Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Pursuit of Sweet Potato Perfection

There are certain food items that I am on a quest to find the perfect version of. A recipe that replicates Entemann’s chocolate chip cookies (original), a risotto that once finished you pour red wine into and sweet potato rolls. I’m sure that there are other items on the list, but these come to mind first.

Allow me to elaborate on each of these sought after foods.
First, original recipe Entemann’s cookies. These were (and still are) a family staple on vacation and during holidays. Somehow we can consume insanely large quantities of these cookies, and I refuse to know what the nutritional values are for them because of it. When Joe first came on family vacation he was horrified and secretly pleased when no one batted an eye about plowing through a box of cookies a day. I mean, there are 14 of us, so that’s not improbable to accomplish. If I could make these cookies – well then we could potentially save like $30 a week on cookies.

Next, the risotto recipe. When I was living in Germany, my friends and I took turns cooking dinners at one another’s dorm rooms. Produce was extremely cheap there but refrigerator space was not. Thus, multiple trips to the store or farmer’s market happened every week. If someone was too excited and bought a ton of produce, then we would have a large meal for everyone so that nothing went bad. One evening, a friend was making her family’s risotto recipe for us. I seem to remember that it was a traditional Milanese style risotto, but once it was served, we poured a bit of red wine onto the side of the bowl and let is seep into and around the risotto. It was glorious.
It may have been one of those meals that is the perfect combination of friends, ambience, food and fun to make the dish stand out even more so than usual. Plus, that evening we managed to go through numerous bottles of wine, so much in fact that in pictures all of our mouths are a deep purple. But when you can buy a bottle of wine for 2 or 3 euro – how can you pass up the opportunity to stockpile.

I’ve never seen a recipe like that. Ever. And perhaps it was a different version of risotto that I am not accustomed to, or maybe it was just something her family happened to do. I just remember it being so interesting and flavorful that I may have had more than my fair share at the time.

Lastly, the sweet potato rolls. This has no fun story, I just really want a good sweet potato roll. I want it to look gorgeously orange and taste like sweet potatoes. I want to unveil them at Thanksgiving and have people swoon. So far I have tried at least 4 unsuccessful attempts, using recipes I found.

This weekend, I decided to take the challenge upon myself. I cut the amount of flour in half and increased the amount of sweet potato. The results were a lovely orange, but alas no strong sweet potato flavor. I thought I would share them with you anyways, and perhaps as I continue working on them, we will reach the end of my quest together.

Sweet Potato Rolls
I like to roast the sweet potatoes in their skins to get the most flavor from them. A medium-large sweet potato, pricked all over with a fork and wrapped in aluminum foil, can be roasted at 375° for about 45 minutes, or until the potato is very tender. Then cool it and scoop out the flesh from the skin.

1 packet yeast
1/3 c. warm water
2 tsp. honey
¾ c mashed sweet potato
½ tsp salt
1 c. bread flour
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. olive oil
1 egg beaten (for brushing on the rolls)

Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of an electric mixer, let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add honey and sweet potato, again let sit for 5 minutes. Next, with the paddle attachment running, add salt and flours, one cup at a time. Continue to work the dough until it all holds together and does not stick to the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.

Remove dough from bowl, then wipe out bowl and add teaspoon of olive oil. Return dough to bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down and allow to rise again, until doubled in size, about 40 minutes.

Grease a 9” round cake pan. Shape the dough into balls slightly larger than a golf ball and place in cake pan with just a little space between each ball, until the entire pan is full. Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°. Brush rolls with beaten egg, and repeat just before placing into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops of the rolls are golden and the rolls make a thump sound when you flick them with your finger. Allow to cool slightly then remove from pan, pull apart and serve.

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