Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Bread

The countdown has begun and I am feverishly getting my act together. As most of you probably know first hand, it isn't that easy to plan a turkey meal for 14 while working full-time. But it is what it is. The trips to the supermarket have been taken care of, I have started on the stuffing and tomorrow I plan to get up early to sneak in the roasting of a few root vegetables before I have to settle down to real (as in "money-making") work (it helps that I work from home). But today was bread day! I baked three loaves of sweet potato bread (there is only two on the picture because the third one is half-way gone already) and I still have to bake my banana feather bread. As some of the family members coming for the celebration are from Latin America and love their sweet rolls for breakfast, I also mixed the dough for John's Vermont Feather Beds (what's with Thanksgiving and feathers? The turkey effect?). That particular dough is supposed to rest on the counter overnight, which makes me a bit nervous since it contains a raw egg... But the temperature in my house at night being very close to that of a refrigerator, I am not too worried. Besides all these bacterias will be baked out of their mean little minds, right? So today was Sweet Potato Bread Day. I borrowed the recipe from my beloved Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton (Nancy calls it Pumpkin Bread even though there isn't any pumpkin in it!) and surprisingly I didn't change anything to the recipe, except (ha!ha!) that I didn't roast the sweet potatoes in the oven to later mash them to a pulp... No, no way I could do that within the time-frame I had. I used Trader Joe's canned organic sweet potato puree and didn't look back! Not once! And the breads still came out tasting great. What more does the people want? This bread is made over two days. Ingredients 280 g sweet potato puree (either homemade or store-bought) 198 g shelled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas) 339 g cold water (55ºF/13ºC) 227 g mature white starter 34 g raw wheat germ 1.5 g ground cumin (I am not a die-hard cumin fan but in this recipe, it does a good job of showcasing the taste of the sweet potato) 511 g unbleached all-purpose flour 198 g whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat because we like it much better) 18 g sea salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF/177ºC. Place the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until puffed and very lightly browned (about 15 minutes), shaking the sheet once during baking
  2. Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature
  3. Place water, white starter, wheat germ, cumin, yam puree and flours in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes, scraping the dough from the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. The dough should be wet and sticky
  4. Add salt and mix on medium speed for 7 minutes. Add the toasted pumpkin seeds and mix on low speed until incorporated
  5. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, place it on a lightly floured work surface and knead it for a few minutes by hand
  6. Put dough in oiled bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap and let it ferment in the refrigerator 6 to 10 hours
  7. On the second day, remove the dough from the refrigerator. It should feel moist and should have grown half its original size. If it hasn't, cover it with a cloth and leave it at room temperature for about an hour
  8. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, cut it in 3 equal pieces, tuck under the edges of each piece, cover with a cloth and let rest for 15 minutes
  9. Uncover the dough and roll each piece first into a boule then into a batard (football-shaped loaf)
  10. Place the loaves onto a cloth-covered board, seam side up. Pinch the cloth so that they are kept separate the ovals from each other
  11. Slide the board into a big plastic bag and close the bag securely
  12. Place in the refrigerator again and let the dough proof another 6 to 10 hours (with the Thanksgiving food shopping in the fridge, there was no way I could fit the board in. So I took it down to the basement - which stays at 55ºF/13ºC pretty much all year round - and left it there for 4 hours
  13. Preheat the oven to 500ºF/260ºC at least one hour before baking, making sure the baking stone is in (if you have one) and placing an empty cast-iron baking dish on the lower shelf or on the sole of the oven
  14. When the dough's temperature reaches 60 to 62ºF/16 to 17ºC, lightly dust the loaves with flour, invert them well apart on a baking sheet covered with semolina-dusted parchment paper and holding a single-edged razor blade perpendicular to the first loaf, slash an elongated X across the top of the dough, 1/2 inch deep, keeping the ends of the cuts 3/4 inch from the ends of the dough
  15. Then make one long, straight cut in the center of the V created at each end of the X (keeping 1/4 inch away from the intersection of each V and 1/4 inch away from the end of the dough
  16. Open the oven door, pour 1 cup of water in the cast-iron baking dish (watch out for the burning steam) and slide the loaves onto the baking stone (still on the parchment paper)
  17. Spritz the oven heavily with water from a spray bottle and quickly close the door
  18. Reduce oven temperature to 450ºF/232ºC, spritz the oven two more times during the next five minutes, then bake without opening the oven door for the next 20 minutes
  19. After 20 minutes, rotate the loaves if necessary to ensure even baking. Continue baking for 10 more minutes, for a total of 35 minutes
  20. Remove the loaves to a cooling rack. The crust should have a burnished brown color and the interior should have an even texture (not the open, airy structure of a country bread).
These Sweet Potato Breads go to Susan, from Wild Yeast, for Yeastpotting.


  1. Superbes pains et je vous souhaite à tous de très chouettes fêtes de Thanksgiving :-)

  2. Merci, Flo! On aimerait bien que vous soyez des nôtres...

  3. Oh that looks so very good! Nancy Silverton's recipes are the best!
    I still want to make her Raisin Brioche, except maybe substitute applesauce for some of the butter.
    Do you think that would work?
    Esther in Ottawa

  4. Hi, Esther! I just took a look at the raisin brioche recipe and remembered why I never made it!Two+ sticks of butter...Wow!
    I would go for applesauce in a cake but I don't think it'll do the trick in a brioche. According to Shirley Corriher whose book Bakewise I borrowed from the library a couple of weeks ago, "fats tenderize by coating flour proteins, which prevents their joining to form gluten". Applesauce cannot do that and might in fact make the dough heavier.
    I remember asking Frank at SFBI about a substitute for some of the butter in a rich dough and he couldn't think of anything.I have a French book about reduced-calorie brioches, whose author uses reduced-fat butter or margarine. But I have never baked anything from it.I also know of someone who uses pureed avocado. I haven't had much luck with it when I tried. So maybe the only thing to do is to bite the bullet and make the brioche when the fancy strikes but not often. To my mind, what we eat daily is what really matters and it's fine to indulge once in a while, don't you think?
    In any case if you try the applesauce solution (or if you devise any other trick) and like it, please let me know .

  5. Thank you so much for answering and on your Thanksgiving day! I could have waited, sounds like you are very busy.
    But thank you and your conclusion is, I agree, the best. Just make it as is and just not so often.
    Esther in Ottawa

  6. Excellent travail pour ce pain! Il semble delicieux :)

  7. That is a beautiful looking loaf. I bet everyone enjoyed it.

  8. Thank you, Karine and Anne Marie! Yes, the bread was a hit and I personally loved it.

  9. I keep meaning to make this bread. Thanks for reminding me about the canned sweet potato puree!

  10. Go for it, Mimi! And let me know how it went...



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