Sweet Potato Challah Buns

If you know me, then you know I love my kitchen gadgets. I’ll spend more time than I’m comfortable divulging on Williams Sonoma’s website browsing through things I know I don’t even need and will probably only use once or twice, still wishing I could just splurge and get all of it. And although there are kitchen gadgets that are unnecessary to everyday life, there are a few that I have that have become essential.

My bench scraper. My rolling pin. My vegetable peeler. My zester. All of my cookie stamps.

Where would I be without them? I don’t even want to know.

A kitchen gadget isn’t just a way to cut short on manual kitchen labor–depending on the object, it can have multiple uses that really help you step up your cooking/baking game in other ways. For example; quite a few of the cookie stamps I have were sold as gadgets for another purpose, like moon cake molds or pie crust and fondant stamps  or even biscuit cutters. I just decided to try them out on cookie dough and the results turned out to be really successful.

I went through a phase where I was addicted to apples–I’d eat one or two a day. Problem was, I didn’t like eating it whole bite by bite until I got to the core. I prefer eating apples in pieces, so I invested in an apple slicer. The slicer basically separates the bulk of the apple from the core, and cuts the whole apple into wedges for you. It was such a worthwhile buy, not just for those days I ate apples, but also the times I’ve baked apple pies and cakes and needed to be able to cut a lot of them at one time into even pieces.

And as it turns out, apple slicers aren’t just for cutting apples.

One day I saw a picture in a magazine of an apple slicer pressed into a piece of dough and it blew my mind. Okay, maybe not blew my mind, but it certainly did intrigue me as it hadn’t ever occurred to me to do that. Ever since, then every time I used my apple slicer I thought about using it myself to shape bread. The next time I made bread I decided to give it a shot–what’s the worst that could happen? At the end of the day, it’s still going to be delicious bread.

I wanted the structure of the bread itself to be sturdy enough to stand up to shaping, so I went with one of the sturdiest kinds of breads there is: challah. I then divided it up into individual portions that I pressed into rolls with the apple slicer. The dough is flavored with sweet potato, honey and orange zest; it’s a good combination of sweet and savory. The flavor actually improves over the course of a few days.  The overall shape of the rolls made by the apple slicer wasn’t perfect in uniformity; some of the rolls ‘bloomed’ with petals like flowers while baking, while others developed bubbles.  I’m okay with that, as I think they still look pretty good. They certainly taste that way.

Sharing at this week’s Fiesta Friday #220, co-hosted this week by two of my faaaaaavorite peoples,  Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau and Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook.

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Sweet Potato Challah Buns

Recipe Adapted from The KitchenAid Blog

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 whole egg plus 2 yolks
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 4-6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Egg wash (1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten)
  • Sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Special Equipment, optional: Apple slicer

Directions

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl), pour the water inside. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, and sprinkle the sugar on top of the yeast. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until frothy and proofed.

Add the honey, melted butter, mashed sweet potatoes, eggs, salt, black pepper and zest. Use the paddle attachment (or a large wire whisk) to mix well.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 1 cup of flour at a time to the bowl. (Or you can use a wooden spoon). Knead it for 5-8 minutes in the bowl. You may not need to use it all, but the dough should be one homogenous mass that you can hold together, slightly smooth but it’s ok if it’s slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Flour your hands, then knead with your hands for about 5 more minutes, using a firm push-pull motion until it is elastic and not sticky, adding more flour if needed. Grease the bowl, then place the dough inside. Cover it with plastic wrap & a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 1/2-2 hours. Punch it down, flip it over in the bowl, then recover it and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the dough from the bowl and let it come up to room temp. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Flour a clean work surface, then turn dough out onto it. Punch down to deflate air bubbles, then divide in half. Place one half back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap while you work with the other.

Divide the half piece of dough in half, then the half into fourths. Gently roll each fourth piece into a smooth ball of dough. Flour both the top of the ball & the blades of the apple slicer. Position the apple slicer over the ball and press down firmly, carefully removing from the bottom. Place the bun on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover the baking sheets with plastic wrap & damp kitchen towels and allow to proof until doubled in size 45-60 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 350°F.

In a small bowl, beat together the egg white and water. Brush over the proofed buns and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes in the oven. (Bread inner temp should be 195-200°F).

Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes

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Remember my post last year for when I made Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, where I mentioned that I bought myself a Ninja Blender?

