Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sweet Potato Loaf Roundup

Photo by Nancy at Bread & Cake & More

As each month goes by, I marvel at the way each bread baker approaches the bread recipe and understands the technical relationship between gluten, and proofing and flavour development. Everyone who made this bread felt it was a worthy recipe and enjoyed the addition of sweet potato to this otherwise white sandwich loaf.

Nancy dove into the Sweet Potato Bread recipe and applied her expertise to create a loaf of bread that looks great. The dough performed beautifully; or as per Nancy’s opinion, it over performed. Based on the large air pockets in the crumb, it had her thinking that maybe her techniques needed adjustment, which sent her to the internet to research. An over-sized air pocket or two didn't stop her from enjoying it with a bowl of black-eyed pea stew with andouille and collards, and liked it equally as toast. Then she took the left over sweet potato and made the Sweet Potato Biscuits from the Bread Bible—Biscuits that look completely wonderful.

I chose this Sweet Potato Loaf because I was curious about the way potato makes bread moist and tender. Much like the Banana Feather Loaf that derives its moisture and gentle sweetness from the banana, this loaf does the same with the sweet potato, and I am always eager to experiment with ingredients that I’ve never used before.

I think Elle feels the same as I do. In fact, she says that “what [she] like[s] most about this bake-along is that [she] learn[s] something new every time. Whether it’s how to do a cold rise, a four-strand braid, adding exotic (for bread) ingredients, or just making a habit of weighing my ingredients.” After baking this loaf, she's added a ricer on her Amazon wish list because she thought if she had one, her bread would have been perfect. But for her (and me too) this project was a success because she got a great loaf—a loaf that included a new ingredient for bread, the sweet potato.

Marie W made this bread 10 years ago and got the same results today as she did back then. Then she considered that this recipe would make great hamburger buns, and she still agrees with herself today! Once the loaf had cooled, she sliced herself a piece and thought it “tasted like an old-fashioned, State Fair medal-winning white bread, except that it had a more complex flavor (and it wasn't white).” Now that’s a testament to this Sweet Potato Loaf.  

Catherine really liked the taste of the Sweet Potato Loaf but was unhappy with the texture, as it was crumbly, meaning it fell apart quite easily even though it cut well. She sussed out the reasons for this kind of texture and felt that she had either over-proofed it or she hadn’t kneaded it enough, so that the gluten hadn’t developed properly. Going forward, she’ll pay better attention and do the “windowpane test” to ensure the gluten is sufficiently developed. No matter, she felt it made tasty toast.

Kristina recognized that the Sweet Potato Loaf is practically the same recipe as Rose’s White Sandwich Bread, and felt very comfortable with the process. She is so efficient at making this loaf of bread that at the same time, she also made Butter Tarts—a time-honoured Canadian standard. Both turned out beautifully. She didn’t feel the sweet potato had any discernible flavour, but rather tinted the bread a  slight “surreal” orange. The loaf turned into a perfect foil for melted cheese and a bowl of soup.

Vicki thought the bread was amazing, and couldn’t wait to cut into it. She spread Lyle’s Golden Syrup on it.

Next month we will be baking the Pretzel Bread on page 171. Keep in mind that this recipe calls for malt powder (non-diastatic, I believe). It's available through King Arthur. Also, for an authentic pretzel crust, this recipe calls for lye, which should be available at hardware or plumbing supply stores. Also note that there are corrections for this recipe.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sweet Potato Loaf

Sweet Potato Loaf

One afternoon I was munching on a baguette that I had just bought from a huge chain boulangerie here in Montreal—a boulangerie that presents itself as being authentically French. I noticed an oily residue on my fingers and in my mouth, and it was odd because French bread should not be like this. So I spoke to the Head Baker and I asked him if he added oil to the baguette. He said: “of course, Madame (with an emphasis on the “dame”). How else will the bread be moist?” I thought: This guy is a perfect example of how arrogance causes ignorance, and I never bought another loaf of bread from this bakery again. Even I know, as an amateur baker, that oil is not the only ingredient that produces moisture. 

This encounter made me only more curious about what makes bread moist and tender. This is why the Sweet Potato Loaf intrigued me. Not only does it contain potato (a moisture rich ingredient), but it calls for sweet potato. Much like the Banana Feather Loaf that derived its moisture and gentle sweetness from the banana, this loaf does the same with the sweet potato, and I am always eager to experiment with ingredients that I’ve never used before.

Overall, the Sweet Potato Loaf was delicious. Really truly. Yes, the bread was sweetened, but in a natural way, thus I didn’t feel as though I was indulging. It was as light as air (maybe it should have been named Sweet Potato Feather Loaf). I tasted a definite sour tone—a sourness that came from leaving the dough starter in the fridge overnight, but I enjoyed it, as it balanced out some of the sweetness of the potato.

In conclusion, I found the loaf a little too light in texture. It was so so tender, that I could hardly cut an straight slice without it compressing and collapsing under the motion of the knife. It’s a testament to the potato and dry milk, I think. Still, I prefer a toothier texture, but that’s not to say this Sweet Potato Loaf isn’t delightful. It is, and I’m very happy to have made it.

This was a standard process for me by now. The only thing I changed was that I let the dough starter sit for an hour at room temperature and then refrigerated it overnight. I just ran out of time to see the loaf through to the end.
Making the dough starter

Feeling stubborn, I chose to make this bread by hand. Certainly, the initial mixture was very rough and the sweet potato and butter sat chunky in the dough. 
Adding the sweet potato and butter to the dough starter and flour

Mixing the butter and sweet potato to the flour and dough starter
Incorporating it by hand
The first 5 minutes of kneading was very sticky (not my favourite experience)

The dough after 5 minutes of kneading

but after letting the dough rest for 20 minutes, it transformed into a beautiful bread dough. The second 5 minutes of kneading made the dough sticky again, but a little flour smoothed it out.
After the second 5 minutes of kneading

On the first rise, the dough took a good 2 hours to double. 
After the first rise

The biz fold after the first rise
On the second rise, it took another 2 hours to double. 

By this time, the dough was soft and supple. I made two biz folds easily and dropped it into the loaf pan. At this point, I was anticipating a delicious loaf of bread.
The dough shaped and ready for its final rise
It rose beautifully and ready to bake this beauty

The bread baked very quickly. Well before the time was up, the internal temp was just over 200F. I didn’t have any trouble with the top over browning.
The Sweet Potato Loaf just out of the oven

Sweet Potato Loaf