Hey kids. So it has been a bit since I’ve posted. Life’s been a bit nuts. My brother got married, I went to Chicago with some friends for a dear girl’s bachelorette, and of course, let’s not forget:
Spring Break. Which shall from here out be known as Spring Bake!
That’s right. I went there.
So my good friend Katie, who is the MOST fabulous art teacher, decided we should hang out while we were both off work last week. Her husband found this crazy recipe online for a sweet potato pie chocolate swirl babka (which we continually referred to as pumpkin the more we drank) and was adamant that we make it. We figured there was no better excuse to get together and day drink than making a crazy bread with a swirl in it.
What follows is our harrowing and exciting journey into this bread making adventure. Hold onto your hats kids. This baking is not. for the faint of heart.
Let’s begin where we always begin. With mimosas. Big giant mimosas. Did I mention it was Spring Break?
Did I also mention that neither Katie nor myself had bothered to read through this recipe in its entirety before beginning? No? Cool. Glad we cleared that up.
No, but really. Here are the ingredients. All of the ingredients. Ever.
I’m not even going to list them here, because Jesus. But, below you can find a complete list of all the things and the stuff. It’s crazy you guys. But suffice it to say, we gathered all the things. The first step in this recipe is to make a sweet potato puree. The puree is used for the filling of the babka and also to flavor the bread dough.
First, you take your sweet potatoes and place them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350° for 35-40 minutes. You want a knife to be able to pass through them easily. You can easily just buy 2 cups of sweet potato puree in a can. This is more fun and also makes your house smell stupid good.
This was the point where Katie and I were like, “Hm. We have 40 minutes. What should we do? We could read this recipe and see what we do next?”
What we did not realize, was that there was so much wait time for rising built into this recipe, all together it was going to take 6 freaking hours to make this bread! Also, it became evident as we read through the instructions, that English was probably not this baker’s first language. It is a great recipe, but we had to read parts of it a few times to figure out what to do. We also realized that the way we measured and organized the ingredients would have to be modified as we continued to make this bread. Deep breath.
We decided screw it. We already started. Let’s just go big or go home.
We poured two more big mimosas and read on.
Once the sweet potatoes are done in the oven, wait for them to cool so the skin shrinks a bit and is easier to get off. We may or may not have been impatient and started peeling early. Ouch. Also, frustrating. Don’t be impatient me. Wait for the yams to cool.
Peel all the skin off the sweet potatoes and chop them into about 1 inch chunks. Using a food processor, we then chopped the potatoes until they resembled a bit of a paste. You will probably still have some big chunks in this paste. That’s ok. You will continue to blend it with the other ingredients, so it will eventually be worked down to the right consistency.
Once you have the puree, it is going to be used for a couple different things. This part is where we make the filling for the babka.
In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the sweet potato puree, the almond flour, the 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla. If you have an immersion blender, bust that out and blend until all the ingredients are combined and the mixture is smooth. If you are like me and don’t have one of those amazing utensils, use a regular blender.
Once the mixture is smooth, transfer to a sealable container, cover and refrigerate until we are ready to use it again later.
Next, we start on the bread.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 cup of sweet potato puree, the milk, 2 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp vanilla. Set that aside.
And here is Carmelita!! I know you didn’t think I was going to try this crazy ass bread without her help. In the bowl of your Carmelita, add 3 cups flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast. Whisk together until combined. Switch to your dough hook attachment.
Add the sweet potato and milk mixture that you just set aside (NOT the puree that is in the fridge. Hold on, Trixie. We’re not ready for that yet) and mix on low until the dry and wet ingredients have completely combined. This should take about 3 minutes.
Then, add your cubed butter a little at a time until all the butter has been incorporated. The dough will be very sticky and will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will also smell and good and yeasty. Yeasty is a good smell here. We are talking about bread, not body parts. Keep an open mind, yo.
When the dough gets to this sticky stage, pull it out of the bowl and dump it onto a very well floured clean dry surface. This is where we knead a little bit and the conditions have to be juuuuuuust right.
So you take your last 1/2 cup of flour and just sprinkle that on top of your super sticky dough. Right now, if you try and form it into a ball, you will fail. Hard. Take a couple minutes and just work that last 1/2 cup of flour into the dough nice and gentle like. Pull it toward you and push it away. I go into more detail about kneading technique in my post a few weeks back about challah. Feel free to go back and read that if you need extra help with kneading. You can find it here!
This dough isn’t nearly as high maintenance as challah though. You only have to work the dough until the flour is mostly incorporated and the dough can hold its own shape in a ball. It also should be much less sticky.
Place it in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a dry clean cloth. Let it rise for 2 hours.
Yes. 2 hours.