Well, my Ninja went to Ninja Blender Heaven guys. At least, the pitcher and the lid did. Fortunately the actual base/machine part is fine.

Yeah, there’s a story to this one too.

We had ourselves a regular homicide here. Murder in the first degree…. by a dish washer.

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Before you guys call me an idiot, in my defense let me just say that I’d always been able to wash the pitcher and lid of my Ninja in our previous dish washer without any issues whatsoever. I wouldn’t say that they’re made of plastic, it felt much thicker than that and not the kind of thing that would easily melt or be destroyed in a dish washer.

But  the dish washer in our new place is much newer than the old one and I guess that means that they get a LOT more hotter.

You can tell where this story is going. I washed the pitcher and the lid in the dish washer and when I opened the door to take them out and put them away, I saw the ridge of the pitcher and the grooves of the lid had been melted so that they were…wavy.  Also, unusable.

I wasn’t a very happy camper.

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The good thing about these kinds of appliances is that it’s actually possible to purchase separate pieces of the whole thing. I went on the Ninja website and it turns out another pitcher won’t put be back anymore than about 40-50 bucks (plus shipping). This was significantly less than what I paid for the machine as a whole, so that was a huge relief to me.

Still, it didn’t solve a new problem that I had. I wanted to make scratch sweet potatoes and for the particular recipe I wanted to use, I had planned on using my blender. Yet another setback. But as with my Chicken and Biscuits snafu, I just diverted to plan B and decided to use my hand mixer. The potatoes probably wouldn’t be quite as smooth as they could be if they’d been pureed in a Ninja, but whatevs. Personally, I’m fine with a few lumps in my spuds.

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Okay, so I know this one may sound….weird.

Vanilla bean with sweet potato; at the least it sounds like something you’d eat with dessert, right?

Except, no. It isn’t really. I was even somewhat surprised myself at how well the vanilla works with the sparse other seasonings here to make this really work well for a savory side dish. There IS an obvious sweetness, but there’s still a pretty good balance with the salt, pepper and onion powder. This dish was RIDICULOUSLY easy to do, it just required a little bit more time for me to get the sweet potatoes to the consistency I wanted them at using my hand mixer. If you guys have a heavy duty blender like a Ninja or a food processor, I’d definitely recommend using it in lieu of the hand mixer if for nothing else, to be able to spar the strain on your wrists.

But regardless of whatever way you prepare them, I think you’ll like how these turn out.

Happy Fiesta Friday #105 where I’ll be linking this post up to. The party this week is co-hosted by Lily @ Little Sweet Baker andJulianna @ Foodie On Board.

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Vanilla Bean Whipped Sweet Potatoes


Recipe Adapted from Food and Wine

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds medium sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, seeds scraped
  • Onion powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400°. Poke the sweet potatoes several times with a fork and bake for about 35 minutes, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then peel and transfer them to a standing mixer or to a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine the cream with the butter and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to a simmer. Remove the vanilla bean.

With the stand mixer (or hand held mixer) running, carefully pour the vanilla cream into the sweet potatoes and beat with the paddle attachment (or the beaters on the handheld mixer) until smooth. Season the sweet potatoes with onion powder, salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl and serve.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

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One of things that I am really proud of myself for learning how to do in the kitchen is bake fresh bread. It takes some getting used to in the beginning, and to be honest there are still things I have to learn but once you get the hang of it, going back to store bought bread pretty much becomes impossible. I can’t really explain in detail what the difference is, but I suspect that is has something to do with the preservatives found in store bread, especially white bread. I can literally taste the preservatives they put in it- it almost leaves a sour aftertaste in my mouth that’s just really unpleasant, so I don’t even touch the stuff anymore. If I’m eating white bread at all, it’s only because I made it myself first. The aftertaste of THAT stuff is pretty darn good if I may say so myself. But my point is, whenever we run out of bread in my house, I know that I just have to make some more. Needless to say, I’m always on the lookout for new yeast bread recipes to try out just to keep things around here interesting.

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I remember it was about a year or so ago where I was writing up a post complaining about how I was struggling to get my yeast bread doughs to rise on sheet pans. It just wouldn’t work, and frustrated me to no end. Whenever I shaped and set my dough out for its second rise on the sheet pan, most time it just barely expanded, if at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, especially whenever I would make the bread in round pans or in pyrex glass dishes, it worked out beautifully. For a while, I just avoided baking bread in sheet pans altogether, but recently I decided to try and get back on the horse again and slightly tweak my methods in the second rise to see if that would yield different results. These crescent rolls were my guinea pigs.

How do you guys think I did?

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Well I’ll just go ahead and say it if you won’t: I think it turned out rather well. Here’s what I changed in case you were curious.

See, in the past what I was doing was using very large sheet pans for my second rise and spacing the rolled out dough pretty far apart from each other. I’m no food scientist like Alton Brown or the folks at America’s Test Kitchen but what I THINK was happening in my previous attempts was that rather than expanding ‘up’ on the second rise and giving that heightened fluffiness that you see in the above picture, my dough was expanding ‘out’ since there was so much space between each individual one and giving it the appearance of being flatter. Now is it possible that the dough would eventually rise and become taller? Yeah probably, but I do think that it would’ve taken longer than an hour or two so long as I was using the larger sheet pans.

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So what I did this time around was use one of the smallest sheet pans that I had for my second dough rise, which left a much smaller space between each one of the crescent rolls- this way, the only place that the dough would have to ‘go’ when expanding would be ‘up’; get it? Also, I dampened a clean kitchen towel and placed it over the sheet pan of crescents, put the whole thing in my overhead microwave, then turned on my oven. The heat from my oven created a warmth inside the microwave that combined with the damp cloth created a humidity that made it into a kind of DIY proof-box, so to speak.

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This time after the second rise, I was having the exact opposite problem that I’d been having with sheet pans all along: now, the dough had proofed and risen so well that they were all nearly crammed together slightly rising up over the pan itself. But I didn’t care about that: I was too busy doing Snoopy/Victory dances from finally overcoming my sheet pan-bread baking woes. Plus, who was I to get upset over jumbo size crescent rolls that baked up so golden and pretty like these ones did here? Nobody, that’s who.

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Wait a minute; I’m completely forgetting that there’s vegetables in these crescents, which is crazy since the sweet potatoes are what give them the deliciously golden orange color. But they’re there: one whole cup of fresh sweet potato mash. Which, you know should make you feel pretty good about eating one of these…or two…or…another undisclosed amount.

….Why are you guys staring at me like that?

So I think the moral of the story here is that when encountering difficulties in the kitchen, just keep at it. Even if it doesn’t work the first, second or third time. I did. And I think my diligence was rewarded.

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Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Recipe Courtesy of Red Star Yeast via Completely Delicious

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup milk
  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet (2 1/2 tsp.) Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 1 medium) sweet potato puree

 Directions

1. In a small saucepan set over medium low heat, warm the butter, honey and milk until butter is melted and mixture begins to steam. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes, or until the temperature is between 120-130 degrees F.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 1½ cups of the flour with the yeast, salt and nutmeg. Add the milk mixture and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each, followed by the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour ¼ cup at a time until dough clears the side of the bowl but is still slightly sticky to the touch. You may not need all 4 cups of flour.

3. Continue to knead the dough in the mixer until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Gently punch down dough and knead a few times. Cover it with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.

5. On a clean surface roll the dough out into a 16-inch circle. Using a pizza slicer, cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Working with each piece individually, roll the dough up starting with the fat end. Place the roll on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper so the skinny point is on the bottom. Cover with plastic wrap and rise again for 30 minutes.

6. While the rolls are rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake rolls until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

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I’ve mentioned to you guys before that when I find a new habit or trend, or something  in general that I like, I will wear it out TO DEATH until I’m either sick of it, or until I find a new something to wear out to death.

Me and my twin sister Jas are really alike in that (among other things: our DNA  also happens to be exactly the same.) Take movies for instance; when we were growing up, we went through a phase where when we found a movie we liked, we watched it every chance we got. I find a new favorite song and it gets put on constant repeat on my iPod . I find a new interesting tv show and will faithfully watch it ever week, or if its old, I will have entire marathons of it on Netflix until I get through it all.

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So far as good goes, I’m on a root vegetable kick right now.  For a long time, I’ve just always wanted to eat a side of root vegetables with my dinner. Mostly it’s been a mix between rutabagas and sweet potatoes. I can decide which I like more honestly. Although it may not seem like it, rutabagas too have a unmistakable sweetness to them that’s so clearly highlighted when they’re roasted. If you guys don’t believe me, then you should try this recipe for Herb Roasted Rutabaga that I posted a few weeks ago- if you’re not typically a fan of them, I promise you: I’m going to make you a ‘believer’ with 2 rutabagas, and a handful of dried herbs. Because I’m a miracle worker….okay not really, but I am a pretty good cook 😉

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 I’m experimenting with different recipes to mix things up so that I don’t get too bored. After all, variety’s the spice of life. Right now, this is my new sweet potato recipe that I’m really fond of.  Trust me, it tastes every bit as good as it looks.

