Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread

Why is it that everything that is made with yam is actually called sweet potato? Sweet potato fries, sweet potato loaf, sweet potato salad etc. I think it is partly because it just sounds more appealing than yam. Yam sort of sounds like yak – not so appealing. Sweet potato sounds sweet – way more appealing. In reality, yams are the better tasting and the sweeter of the two.

WAIT! I just learned something. Both are actually sweet potatoes! I was going to say that yams are sweeter, moister and more orange while sweet potatoes are less sweet, dryer and more yellow. However, I just learned that what I think of as yams and what are generally sold as yams are in fact just a different variety of sweet potato! True yams are not even related and have a very dark skin and can grow up to SEVEN FEET!!  (see this site  and this one if you don’t believe me!)

So now at least I can call this sweet potato bread without lying to you (I figured I had used yams)! Anyways, if you like pumpkin bread, or carrot cake, or zucchini loaf (bread vs cake vs loaf – let’s not go into differentiating those today! I already lost one battle) then you will love this loaf – or rather bread! It is sweet and moist and deliciously spiced. The picture doesn’t really do it justice (and I only took a couple, late at night!) Enjoy!

baking 2013 051

Sweetly Spiced Sweet Potato Bread
(adapted slightly from this recipe by loveveggiesandyoga.com)

  • 1 1/2 cup orange sweet potatoes (likely labeled at the grocery store as yams!) – peeled, cooked and mashed (I boiled mine but you could steam them or cook them however you prefer)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tb molasses
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tb cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 Tb coarse sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. To bowl containing mashed potatoes, add eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in sugars and molasses.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt (not the coarse sugar).
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (it may still be somewhat lumpy – don’t overmix it!)
  5. Pour evenly into a greased or parchment paper lined loaf pan. Sprinkle with coarse sugar over the top.
  6. Bake 55-65 min or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out cleanly.
  7. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes in the pan before removing it to cool completely on a rack.
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Macarons – two recipes, one flopped, one passed!

Back in March my friend and I did a class on how to make Macarons. Not macaroons (the chewy, coconut-heavy treats) but rather macarons (a French treat that looks like a little sandwich cookie but is meringue like with ground almonds and no flour.) So when Love & Olive Oil made Macarons the April Kitchen Challenge, I figured I was ready!

Salted Caramel Macarons

Pretty  much every recipe you come across claims that you have to weigh each ingredient very accurately. I had come across this recipe for Simple Macarons before that used normal kitchen measurements and did not require a kitchen scale, I figured it was worth a try. I made them just before Easter but I hadn’t expected them to work so I didn’t take any pictures. I was making them alongside my Nutella trifle  and had a few other things to do so I cheated on the filling and just used a lemon spread that I had in the fridge. They were decent. They were chewy & tasty enough. But not exceptional. Then again I slightly over baked them and the filling wasn’t anything special.

But then Friday night I had the most amazing ones that someone brought to a party I was at. They were so delicious. The texture was perfect. The fillings (my favs were the salted caramel and the vanilla white chocolate) were intense and flavourful. It made me want to master the treats and made me realize that the filling was the key for flavour while the outside was the key for texture.

Wikipedia claims “the confection is characterised by smooth, squared top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the “foot” or “pied”), and flat base. It is mildly moist and easily melts in the mouth.” This was the goal.

So last night, my friend (that I had done the class with) and I decided to try two recipes: the one we had learned in class (my friend has a kitchen scale for accurate measurements), and the one that I had just used that required no scale.

The bad batch of macaronsConclusion: no need for weighing your ingredients. The ones that we did that way flopped -BADLY! We are not really sure what happened. They developed the desired ‘foot’ but it flattened and spread and the tops just collapsed rather than rising well. We aren’t sure if we over mixed the ‘macaronage’ or under mixed it (the macaronage is what the batter is called after mixing everything together). And since my friend did one recipe and I did the other, we didn’t make any direct comparison of the two macaronages. So who knows??

salted caramel macaronsBut these “Simple Macarons” that do NOT require accurate weight measurements turned out pretty good for a second time. They could have a taller foot or a slightly shinier top but otherwise, I think they look pretty good. And after aging them for 24hrs, they were “mildly moist and easily melted in the mouth” as we want! Actually the texture was really quite good. We filled them with a salted caramel buttercream. I am not including the recipe here because I wasn’t really paying attention to what my friend was doing. This looks like a decent recipe though.

Here are the basic steps:

Beat 2 egg whites on medium until frothy (as shown on the left) and then add 3 1/2 Tb sugar. Continue beating on medium-high until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes total). The egg whites should form a ball in the whisk when you pull it out (as shown on the right). You can add food colouring if you like at this time. We didn’t.

Frothy egg whites

Fully whipped egg whites for macarons

In a separate bowl, sift together 2/3 cup icing sugar and 3/4 cup ground almonds. Stir this in to the egg whites, half at a time. This is where you make the macaronage. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics of this most-important step. Unlike what you would normally do, you don’t have to be careful with the egg whites: you are trying to deflate them. So with a rubber spatula, mix in half the sugar-almond mixture, then the 2nd half. Keep stirring rather harshly until the batter becomes thinner and will fall as a ‘ribbon’ off of the spatula when you lift it out of the bowl. The ribbon should reincorporate into the batter after about 20-30 seconds (in other words, it shouldm’t remain as a big dollop or anything).

Spoon the batter into a piping bag with tip #1 (Wilton) attached. I have a template that I put under the parchment paper (as seen in the pic) to know how big to pipe the circles. I am pretty sure they are 1.5inch circles but the person made them for us in the macaron class. Once they are piped, bang the sheet on the counter 2 or 3 times to get the air pockets out. Then allow the macarons to dry for 30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350F at the end of this.

Piping

Piped and ready

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Don’t let them overbrown and rotate them if you need to. They should darken a little and be firm but shouldn’t darken too much. We overbaked ours a tiny bit but they were still fine. They should also form the little frilly feet at the bottom. Note: mid-baking you may or may not be able to tell how successful your macarons will be. The ones on the left below eventually were the VERY FAILED batch. They looked decent at this point and we were excited. Compared to the ones on the right though that worked well, they are flatter.

They looked so great mid-baking! Batch #2: baking

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheet before removing them. Once they are cooled, you can fill them with your desired filling. On the right is a picture of the bad ones, which we still filled, compared to the good ones. Wow, those are some ugly Macarons!

Baked macaron shellsThe good and the bad

Once your Macarons are filled, you can eat them BUT it is better to let them ripen/age at least 24 hours. This will soften in the macaron and give it that perfectly chewy, melty texture!

So don’t be afraid of Macarons! They don’t need to be weighed and they can still turn out well! But if you need to know what went wrong, don’t ask me! I don’t know why the other ones failed. I just know which recipe I will stick to! The easy one!

salted caramel macarons


Flaky, Buttery Croissants

I finally got a new desk with a keyboard roll-out drawer thing (whatever you want to call that). Why is this important? well it is one of the reasons I haven’t been blogging lately because it would hurt my wrists to type on my old desk. So although I would sit at my computer, I really didn’t enjoy typing things.

Recently one of the blogs I follow (Love and Olive Oil) decided to start a “kitchen challenge” each month. March was the first month and the challenge was croissants. Well I didn’t even get them made before the post deadline but I still thought it would be fun to try making them (and from now on I will try to keep up with the challenges!)

Flaky Delicious Croissants

I used the Fine Cooking Classic Croissants recipe as I really liked how they had so many pictures and such clear directions. As it turns out, they are time consuming (3 days total although actual hands-on time isn’t that much) but not difficult. I actually found the dough really nice to work with and found it very easy to just follow each direction one-at-a-time.

The rolled out dough Cut up & ready to roll

They came out perfect! I really didn’t expect such delicious flakiness in my first try but they were really quite wonderful (and I don’t even really like croissants normally!).

Unbaked Croissants

Baked Croissants

Since I followed the recipe so closely and their directions were so clear, I am not actually going to post the recipe here. The only thing I did differently was to use just one package of instant yeast (which was just under 1 Tb when I measured it even though the package claims to be 2 1/4 tsp).

Croissants

I also put some giant chocolate chips into several of them and sprinkled the tops with coarse sugar. Delicious. Really really delicious.

  Chocolate? Mmm