Saturday, October 29, 2016


Why does pumpkin get all the publicity this time of year? Sweet potatoes, also in season now, can do everything pumpkin can—sweet or savory, vegetable or dessert. 

In Spanish villages sweet potatoes (called batatas or boniatos) are roasted in bread ovens and sold, piping hot, along with bread. Warm sweet potatoes as well as roasted chestnuts are a favorite snack for chill evenings visiting the cemetery on the Day of the Dead. (In Spain, November 1 is a national holiday, Todos los Santos—All Saints’ Day, so that is when most families visit their dear departeds in the cemeteries.)

Here is a recipe from La Mancha for tortas de boniato, sweet potato buns, a yeast bread with spice and just a little sugar. The sweet potatoes give the buns a lovely color and moistness. Serve them with soft cheese and marmalade for breakfast. Split the buns crosswise and fill with sliced turkey or toast them and use with burgers (salmon burger or lamb burger would be especially good, I think).

Sweet potato in the dough gives these buns a great color.

Breakfast buns! Split them and toast on a ridged grill pan.

Spread buns with cream cheese and top with jam.

A change from bagels--buns with cream cheese and smoked salmon.

Tostadas are like bruschetta--crisp toasts ready for toppings. Slice the buns crosswise. Brush with olive oil and place on baking sheets, oiled sides down. Bake in 375ºF oven until golden on the bottom, 5 minutes. Brush the tops with more oil and turn the slices over. Bake until bottoms are lightly browned, about 5 minutes longer.

Leftover turkey? Sandwich it on these buns, with mayo and mango chutney.

Sweet Potato Buns
Tortas de Boniato

You will need about 1 cup mashed sweet potato. You can use leftover cooked sweet potato in this recipe. Added spices are fine; but, if potatoes have been sweetened, eliminate the sugar from the bread recipe.

Heating the oil with aniseed and lemon zest infuses flavor. Don’t let the oil bubble, just warm.

The small quantity of sugar makes the dough somewhat sticky. Use enough additional flour when kneading to keep the dough from sticking to the board. For additional sweetness, sprinkle sugar on top of the buns before baking. If you are going to use them for sandwiches or other savory preparations, skip the sugar topping.

Makes 12 large buns.

Ingredients for the buns. Note the bubbly yeast (upper right). Below it is olive oil infused with aniseed.
1 medium sweet potato (14 ounces), peeled and cut in pieces (to make 1 cup mashed sweet potato)
½ cup olive oil plus additional for oiling bowl and baking sheets
¼ teaspoon aniseed
Strip of lemon zest
½ cup warm water (110ºF)
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 eggs
1 ½  teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk, warmed to 110ºF
8 cups flour plus additional for kneading
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Cook the sweet potato in boiling water to cover until fork-tender. Drain well. Mash the sweet potato or put through a ricer.

Heat the oil in a saucepan with the aniseed and strip of lemon zest. Remove from heat and discard the zest. Allow the oil to cool.

Place the warm water in a small bowl with ½ teaspoon sugar and sprinkle the yeast over it. Allow to stand until bubbly, 10 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons sugar and the salt. Beat in the oil and aniseed. Add the sweet potatoes, yeast, and warmed milk. Use a large wooden spoon to stir in about 6 cups of flour. Knead in remaining 2 cups of flour.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and shiny, 5 minutes. Sprinkle the board with additional flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Gather the dough into a ball.

Oil a clean, large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turn it to coat all sides lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm place until dough has doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Prepare 2 baking sheets. Lightly oil the sheets and dust with flour. With a floured hand, punch down the dough. Knead briefly on floured board. Divide the dough into 12 balls (about 5 ounces each). Roll or pat them into disks about 5 inches in diameter and ½ inch thick. Place them on the baking sheets. Cover the buns with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Discard plastic wrap. Combine egg yolk with 1 tablespoon milk. Brush  the tops of the buns with the egg. Sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons of sugar (optional).

Bake the buns in the middle rack of the oven, changing position of the sheets after 10 minutes, until they are golden on top and sound hollow if tapped on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool the buns on wire racks.

More about sweet potatoes here.

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