I never would have thought initially to apply Asian style flavors to sweet potatoes. But let me tell you guys, it REALLY works. The saltiness of the soy sauce is perfect with the sweetness of the honey as well as the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The sesame seeds give it a subtle earthy and almost nutty aftertaste. I served them with a chicken stir-fry that I made my family for dinner ( the recipe and pics are very soon to follow).

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Random/Embarrassing Fact: About a year ago, I was on another carrot/sweet potato kick and I ate so many of them that I LITERALLY started turning orange. Seriously. I’m not joking. I went into my doctor for a general check up and she literally gasped and asked what happened to me. I didn’t notice until I stood under a fluorescent light in her office and held out my hands: my palms were the color of a carrot. My skin is naturally kind of yellow, so…suffice to say it just wasn’t a good look. I had no idea that consuming too much Vitamin A (which is dominant  in carrots and sweet potatoes) can do that. Now I do. So as delicious as these sweet potatoes are, I do try to be a little more careful to not make them take up the most space on my plate.

I try. I may not always succeed. Try this recipe and you’ll definitely understand why.

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Sesame Glazed Sweet Potatoes

Recipe Courtesy of Cookstr.com

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  •  5 orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (yams), peeled
  •  2 tbsp olive oil
  •  Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  •  2 tbsp sesame seeds
  •  1 tbsp honey
  •  1 tbsp soy sauce

 Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

2. Cut the potatoes into large chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until almost tender.

4. Mix together the sesame seeds, honey, and soy sauce. Pour  over the sweet potatoes, and toss.

5. Roast 20 minutes more, or until well glazed and tender.

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My Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie {Thanksgiving Recap}

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So, remember how I said that it took me a while to discover how incredibly delicious my grandma’s pecan pie, was?

Fortunately, that’s not the way it went down with this one. I tried sweet potato pie pretty early on, and from that first taste, I was hooked. Anyone who’s ever had it before knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Those who haven’t, well…just pop a squat and listen up.

I’ve heard sweet potato pie often compared to pumpkin pie and that’s somewhat appropriate. The textures are very similar to each other, especially if you’re roasting and mashing your own sweet potato or pumpkin. However, I’ve often found that pumpkin pie is a lot more ‘spicier’ than sweet potato-more often than not the seasonings include cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and ginger.The aftertaste has got a kind of ‘bite’ to it, while the flavor of sweet potato pie tends to be a lot more subtle- at least this one is anyway.

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So, long story short: if you like pumpkin pie, then chances are, you’ll like sweet potato pie too.

If you don’t like either one, then- wait…WHAT????

Myself, I’ve got no problem with pumpkin pie- I enjoy a slice myself come autumn time. But given the choice between the two, I will always pick sweet potato pie. Especially if it’s my grandma’s recipe. There’s just no contest there.

I made both pecan pie and sweet potato pie for Thanksgiving. Just about everybody at the table had a slice of each. That should give you some kind of idea about how delicious this is. In  fact, for your next family or holiday gathering, I would even dare you to make both my grandma’s pecan pie, and her sweet potato pie- see how many people end up getting slices of both. I’m sure you’ll even be one of them.

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FEED(ME) BACK: Are you Team Pumpkin Pie or Team Sweet Potato Pie?

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My Grandma’s Sweet Potato Pie

Yield: 8 servings

CLICK HERE FOR PRINTABLE VERSION

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen Deep dish, 9 inch pie crust shell
  • 2 large (1- 1 1/2 lbs) sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Preheat oven and baking sheet to 375° Remove pie crust from freezer.

2. Meanwhile, in medium bowl, beat sweet potatoes until smooth (be careful: they tend to splatter, so don’t beat them too hard or fast)

3. Mix in butter and sugar.

4. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

5. Mix in nutmeg, salt, vanilla extract and evaporated milk

6. Re-crimp edge of pie crust to stand 1/2 inch above rim. Bake in the center of the oven for about 60-65 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely before serving.

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