I had a few of these.
It was this past Saturday, and I was spending pretty much the whole day in the kitchen. I baked potato bread, prepped the blueberry crumb cake ingredients for this past week's Tuesdays with Dorie, and baked the coconut butter thins for NEXT week's Tuesdays with Dorie (it's my turn to pick a recipe, so I figured I should have my post ready in PLENTY of time for a change), and since I was in such a baking mood, I found myself looking around the kitchen for other innocent bystanding foods to throw into my stand mixer and pop in the oven.
I'd had four russet potatoes, and I cooked all of them, originally intending to bake four loaves of bread. But…they'd also be perfect for a batch of gnocchi, which I hadn't made in a long time…hmmm…well…what about those sweet potatoes just sitting there? They don't seem to have any plans….maybe I'll just bake them and I'll figure out some use for them later. So I did.
Later, after the cookies were baked and the potato bread dough was rising, I thought, well, I could make a sweet potato bread, right? That would be cool. I checked in a couple of baking books for a recipe, but all I found (and I admit, I didn't look through EVERY book because that wouldn't have left me any time to cook anything else that day.) were sweet things like quick breads, or biscuits. And those weren't what I was after.
So next I went to the computer and did a quick search but mostly kept finding recipes with some kind of SWEETNESS component – like the actual sweet potato wasn't enough. I stopped looking because I didn't want to look any more, I wanted to make something. I figured I could wing it.
So I took the potato bread recipe and messed around with it a bit, and you know what? I produced a couple of really nice loaves of bread, if I do say so myself. And now it's time to share.
Here's the list of ingredients I used:
1 cup vegetable stock (because I had some and needed to use it up)
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup cold milk.
2 T yeast
1 medium-large sweet potato, baked, cooled enough to handle, and peeled.
2 T unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 T salt
6-8 grinds of pepper (I didn't measure it – it's probably about 1/8-1/4 tsp.)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
5 1/2 – 6 1/2 cups flour
And here's what I did:
I combined the vegetable stock, water and milk in one container and stirred in the yeast. (the hot water and cold milk and stock balance out the temp so it's not too hot or too cold. Like the baby bear's porridge, it's just right.
Then, while the yeast was proofing, I mashed together the sweet potato, butter, sugar, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, thyme, and sage.
And then I tasted it, which was stupid, considering the amount of salt I'd included. So if you make this, and you want to taste it, don't be like me. Leave the salt out til after you've tasted it. Or, even better, just whisk the salt into some of the flour you'll be using instead. Just to be safe.
Next, I combined the yeast mixture with the sweet potato mixture in my KA stand mixer (the bigger one – I use the 6 quart for breads) and about 5 cups of the flour. Once everything was blended, I set the speed on 2 and let it go for a while.
Probably about 10 minutes. At that point I added additional flour, a little at a time, until the dough was just about in a ball. It wasn't completely all pulled away from the sides, but I like to work the dough by hand toward the end anyway.
And I have to tell you, this was one of the best feeling doughs I've worked with in a while. It was soft and cohesive and elastic…really nice to knead. Kind of sticky, partly because hey, it's dough, and also because of the sweet potato, but not as sticky as the regular potato bread dough can be. Less starch in the sweet potato makes for a less sticky bread dough.
After a few minutes – five or so, I think – of kneading, I put the dough in a greased bowl, covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and left it to rise.
I didn't keep track of how long it took to rise. I was doing other things – probably making the gnocchi at that point. It probably took around an hour or so to double – it wasn't any faster or slower than, say, the regular potato bread. At least, not that I noticed.
Once the dough had doubled, I rolled it out of the bowl and onto my lightly floured work surface.
Kinda pretty, isn't it? With those patterns?
I divided my dough into two balls and let them rest a bit on the counter while I greased a couple of loaf pans.
I flattened the balls and shaped them into loaves and set them in the pans to rise until they were about an inch or so above the tops of the loaf pans. (Sorry – no pictures of that part) Then I popped them into a 375 degree F oven and baked them for about 50 minutes, rotating the pans at about the 30 minute mark.
They smelled wonderful while they baked. Here's what they looked like when I pulled them from the oven:
Here's a slightly better shot, except that it seems I was standing slightly bent over to my right while I shot the picture. No idea why, though with all the children and cats clamoring for my attention at any given moment, I could have been leaning over to pretend to listen to one of them while I was taking the photo. Like I said, no idea.
Pretty, aren't they? Not overly organge, but with a kind of golden glow about them.
(I found myself leaning in, closer and closer, not so much for the pictures, but so I could inhale more of the fresh-baked-bread perfume….)
And I didn't even slice into one of these til the following day. How's that for restraint?
You can see little flecks of sweet potato and dried thyme here and there.
I'm really pleased with this loaf. The texture is soft, the crumb is tight and dense enough not to tear apart too easily. The flavor? It's NOT sweet. Just what I was going for. Nothing stands out, flavor-wise. I don't specifically detect anything – it doesnt yell CUMIN AND CORIANDER at me, for example. But it has…something. A nice savory back flavor. Kind of warm and friendly, perfect for all sorts of sandwiches. Or toast with your over-easy eggs in the morning.
I hope you'll give this one a try and let me know what you think.
I figure if a stronger flavored bread is desired, you can up the quantities of herbs and spices – or, of course, come up with your own. I'll probably increase the amounts of cumin and coriander next time around, just to see how that goes. But overall, I think this is a lovely bread and a nice use of an extra baked sweet potato, should you have one kicking around.