Sweet Potato No Knead Milk Bread
This is possibly my favourite recipe I’ve ever shared (and definitely the longest!) I almost didn’t share it because I wanted to keep it as my little secret but people just seemed so interested in it every time I gave away a loaf or shared a photo online. I know kneading bread can seem like a chore so I created this version for friends who don’t have food mixers or bread makers. I also tried to keep the equipment you need down to a minimum but I think digital kitchen scales is an important tool for baking. In case you’re more of a visual person, I’ve shared a mini video on Instagram showing how I shape the dough after it’s been in the fridge overnight. This bread tastes great fresh out of the oven but keeps really well for a few days on the bench in an airtight container. Leftover slices can be turned into French Toast and I eat this bread with savoury or sweet items – it has a slightly brioche like texture/taste to it.
Tang Zhong (Water Roux):
1 small sweet potato (you’ll only need 100g of cooked sweet potato but it’s easier just to cook the whole thing)
170g milk, straight from fridge
2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
Neutral flavoured oil for greasing bench
Butter for greasing loaf pan
Eggwash (1 egg lightly whisked with a little water)
1. Bring a pot of water with a steamer insert to boil. Reduce the heat to low and steam the sweet potato till it’s tender.
2. Whilst the sweet potato is cooking, make the tang zhong by placing 25g flour and 125g milk in a small saucepan. Whisk together over low heat. You’ll be tempted to walk away but it thickens up pretty quick. I usually stay there and to begin with, I whisk occasionally but once it starts to thicken I continually whisk to prevent the tang zhong from sticking to the base of the saucepan. The tang zhong is ready at 65 degrees but I rarely pull out my thermometer, I find once the mixture thickens and it doesn’t fall in on itself when the whisk is dragged through, I remove it off the heat. For those familiar with Clag – the consistency resembles that!
3. Add the 30g of butter to the tang zhong and mix it in till it’s completely incorporated. Set the saucepan aside.
4. Remove 100g of flesh from the cooked sweet potato and place it in a small food processor. Add the 170g of milk and blitz everything together till smooth. Pour this onto the tang zhong and add in the egg. Whisk everything together till it’s all well incorporated. The mixture should feel warm to touch but not burning hot; if it’s too hot you’ll kill the yeast.
5. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour first and then add the yeast, salt and sugar – I usually keep them separate on top of the flour.
6. Pour the wet ingredients onto the flour and mix everything together with a spatula – it’ll feel quite sticky. After all the dry ingredients are incorporated, I start from one side and and tuck the spatula under the dough and lift up the edge of the dough to push it into the center. From this point on wards for the next three steps, it’s helpful to imagine the dough has four edges and you’ll repeat this action on all four sides. In a way this action is almost like kneading – I’ll go around the dough 2-3 times like this. It helps to use a strong spatula and a silicone one when working with such a sticky dough. Cover the dough with some cling film and sit it on the bench for 30 minutes.
7. After 30 minutes, wet your hand and starting from one corner of the dough, tuck your fingers under and pull an edge up and fold it into the center. Repeat this on the other corners of the dough. The dough will start to look more smooth and you can do this 2 times. Cover the bowl with the cling film.
8. After 30 minutes, wet your hand again and repeat the same action as above. The dough will feel less sticky and more flexible – I usually find I can lift an edge up and shake it to loosen it a little before pushing the dough into the center. When you’re up to the last edge, pull the dough all the way across to the other side to give the dough a nice neat shape and smooth top. Cover with cling film and place it in the fridge overnight. I usually leave the dough for at least 12 hours but easily up to 18-20 hours.
9. When you’re ready to bake, lightly grease a 23cm loaf pan with butter and set aside.
10. On a clean bench, drizzle a little oil and use your hand to spread it out. Remove the dough from the bowl and weigh it so you can evenly divide it into 3 pieces.
Start with one piece of dough and place it on the oiled bench and flatten it with your hand. If you find the dough is sticking to your hand or bench just add a little more oil. Flatten the dough till it resembles a rectangle with the shortest edge facing you – I usually spread it out to at least 12 cm wide and roughly 25-30 cm long.
Next, imagine the rectange in front of you is divided into 3, lengthwise. Take the length edge from the left and fold it into the centre and then fold the edge from the right on top this. You’ll have a narrow rectange in front of you – flatten it so it widens slightly. Starting from the edge closest to you, roll the dough away from you into a scroll. Set this aside and repeat with the other two pieces of dough. Cover with the cling film and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
11. After 15 minutes, repeat step 10 with the three piece of dough. They’ll resist you flattening them down and you won’t get as long a rectange to work with but just keep patting and stretching the dough out. If it’s sticky, you can always use a little more oil on the bench (thin layer) or grease your hands slightly.
12. Tuck the scrolls of dough into the loaf pan and cover with the cling film. Allow the dough to proof for at least another hour till it looks puffy and just above the top of the loaf pan. Tip: Using a lighter loaf pan stops the bread from browning too quickly.
13. Whilst the dough is proofing, preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius (conventional).
14. When the dough is ready to be baked, brush the egg wash over the top and sprinkle sesame seeds all over.
15. Bake the dough in the oven for approximately 45 minutes, remember to turn the bread half way to ensure even browning. If you find it’s browning too quickly you can reduce the temperature to 170 degrees Celsius and cover the bread with a piece of foil. The bread is ready when the internal temperature is close to 93 degrees Celsius.
16. Allow the bread to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then release it from the pan and allow it to cool on a wire rack.