Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sweet Potato Bread with Golden Raisins

I had an overabundance of sweet potatoes sitting on my counter that I had neglected to use up. I originally intended to roast them but they were starting to get sprouty and impatient. Ugh I hate when vegetables sprout weird looking bits. Shudder. Anyways with my excess of sweet potato I decided I was going to try making a sweet potato yeast bread. Potatoes are often added to yeast breads because of the way the starch interacts with the yeast to create a very tender end result. But pureed sweet potatoes are another possible addition to yeast doughs, although I’m not sure they have quite the same effect on the texture of the bread. I haven’t made a yeast bread in a long time although they are one of my favourite things to bake, so I pulled out this recipe that’s been languishing in my untried recipe folder for a while. (yes, folders as in physical folders with real pockets. I’m old school )

This is a nice rustic feeling bread. It combines all of the very autumn flavours of sweet potatoes, brown sugar, cornmeal, raisins and citrus.

This bread is so beautiful and festive. It is a dark orange colour on the outside, but when sliced, reveals a golden yellow interior dotted with plumped golden raisins. It’s beautiful gold on gold.

The bread is slightly sweet, but with enough character to stand up to a savoury meal. It has a subtle sweet potato flavour that is brightened by the sharp taste of the raisins and the scent of citrus zest. This bread has a nubbly texture from the cornmeal in the batter. The cornmeal contributes to its rustic character and lends some yellow colour to augment the colour of the sweet potato puree. It is rich because of the addition of eggs to the batter (although there is no fat per se added to the batter) and the brown sugar used in the batter complements and brings out the caramel notes of the sweet potato.

The raw dough is slightly sticky but as long as you keep your hands liberally floured it doesn’t take much work as far as yeast raised breads go.

When baked, the bread smells like a cross between baked sweet potatoes and cornbread. This very rustic harvest bread has a tender close-crumb, and is crusty and chewy on the outside. This would be great for a thanksgiving type meal.

This tastes good with goat cheese, and I’ve also served it to sop up the gravy from a meat meal. It is good for breakfast toasted with honey and butter. But I really think this would be great with some melted brie and cranberry chutney as a Thanksgiving themed panini.

Sweet Potato Bread with Golden Raisins

Makes 2 loaves, about 2 8-inch rounds

No dairy involved!

Time: 4-5 hours including resting time

  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
  • ¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree (homemade or canned)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • 5-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • grated zest of 2 lemons

    1. Place the raisins in a small bowl. Add ½ cup of the warm water and let stand until ready to use.
    2. Sprinkle yeast in a large bowl. Add a pinch of the brown sugar and add remaining 1-1/2 cups of warm water. Stir just to mix. Then let stand 10 minutes or until bubbly.
    3. Whisk eggs and sweet potato puree in a large bowl until smooth. Add it to the yeast mixture and whisk just until blended. Add remaining brown sugar, salt, cornmeal, 2 cups of the flour and lemon zest. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add flour ½ cup at a time while beating with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. ( You may not need the entire amount of flour. The amount of flour needed will depend on the weather and the type of flour you use. Do not add too much flour or the bread may become tough and dry. You can incorporate more flour as you need the dough if necessary.)
    4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl turning to coat and cover with a kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
    5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Drain raisins, discard any remaining liquid, and pat dry with paper towels. Toss with 2 tablespoons flour to coat. Set aside.
    6. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or oil and sprinkle lightly with cornmeal, parchment is easier) Gently deflate dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the raisins into the dough just enough to distribute throughout. (I like to flatten the dough a bit, press the raisins evenly over the surface and then roll it like a jelly roll and knead normally, but this is just an idiosyncratic technique I’ve made up)
    7. Form dough into 2 rounds, each about 5 inches in diameter. Place loaves 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover with tea towel and let rise in a warm draft free place about 30 minutes. Use a sharp knife or razor blade to cut 3 or 4 3-inch slashes in the bread so that it can expand and rise as it bakes.
    8. Place in centre of oven. Immediately lower oven temperature to 375 and bake 40-50 minutes or until loaves are lightly browned and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. (Note: Do not overbake or the bread will be dry. if you plan to freeze the bread underbake by about 5 minutes.) Remove from pan, place on wire racks. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing. Or, wrap in plastic wrap, place in Ziploc bag; freeze for up to 3 months.

Mary Egelbreit’s Home Companion Dec 2004/Jan 2005

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