ever need to be reminded of the sweetness of life (and the importance of lifelong learning), Bill Yosses, the executive pastry chef at the White House, is your man. Apropos to the back-to-school season, I saw him speak on Monday as part of the Harvard Lecture Series on science and cooking.

To say he is passionate about life is a chocolatey understatement. Full of dessert-filled surprises and a vast knowledge of subjects ranging from history to chemistry, he is a man of delightful contrast: one part traditionalist, one part rebel. He is charming and pure pleasure to listen to.

And he had a lot to say about a lot of things. He said some things that were expected. He preached about using quality ingredients (expected). He discussed the importance of moderation (unexpected).

He showed us a picture of the human brain; said our sense of smell is linked to the amygdala—a part of the brain responsible for fear and emotion (unexpected). He referred to dessert as “brain candy” (expected).

He talked about making classic French-style marshmallows (expected). He rebelled against the traditional rules of chocolate mousse making by using gelatin instead of cream to provide lightness (unexpected).

He spoke very fondly of Thomas Jefferson, a lover of food and gardening (expected). For a good twenty minutes (unexpected).

He made ice cream (expected). He made ice cream by pouring liquid nitrogen into citrus and olive oil (unexpected).

He inspired me and when I asked myself how I should celebrate the start of another sweet season, spud-based ice cream was the obvious answer. As a result, I have quite a bit in my freezer at the moment. Naturally, I’ve been experimenting with different ways of eating it.

There is the classic fall method: douse in maple syrup (expected); sprinkle with smoked sea salt if you are feeling frisky (as pictured). Or melt chocolate and peanut butter and pour over the ice cream (unexpected). Because the ice cream is fairly heavily spiced, it does well with a variety of flavors. Don’t worry, its burly and it can handle some abuse.

And now is certainly not the time to be timid: it’s fall. Get back in touch with comforting classics. Be inspired. Live like a White House pastry chef. Learn. Read up on Thomas Jefferson. Rebel. Make ice cream out of potatoes.

Spiced Sweet Potato Ice Cream

Adapted from Down Home with the Neelys

1-15 oz can of sweet potato puree
1.5 cups half and half
1/4 cup seasonal beer
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Chill and churn in an ice cream maker according to the instructions

-This is the second year I made this ice cream recipe and I have to say the version last year was better.

This time I used sweet potatoes that I had roasted instead of the canned potatoes (1 can is about 2.25 cups).

I also used a different beer and was without my friend, Justin, for the ice cream-making process. If you have a friend named Justin, I suggest inviting him to help. There is no downside to this. He may also drink the remaining beer and provide additional entertainment.

-Magic Hat #9 was great in this ice cream.


  1. Yum.

    That harvard lecture series looks awesome. Did you really wait in line for "hours" like the website says??

  2. I lived in Boston and took courses at Harvard night school. I love the programs they have and would have been waiting at the door for this lecture. Hope you give us a little information from the series.


  3. Beautiful! I have been not-so-secretely dreaming about hearing folks speak at the lecture series you are talking about at Harvard. It's great you are taking advantage of that!

  4. Justin's are indeed, the best. I agree.