end notes: November’s savory sweet potato bread

I love sweet potatoes and am always looking for different ways to incorporate them into meals. So, it was a bit odd that for all the bread I’ve been baking I had not yet tried making bread with sweet potato. This opportunity and the strong influence of the holiday season and memories the foods I grew up eating gave me the needed push to bake what I’ve decided to call savory sweet potato bread. Some might think savory a misnomer because the bread incorporates no herbs or spices, nothing in addition to simple, roasted sweet potato. I only mean savory in contrast to sweet which, given the holiday season, is everywhere in recipes, especially those involving sweet potato. So, let’s review this bake.

This star of this bread is of course the sweet potato and as I pointed out in my mid-month update my approach was to prepare it as simply as possible. This meant roasting, uncovered on a very lightly oiled pan at 425 degrees for one hour. I suppose you could use any variety of sweet potato, I used the yellow-flesh sweet potato to start and then used the orange-flesh Garnet yams the following weekend. If you select sweet potatoes of similar size, the cooking temperature and time are similar regardless of variety. I just love the finished look of the roasted sweet potato and like how this method showcases the inherent savory-sweet characteristics of the vegetable.

I baked ten loaves overall this month – two plain sourdough to get a feel for the recipe, four with the yellow-flesh sweet potatoes and four more with the orange-flesh variety. In addition to the two different varieties of sweet potato, I also tried two different four blends. One using 100 percent bread flour in the preferment and main dough and the other using a rye/wheat/bread flour blend. I’m really starting to appreciate this approach to baking that my cousin suggested, that is, focusing on one new recipe or technique at a time and repeating it over multiple bakes.

Through repetition, I notice nuances in the preparation that I wouldn’t if I followed a recipe once or twice and then moved on to another. For example, when preparing the main dough on day two, the recipe suggests cutting the preferment dough into smaller pieces to ensure equal distribution in the main dough. I found this unnecessarily complicated and prefer the method of simply dissolving the preferment in some of the water required in the main dough before adding the necessary flour and other ingredients. Or, how adjusting the amount of water used in the main dough affects the workability of the dough while kneading and the impact on the quality of the final loaf. I find this is more difficult to notice if more time than a week has passed since I last prepared a recipe.

In reflection, I’m really happy with this bread. Friends invited my wife and me to dinner for the Thanksgiving Day holiday and took a loaf along. Folks liked it and frankly, whew. This was the first time I shared one of my loaves outside of my immediate family. No pressure, just do it on a major holiday, right? The added sweet potato at 25 percent of the total flour weight does come through in the final loaves. You first notice it in the texture of the crumb which I would say is softer, and if you use the Garnet yams you’ll definitely notice the color. For all the health benefits of sweet potato, I can’t see a benefit to pushing the percentage much higher and imagine it would result in a more dense or heavy loaf. Certainly not what I was going for.

Ultimately, this is a good, basic bread that I’ll definitely make again and won’t put off until holiday season.

sweet potato bread in bags

For the recipes I referenced in this loaf, please check out my planning post. For those of you interested in more, I’m working on a monthly email newsletter containing my bread log and other behind the scenes Peopled Places content. I plan to start sending the newsletter starting with the new year.

Now, on to that fruit bread.

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