Sunday, November 13, 2011
Sweet Potato Yeast Bread
Just as our apartment has a tendency to get really hot in the summer, it also has a tendency to get really cold in the late fall and winter. When it starts to get cold, I generally decide it's time to start making my own bread again. This is problematic. If you want bread dough to rise in a timely manner, generally you want to put it in a warm, draft free place. That doesn't really work here. Especially since there's a large-ish hole in the boiler cabinet ever since they came to replace the boiler.
Cold temperatures (at least temperatures that aren't too cold) will still allow yeast doughs to rise, it just happens much more slowly. Mark Bittman actually recommends making dough before you go to work and letting it rise in the fridge all day. A slower rise also means more flavorful bread, which is a good thing. I have, however, tried out a couple of different methods to help my dough rise in a slightly more timely manner. Mostly because I get impatient.
My current method involves getting up early (which I do anyway), making the dough, leaving it rise, and then going back to bed. This usually ends in being told that my feet are cold and then told to go put on some socks. If you're not into waking up early, an oven with a pilot light ends up being the perfect temperature to for rising dough.
This recipe and I have a long history. We met four years ago when my mom gave me a cookbook for my birthday. I tried out several of the non-baking recipes and they were really good. Make your own tempeh breakfast sausage? I'm there. There were several recipes in the bread and dessert sections that were calling my name. Every single one was terrible. Absolutely terrible. There were vegan cookies that were hard as rocks. And then there was this bread...
The recipe had such potential, but the first few times I made it, it was just a mess. The recipe didn't call for nearly enough flour to keep the dough from being a gloppy mess. It called for proofing the yeast in a mixture of water and oil. Called for a loaf pan size no one I know owns...But the idea of sweet potato bread was just too amazing to resist. So I tried again...Not just because I'm a terrible girlfriend who sneaks vegetables into all of the foods her boyfriend loves. (And yes, he ate some...and didn't hate it).
I ended up with a still slightly sticky dough that baked into a deliciously moist loaf of bread. I can actually see taking this dough in a million other directions. With a little more flour to make the dough easier to handle, it would probably make killer cinnamon rolls. (To heck with Thanksgiving dinner. Let's do Thanksgiving brunch.)
I'm submitting this recipe to YeastSpotting hosted this week by Tartine Bread Experiment.
Sweet Potato Yeast Bread
Adapted from The Big Book of Vegetarian by Kathy Ferrell-Kingsley
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), well scrubbed
3/4 c warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast
3 c apf or bread flour
1 c whole wheat flour
2 t salt
2 T olive oil
2 t maple syrup
1 c toasted chopped pecans (optional)
Roast the sweet potatoes (this can be done a day in advance): Preheat the oven to 375. Bake the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, or until softened. Remove from the oven and let them sit on the counter l until they're cool enough to handle. Peel and then mash a bit with a fork or potato masher.
Combine the water and the yeast. Stir and let the yeast sit until it's foamy (about 5 minutes).
While you're waiting for the yeast to proof, mix together 2 c of the apf, the whole wheat flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Add the proofed yeast, the olive oil, the maple syrup and the mashed sweet potato to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough will be quite sticky.
Add the additional flour 1/4 c at a time as you knead the dough. You want it to be smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky. At this point add the pecans, if you're using them, and knead for an additional 2 minutes to incorporate the nuts.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in bulk. Punch the dough down, shape into a loaf, and place in an oiled 1lb loaf pan and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough domes over the top of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 400. Bake the bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350 and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is golden brown, pulling away from the sides of the pan, and sounds a bit hallow when you knock on it. Turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing.