October 04, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Day 3 - Hearty Sweet Potato Braids

sweet potato bread
For Day 3 of Thanksgiving Week, I decided to share this recipe for hearty sweet potato braids. Bread is an essential part of any meal, but especially the Thanksgiving meal. I think there are two types of bread people – the first likes to eat their bread on the side of their meal, and the other uses it to construct a sandwich out of everything else on their plate. I used to be in the former category, until I discovered how amazing all the components of Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, cranberry sauce, potatoes, stuffing) taste when mixed together on top of a slice of thick bread. But either way you like to eat it, this sweet potato bread is delicious!

This is not a light and fluffy bread – it’s dense and moist, hence the word ‘hearty’ in the title. It’s also not a sweet bread as you might expect from having the sweet potato in there – the addition of the thyme makes it a savory bread, but you could always adjust any of the spices to your own taste! I really enjoyed this bread as is, and I think it would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving meal on its own. But it would also work really well as a base for the spicy pumpkin hummus appetizer I shared yesterday (I tried this and they paired really well together)!

sweet potato bread
The recipe makes two loaves, and while one would be enough to feed a crowd, you might as well make two loaves because it would be tricky to divide a package of yeast in half. This also means you get to keep a whole extra loaf all to yourself – just slice it, wrap it up well and pop it in the freezer after you bake it, then you can pull out a slice or two to thaw anytime you want! One of my favourite dinners last week consisted of a few slices of this bread topped with a ton of roasted garlic with salt and pepper – amazing!

As with any yeast bread, this does take a while to make, but most of it is “hands off” time, freeing you up to work on your other Thanksgiving dishes! This was my first time making a braided bread, and it was actually much easier than I thought! If you’ve ever braided hair, then it’s just like that (although a little heavier and doughier!) After dividing your dough into six equal portions, you roll each one into a 20” rope – if you have a pastry mat with measurements on it, then this part is really easy! Ryan’s mom gave me one and it makes rolling out pie dough and other dough so much easier than my old method of trying to line up a bunch of rulers on the counter. It also makes clean up much simpler too!

sweet potato bread

I tried two methods for braiding the dough. First I tried braiding from the centre of the ropes:

sweet potato bread

For my second loaf, I tried braiding from the end of the ropes:

sweet potato bread
Both worked, but as you can see from the pictures, the first method resulted in a slightly more even braid, so I think I’d recommend you try the braiding from the middle method.

If you don’t have time to make a yeasted bread on Thanksgiving, then check out the Thanksgiving Week recipe for rosemary sweet potato cornbread over at Vanilla & Spice!

sweet potato bread
Hearty Sweet Potato Braids

Adapted from Taste of Home

Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients:

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
~1.5 lbs sweet potato, peeled and cubed (from about 1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes)
1 cup warm skim milk (110° to 115°)
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups whole wheat flour

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the sweet potato cubes and simmer about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water, then transfer to a bowl and mash the sweet potatoes with a fork. Let cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast into the warm water. Add the sugar, stir, and leave for 10 minutes. Mixture should foam and double in size – if it doesn’t, the yeast is no longer active, and you’ll have to start again with a new pack.

Pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer, or a large bowl. Add the mashed sweet potatoes, milk, oil, honey, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, salt, thyme, nutmeg, and 2 cups of the whole-wheat flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough of the remaining whole wheat flour to form a firm dough.

Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead for 6-8 minutes until smooth and elastic. If you don’t have a dough hook, knead the dough by hand on a floured surface. Add more flour as you’re kneading if the dough is too sticky.

Transfer the ball of dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and divide into six equal portions (a scale is helpful here). Shape each portion into a 20-inch rope. Place three ropes side by side on a baking sheet that has been lightly greased or lined with parchment paper. Braid the three ropes and pinch each end to seal, tucking under the braid. Repeat with the remaining ropes to form two braids. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.
Bake loaves together at 350°F for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool. Slice diagonally.

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For other Thanksgiving bread ideas, check out these links:

Perfect dinner rolls from Mel’s Kitchen CafĂ©
Buttermilk cluster from The Fresh Loaf
Soft garlic knots from Annie’s Eats
Parmesan pull-apart rolls from Picky Cook
Cranberry walnut bread rolls from La Tartine Gourmande
Pumpkin garlic knots from Handle the Heat
Rosemary pumpkin crescent rolls from Heat Oven to 350
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