It even drives my experiments in the kitchen and many, in fact, most of my food-related ideas are born from it. I’m always seeking to discover unlikely ingredients that work magic together and bring out the best in the other. My attempts at baking bread are a part of this journey. I have been baking bread on and off for some years now and I admit my failures outnumber my successes. Yet I keep compulsively coming back to it in the hope that one day I will bake a loaf that not only rises (pun totally intended) but surpasses my expectations. All my attempts have been unplanned and spontaneous – when I’ve experienced a strong inner craving to bake bread. And spontaneity does not look at schedules. So there have been crazy days when my baking has gone well into the night because I began only in the evening. But I suggest that when you bake bread, begin in the morning so that you have enough time to allow your dough at least a double rise (patience is a big part of making bread and believe me, it pays off).
In my case, old habits die hard so I decided on a bread experiment almost at noon yesterday. Yeast and sugar have enviable chemistry – yeast feeds on sweet, sugary love, which in turn lifts the yeast to greater heights….perfectly symbiotic wouldn’t you say? I had a rather large bag of sweet potatoes which gave me the idea of playing cupid to achieve (in the words of Steve Winwood) “higher love” between the yeast and the sugar. And so I put together this recipe for a Sweet Potato Oat and Whole Wheat Loaf which turned out so beautiful that I’m still basking in the glow of success. I finally felt like I had crossed a milestone in my bread baking. It’s a fairly simple recipe but since flours differ qualitatively as do oven temperatures, I suggest that you go by your instinct – add more liquid if your dough appears too dry or crank down the temperature if your bread browns too quickly. I used stone-ground whole wheat, you could use normal, slightly coarsely-ground whole wheat flour to get a more rustic, texturally rich bread. Also if the dough appears sticky, don’t worry, it will be more easy to handle after the first rising.
- Makes 2 loaves
- 30 g butter
- 450 ml milk
- 50 g dark brown sugar
- 2 tsps salt
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 300 g sweet potatoes boiled, drained and mashed
- 400 g rolled oats (not instant)
- 550 g stone-ground whole wheat flour
- 65 ml lukewarm water
- Boil milk and mix in the butter and sugar and set aside to cool.
- Dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 10 minutes till the yeast foams. Meanwhile, sift the salt and flour together in another bowl.
- Combine the milk with the yeast mixture; then mix in the sweet potato to form a thick but smooth batter. Then add the oats followed by the flour. Use a wooden spoon and then your hands. The mixture will be fairly sticky, so transfer to a floured surface, knead to make a smooth dough. Put it in a large, oiled bowl, cover with a plastic bag (to allow for increased volume) and leave to rise in a warm place for 3 hours.
- Divide the dough into 2 halves, shape into rounds and place on a large, greased baking sheet. Cover with a tea towel and leave it to rise for a further hour till doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Score the loaves, brush lightly with milk and sprinkle with some oats. Bake the loaves for 40-50 minutes till bottoms sound hollow when tapped. Cool on racks before storing.