Emma Alter Photo
Emma Alter

Difficulty Level Easy

Last week I wrote about the increasing cost of bread and the decision to take up my daughter's challenge to bake my own bread for a month. Together we have successfully baked our way through the first week. We have made whole-wheat bread, potato bread, potato rosemary focaccia, steamed pork buns, and the hands-down winner, sweet potato rolls. I learned a couple of important things this week. It really is significantly cheaper to bake your own bread, and you are much less likely to waste any of it because it is the product of your own hands.

Our efforts yielded three loaves of bread, one focaccia, 12 pork buns, and 16 rolls. If I had purchased those, I estimate it would have cost just shy of $50.00. I spent $6 on unbleached all-purpose flour, about 50 cents on a sweet potatoes, and $9 on a pork loin, which stretched to a dinner for three; the pork buns which provided two lunches. Everything else I had on hand already. So my total expenditure for all that bread was only $11. Even if I had to buy the whole-wheat flour, the potatoes and the yeast, it still would have been less than half of what the store-bought bread would cost. The heel ends of the bread went into the freezer for future use as croutons or bread crumbs, and there were no leftovers of anything else.

On top of the cost benefit, I knew that there were no preservatives in my bread and that my flour hadn't been chemically treated to whiten it. It also was a lot of fun. My daughter was treated to the comical sight of me struggling to knead the potato dough so sticky that my hands virtually disappeared into it. That dough rose so much that it poured over the sides of the bread pan and looked like an episode from I Love Lucy. It also was really delicious. The sweet potato rolls were not only fabulous the first day, but they also made wonderful toast. We agreed that this is a recipe we would go back to again and again.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 lb sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks (1 large)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
About
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp salt
2 large or extra-large eggs
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash

PREPARATION:

  1. Put the sweet potato in a saucepan with about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes, until tender. Drain, reserving the cooking water. Mash or puree the potato (you should have about 1 1/4 cups) and place in a large bowl. Let the potato and the cooking water cool to lukewarm.
  2. Measure out 1 cup of the lukewarm cooking water and stir in the yeast to dissolve thoroughly, Add the yeast mixture to the potato, then stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup of the flour. Add the butter and salt and stir, then add the 2 eggs and mix well. Add 2 more cups of flour, a cup at a time.
  3. Dust a work surface generously with flour and turn out the dough. Knead for about 5 minutes, until soft, smooth and somewhat elastic. Place in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled, about 4 hours.
  4. Pull the dough away from the sides of the bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly grease an 18x12-inch baking sheet with butter. Use a sharp knife or a dough scraper to divide the dough into 16 pieces (cut it in half, then cut in half again and again). Using your cupped palm, pressing the dough lightly into your work surface, roll 1 piece into a round roll by rolling it in a short circular motion about ten times. Place the shaped roll on the baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough, placing the rolls about 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Place rack in the centre of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F. Just before baking, brush the tops of the rolls with the egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the rolls are a deep brown on top and a golden orange at the sides. They will be nested together, touching.
  6. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Store, once completely cooled, in a well-sealed plastic bag.

    From Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

This recipe appears in: Basic Dough

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