Which incidentally, is exactly how long it takes two tipsy girls to walk from my house to the Mexican place down the street, eat tacos, drink a beer and walk back.
Isn’t that a crazy coincidence? 🙂
So. 2 hours have gone by. Here is our risen bread dough.
Ain’t it beautiful? Ok. Now we get to the fun and crazy part.
Side note. There is a show from the UK called The Great British Baking Show. It is also known as The Great British Bake Off or simply, GBBO. On GBBO one season, a contestant made a bread very similar to this. We may have decided that we needed not only a baker’s written step by step instructions, but also watching Chetna make this thing to try and figure out what we were doing. You guys. There was much running from the the kitchen to the living room, covered in flour and calling out, “What does the guy online say?!”
And, “But what did Chetna do?! And what did Paul and Mary say about the rolling?!”
It might have been hilarious and completely ridiculous. Keep all of that in mind as I unveil the following.
You take the dough out of the bowl and divide it into two equal pieces. Roll one of them out to make a thin rectangle about 12X18. If it breaks or tears, you can always use bits of the dough to patch. Then, remember that sweet potato puree in the fridge? Take that out and spread half of it over the rectangle. Take your nutmeg and sprinkle it all over the top of the puree. I used probably a good tablespoon. If you like nutmeg use more; if you don’t like it, use less or none. You can always add cinnamon too. Spices are our friends.
Next, we roll it along the longest side. Try and make the roll tight, but not so tight that puree spills out of the ends. After you roll it, slice the roll lengthwise. We used a pizza cutter, but any sharp knife will do. Twist the two halves together. You may need to give the twist an extra rotation or two to ensure that the shape will hold. Repeat this entire process with the other half of the dough so you have two twists.
Twist the twists together to make one big twist.
Also, don’t worry when you get sweet potato puree everywhere. I mean everywhere. We were pretty sure we royally messed this bread up. We also thought we would never get the sweet potato puree off my kitchen counter.
Take a 9X5 loaf pan and smear it with butter. Then lightly coat it with some flour. Be sure to try get flour on each face of the pan, but tap out the excess so there is no standing flour at the bottom. Now wrap the twist around the inside of the pan to place it inside.
Cover it with a dry, clean cloth and let it rise for another 30 minutes. During this time, we started conspiring to have both husbands just come back to the house so we could all hang out and have dinner. The theory was that surely this bread would be done by then. We also switched from mimosas to beer because you can only handle so much acidity during the day.
After the second rise, sprinkle the top with 2 Tbsp brown sugar.
Bake at 350° for 90 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and come out clean. There will probably be puree on the knife, but there should not be dough.
It’s really good. Katie and I split the loaf and both of us confessed to the other that our portion was gone the day after we made it.
It literally took all day, but it was completely worth it. Pick a day where you have nothing to do, pour yourself a mimosa, and make this bread.
You’ll be glad, I promise. 🙂
Sweet Potato Babka
Yield: 1 loaf Prep: All Damn Day Bake: 90 minutes
2 cups sweet potato purée (see tips above on how to prepare)
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract mixed with a splash of bourbon divided into two 1/2 tsp portions
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + a little extra for dusting
1/2 cup almond milk, warmed to 110 degrees
1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature and cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
Ground nutmeg to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Roast sweet potatoes for 35-40 minutes or until tender. Peel the skins off the potatoes and cut into chunks. Mascerate the potatoes to form a paste or puree. Set aside.
- In a blender, combine one cup of the sweet potato purée, the white of one egg, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, almond flour and salt. Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
- In a separate mixing bowl, whisk 2 egg yolks, the remaining 1 cup of sweet potato purée, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and milk, until completely combined. Keep aside.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together 3 cups of the flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, and yeast. Attach the dough blade to the mix and set the mixer to low speed. Pour the milk-sweet potato liquid into the dry ingredients and mix for about 3-4 minutes until almost combined. Add the cubed butter, a little bit at a time until completely incorporated. The dough will start to come off from the sides and will be sticky.
- Transfer the dough onto a clean lightly dusted surface and use the remaining 1/2 cup of flour to form the dough into one large ball. Place the ball in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
- Transfer the dough back onto a clean surface. Divide the dough in half and work with one half at a time. Shape one half of the dough into a rectangle with your hands and then using very little extra flour roll it out into a thin rectangle that is approximately 12X18 inches in area.
- Take the sweet potato filling out of the fridge and spread half of it over the rectangle. Sprinkle nutmeg over the filling. Roll lengthwise into a tight cylinder. Slice in half longwise and twist the two halves together. Repeat this process with the other half of dough. Twist the two twists together to form one big twist.
- Snake the twist into a prepared loaf pan. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and bake at 350° for 90 minutes.
- Let loaves cool before slicing. Enjoy!