Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bread Baking Babes Play with Garnet Yams and Onions

The delightful bread that our Kitchen of the Month, Elizabeth of blog from OUR kitchen, is an unusual combination of cooked and mashed sweet potatoes (garnet yams in my case) with that wonderful golden color, and caramelized onions. It has the fascinating name of Elbow-lick Sandwich Bread because the author made a juicy tomato sandwich with it and the tomato juices ran down her arm all the way to her elbow.

The bread is on the slack side, so I ended up with a flattish donut shape. The crumb is moist and the flavor is strong but good. This one took a lot of kneading and I even added an extra half cup of whole wheat flour towards the end of kneading so that it would hold it's shape enough to be shaped into a round with a hole in the middle. It rose a bit in the oven but was still pretty flat. You can really taste the onions in this bread, so be sure that you like onions in your bread (or just skip putting them should still be a great bread).

I used active dry yeast since my sourdough starter bit the dust a while ago. Using commercial yeast (a bit more that what was called for since this bread has a lot of veggie mass to lift) worked well and meant I didn't need to do the float test. I did some kneading in the mixer and some on a board.

Be sure to visit the other Bread Baking Babes blogs to see what they did with this bread. If they followed the directions (I didn't...are you surprised??), there should be loaves with the marks from having the dough rise in bannetons. Some will have holes, some not, but I bet they will all be great breads.

If you want to be a Buddy, contact Elizabeth after you have baked the bread and taken a photo or two of it, and send her an email with a short description of your experience baking the bread and attach the photo(s). Deadline is January 29th.

Wishing you a Happy New Year of bread baking!

Elbow Lick Sandwich Bread
based on the recipe for Sweet Potato Onion Bread in "Deep Run Roots" by Vivian Howard for 1 loaf  


·                     spoonful (10ml or so) active natural wheat starter at 100% hydration (OR 0.5gm (1/8 tsp) active dry yeast)
·                     60gm (60ml) water, body temperature
·                     60gm (118ml) 100% whole wheat flour
Sweet Potato 

·                     1 five-inch-long orange sweet potato (about)
Caramelized Onions 

·                     375gm (2.5 large) onions, diced
·                     7gm (1.5 tsp) sunflower oil
·                     3gm Kosher salt (0.5 tsp table salt)

