I have always loved making bread. It is a strangely therapeutic process. I can’t explain how much I like the feel of bread dough after the first prove, it is so silky smooth and soft – delightful.
My other big obsession at the moment is sweet potato. I just love them. I have been so obsessed with this curry which I always serve over a baked sweet potato. If you’ve never tried a baked sweet potato, you must – it will take your dinner to a whole new level! Weeknights be no longer boring! Anyway… I knew I wanted to make sweet potato into a bread, but not like a cakey bread, a real yeast dough bread. And after the first time I made it, I realised it needed a little more, so I added the sun dried tomato mix. The second time I made it, I tried doing a plain snail swirl, but this didn’t give a very even distribution of the sun dried tomato, and I really wanted some in every single bite, so I ended up trying out a braided pattern, which is typical of a Russian braided bread. This was perfect as the dough then contains a beautiful twist of both flavours, while staying moist due to the extra moisture given from the sun dried tomatoes.
The dough itself is given a gentle orange tinge from the potato, but nothing too bright. The flavour of the potato is delicate, but there and the best thing I have found about this bread is how soft it is. I think this is wholly down to the addition of the mashed potato in the dough. By using real, fresh, mashed sweet potatoes, instead of sweet potato flour, we get to enjoy the natural juices and texture of the potato, meaning you get the full experience of all the wonderful things this versatile vegetable has to offer.
The braid itself is not complicated, just a little tricky, but I have included lots of detailed step by step photos and instructions below.
After a second prove in the springform pan, the bread is ready for the oven. Once baked, let cool, then slice and enjoy! This bread would be a perfect centre piece for a lunch or dinner and can be made a couple of days in advance. I have made this three times now and note that the bread stays good for 5-6 days if wrapped in tin foil and stored in a bread bin.
Sweet Potato and Sun Dried Tomato Braided Bread
For the bread dough
220g Sweet potato, mashed and cooled
1½ teaspoons dried instant yeast
320g All Purpose Flour
135g Strong White Bread Flour
1 Tsp Salt
25g Butter, cubed
160ml Water reserved from boiling the potatoes – allow to come to room temperature
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
For the sun dried tomato filling
100g Sun Dried Tomatoes (preferably from a jar where they have been soaked in oil)
2 Tbsp Plain Tomato Pasta Sauce/Passata
1/2 Tsp Dried Basil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. First make the bread. Boil the sweet potato cubes for 15 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher, allow to cool fully. Reserve 160ml of the water the potatoes were boiling in for later. Allow the water to come to room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast and salt and stir thoroughly to combine evenly. Use your hands to rub the butter into the flour so that you have a mixture that resembles fine bread crumbs.
3. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in all the sweet potato mash, 2/3 of the water and the maple syrup. Mix so the dough comes together. Gradually add the rest of the water until you have a whole piece of dough that does not stick to the sides of the bowl. You can add some more flour if it is too sticky, or some more water if it is too dry. This will depend on the humidity and environment of where you are. Knead the dough thoroughly for 5 minutes either by hand or in a stand mixer using a dough hook.
4. Place the dough in a large bowl which has been oiled with a little olive oil. Cover with cling film which has already been oiled on the side which will face the dough. Place the bowl with the dough onto the lowest shelf in the oven (with the oven off), and place a small bowl filled with just boiled water in the bottom of the oven. Close the door and allow the dough to rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled in size.
5. While the dough is rising, place the sun dried tomatoes, pasta sauce, basil, salt and pepper into a blender, and blend until you have a smooth paste. Set aside for later.
6. Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the oven and turn out onto a well floured surface. Knead for about a minute to knock out any air, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangle of roughly 24″ x 18″. The picture below shows the dough before proving, after proving, kneading and rolled out.
7. Spread the sun dried tomato mixture over the rolled out dough leaving a gap of 1/2 inch all the way around the outside. Roll it into a sausage shape rolling along the long side and then pinch the ends together to seal. Using a sharp knife, slice the sausage all the way down the middle long ways.
8. To create the braid, lay both halves of the sausage on the counter with the layers facing upwards. Cross over the two pieces in the middle to create an X shape – it is easier to braid in two halves than one large piece. Then, bring the left piece over the right piece, and take the right piece across to replace the left piece. Keep going keeping the layers facing up the whole time, until you reach the end of one side, then pinch the ends together to seal. Do the same on the other side.
9. Coil the braid around, tucking both ends to the bottom of the bread, then place in a 9″ spring form cake tin lined with parchment paper. Cover with cling film and place back into the oven with another bowl of boiled water and allow to rise for a further 30 minutes. (The picture below is of the dough after it has been left to rise for a second time. When it first goes into the tin it is much smaller and therefore easier to get in!)
10. Remove from the oven then preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Once the oven is heated, bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until golden on top and fully cooked through. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
11. To store, wrap in tin foil and keep in a bread bin for up to 5 days.