·                     232gm (400ml) bread flour, OR 225gm unbleached all-purpose + 7gm vital wheat gluten
·                     5gm (10ml) wheat germ
·                     200gm (200ml) water at body temperature, divided (hold back about 18gm for mixing in the salt)
·                     All of the Starter from above
·                     7gm (5 ml) honey
·                     9gm Kosher salt (1.5 tsp table salt) + 18 gm (18ml) from above  
·                     120 ml (~100gm) roasted sweet potato puree
·                     All of the caramelized onions from above
1.             leavener IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Put the starter (or active dry yeast, if you're using that) and water into a smallish bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon. Use the wooden spoon to stir the flour in well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside overnight in the oven with only the light turned on.
2.             sweet potato IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the ends off of the sweet potato and place it whole on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until tender. This should take about 45 minutes. Vivian Howard wrote the following:
Once you start to smell them, probably after about 45 minutes, give the potatoes a look. My mom always looked for a little of their juice to have leached out and caramelized, but that is more romantic than necessary. When the potatoes are done, their skins should have separated slightly from their flesh and they should pierce easily with a knife or fork.
Slice the baked sweet potato in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mash well. Cover the bowl with a plate and set aside in a cool place until the next morning. 
3.             onions IN THE EVENING OF THE DAY BEFORE MAKING THE BREAD: Heat oil for onions in a cast iron pan. Add the onions and salt and caramelize the onions over medium heat until they are golden brown. Vivian Howard says this will take 30-40 minutes. Set aside in a cool place until the next morning.
4.             mix the dough IN THE MORNING OF THE DAY YOU WILL BE MAKING THE BREAD: When a small forkful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float. (If you have used active dry yeast, you can safely skip the floating test.) Put flour, wheat germ, all but 18ml water, leavener, honey, sweet potato puree into a large mixing bowl. Use a wooden spoon or dough whisk to mix these ingredients to make a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter for about 40 minutes.
5.             adding the salt: In a small bowl, whisk the salt into the final 18gm (18 ml) water. Pour the salt mixture over the dough.
  1. kneading: Use one of your hands to squoosh the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy and seem like it's coming apart. Persevere. Suddenly, it will seem more like dough than a horrible separated glop. Keep folding it over onto itself until it is relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 20 minutes.
  2. stretching and folding the dough and adding the onions: Put a quarter of onions on top of the dough and turn it by folding the dough into the center. Let sit 20 minutes. Repeat at 20 minute intervals until all the onions are in the dough. You'll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Once all the onions are added, leave the covered bowl in the oven - with only the light turned on - for a couple of hours to allow the dough to double. (A good way to tell if the dough is reading to shape is to run your index finger under water, then poke a hole in the center of the dough. If the hole disappears immediately, the dough still need to rise. If there is a slight whooshing sound and the hole remains in place, the dough has probably over-risen. If the hole very very gradually begins to close, the dough is ready to shape.
  3. prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel (but then you have to deal with a floured tea towel once the bread is baked). If you do not have rice flour, you can use any other kind of flour. Note that higher gluten level make it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket....
  4. pre-shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Cover with a clean tea towel and let the ball rest for about 20 minutes.
  5. shaping: Without breaking the skin, tighten the ball further. Place it seam side UP in the well floured (rice) brot-form. Sprinkle the reserved bran evenly over the top of the bread. Loosely wrap the shaped loaf with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on for 3 or 4 hours (until it has about doubled and there are bubbles). Please note that Vivian Howard shapes her bread into rounds with holes in the center:
    Shape [the dough] into a round. Let [it] rest for 10 minutes. [...]Line [a baking sheet] with parchment and dust with flour. Stick your finger through the center of [the dough ball]. [...] Stretch it slightly to form a little hole. Transfer that dough round to the baking sheet and continue to carefully stretch the center into a 3-inch hole. Your bread round at this point will look like a giant flat doughnut." 
    - Vivian Howard, Deep Run Roots, Chapter 14: Sweet Potato | Sweet Potato Onion Bread
  6. baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, for the round loaf, put combo cooker (or a cast-iron frying pan and stainless steel bowl) into the oven and preheat all to 400F.
  7. When the oven is preheated about fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper (the bran covered part will now be on the bottom). Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove (to prevent burning your countertop...). Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the lid of the combo-cooker (or stainless steel bowl) overtop like a hat. Put everything into the oven on the middle rack and immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake for 40-50 minutes in all, removing the hat half-way through baking. Turn the oven down to 350F when you remove the hat. The bread is done when the crust is a deep golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

:: why hand mixing? These instructions, as usual, do not mention using an electric mixer: I don't have one; I don't know how to use one. But of course, if you want to use your electric mixer for mixing and kneading, you should do so.  
:: brotform: If you do not have a brotform, you can use Jim Lahey's method for proofing the shaped loaf: he coats a parchment covered cookie sheet with bran, than shapes his loaf into a ball and places it seam side down onto the bran. He scatters a little more bran on top before covering the shaped loaf loosely with a clean tea towel. He lets it sit at room temperature that way until it has almost doubled in size. Or, you can use Vivian Howard's idea to place the bread on a flour covered parchment papered cookie sheet....  
:: cooking container: If you're lucky enough to have Le Creuset or a cast-iron combo cooker, of course, you should use that. But if you don't, do use your cast-iron pan and cover the bread with an overturned stainless steel mixing bowl for the first half of baking. The dome creates a steam chamber that encourages oven spring.  
:: oven temperature and baking times: Howard suggests preheating the oven to 450F and baking for a total of about 30 minutes at 450F. Because of the presence of honey and sweet potato, and fear of scorching, I lowered the oven temperature.


  1. You got a beautiful shape on yours, I did not do the hole, wonder how much it helps doneness on such a dense loaf.

  2. You actually got some nice loft there! Looks great!

  3. Wow, and it was still slack even after adding all that extra flour! It makes me wonder just how different our flours and sweet potatoes are.

    Who knew that there was more than one kind of sweet potato! And what a great name: "garnet".

    Too bad about your sourdough starter fizzling out. But it's really nice to know that the bread works just as well when made with commercial yeast.

  4. What a lovely shape! I almost tried the ring shape myself, but opted not to at the last minute. Love the color of your crumb.

  5. It's a lovely, dark gold color - and the ring is perfect!