Thursday, April 16, 2020

Baking Adventures: Ube Country Loaf

Here we all are in the midst of a Coronavirus pandemic, under lockdown and staying home, and it turns out to be a perfect time to hunker down and go back to the basic life skills we always wanted to hone. Like baking bread.

I started a couple weeks ago with Jim Lahey's famous No-Knead Bread recipe. So simple and so good. I tried adding a sour component with buttermilk, Greek yogurt, or apple cider vinegar. They turned out okay, but then I saw this recipe for Ube Country Loaf.

And I had just steamed some Okinawan sweet potatoes yesterday. It was fate. I started at 6pm, which meant I had to stay up til midnight to get this baby in the fridge for a 12 hour cold proof. I popped it into the oven today and got this big beautiful purple loaf. I mean, it's gorgeous!

I show you the process photos because I love looking at them to measure my own progress and compare. 
1: Flour and water autolyse
2: Dump steamed mashed ube, salt, and yeast
3: Mix in using pinch and fold method
4: Repeat every 15 minutes for an hour

5: Let rise for 4 hours at 72 °F
6: Shape into ball and proof in fridge 12 hours
7: Ball has expanded, ready to bake
8: Finished loaf!

If you want to try this loaf, I recommend you check out this blog: Lady and Pups. She explains the whole process pretty well, so that even a newbie like me could follow along. I would make this again, using more sweet potato for more vibrant color and more moistness. I don't really get how the addition of the mash doesn't affect the recipe so that you don't have to change anything whether or not you add any mash. Maybe it's magic. I'm a believer😊❤🍞🥖

Here's the method straight from Lady and Pups:

The overnight bread recipe/techniques are based on the book: Flour, water, Salt Yeast. This bread can be made with exactly the same instructions and ingredients, minus the purple yam, if you want to make a white country loaf.
  • 400 grams (3 cups) bread flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 312 grams (78% hydration)(312 ml) water, at 86F ~ 95F/30C~ 35C
  • 150 grams (37%)(roughly 3/4 cup packed) baked and peeled purple yam
  • 9 grams (2.2%)(1 1/2 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (0.3%)(1/4 tsp) instant dry yeast

  • Instructions
  1. This bread will need about 1 hour for mixing/folding, 4~5 hour to ferment at room-temperature, then 12 hours/overnight in the fridge to slow-proof, and another 2 hours to bake and cool down. So please start 19 ~ 20 hours before the time you want to serve the bread.
  2. According to the book, the optimal temperature for any bread dough - after it is folded/kneaded, and just before it's left to ferment - should be at 78F/26C. So if your indoor temperature is quite cool, around 68F/20C, you should warm the water to about 95F/35C to achieve that. If your indoor temperature is warm, like mine, around 79F/26C, then the water should be about 86F/30C to achieve that. I have an instant thermometer and therefore, I can measure these things accurately. But if you don't, IT IS OK, just start with water that feels like your body temperature, meaning that when you insert you finger into the water, you can't quite make out whether it's on the "cool side" or "warm side". I like to prepare a large bottle of water at the right temperature (more than the recipe calls for), then pour the amount I need as I measure on a scale.
  3. TO START: In a large bowl, mix flour and water (already warmed up to the optimal temperature) with a fork until just even. Cover with plastic-wrap and let rest for 20~30 min. (This process is called "autolyse", which allows the flour to hydrate, releases enzymes and increases its flexibility... blah blah. Wanna know more, you can Google it). After rested, add the baked and peeled purple yam, and sprinkle the fine sea salt and instant dry yeast evenly across the surface.
  4. TO KNEAD WITH MACHINE: If you're using a stand-mixer or handheld-mixer with dough-hooks (like I did because we're lazy) knead the dough on medium-low speed for 20 min. The dough should still be very wet and sticky, but quite smooth and very elastic. It should be able to hold its shape for a short period of time, and appears to be stringy when it pulls away from the bowl. If you have an instant thermometer, the dough should be at 78F/26C now. Cover with plastic-wrap, and let ferment for 4~5 hour until almost TRIPLED (not doubled).
  5. TO FOLD WITH HAND: If you were mixing with hands, finely mash the purple yam before adding to the bowl. Using the pincer method to evenly distribute the ingredients (this blog gives a good step by step photos on pincer method and folding). Then pull the dough up from one side until just before it tears, then fold it over itself towards the opposite side. Turn the bowl around by 45 degrees, and fold again. Do this for about 5 min until the dough starts to develop some elasticity. Let the dough rest for 10 min, then fold again for 30 seconds. If you have an instant thermometer, the dough should be at 78F/26C now. Cover with plastic-wrap and let ferment. In the first 1 hour, every 15 min, come back and fold the dough like you did for 30 seconds. Then leave it for about 3~ 4 hours until almost TRIPLED (not doubled).
  6. TO SHAPE THE BREAD: Dusting with just enough flours onto the dough/ the counter/ and your hands to prevent sticking as you go, now gently ease the dough out of the bowl, onto the working surface, without flattening or tearing it. The dough should look kind of like a blob on the counter. Again, gently, pull 1 corner of the dough up and fold it over itself. Repeat for 3~4 times around the dough until it comes into a ball. Now flip the dough over so the "seam-side" now faces down, onto a less floured surface. Using the friction between the counter and the dough, cup your hands around the dough and pull it gently towards you. You should feel the dough tightening as you do this. Repeat for 3~4 times from all directions until the dough comes into a good, round shape.
  7. TO PROOF THE DOUGH: If you have a proofing-basket, dust it with flour and gently transfer the dough, seam-side down, into the basket. If not, using the original bowl that the dough fermented in, and line it with 1 sheet of parchment paper. Press the parchment so it conforms to the shape of the bowl, then dust the dough all around with a little flour, and transfer into the bowl, seam-side down. Cover with plastic-wrap, then proof in the fridge for 12 hours/overnight.
  8. TO BAKE THE BREAD: 45 min before baking, preheat the oven on 475F/245C, with a lidded Dutch oven on the rack. Once the oven's preheated, take the dough out of the fridge (no need for it to warm back to room-temperature). Lift the dough out of the bowl by lifting the parchment paper, then gently place on the counter. Put another piece of parchment paper on the side, then gently flip the dough onto the seconds parchment. Without flattening or tearing it, dust the edges with a little flour to gently release the dough from the first parchment. Now the seam-side should be facing up.
  9. (NOTE: Why not just use the first parchment to transfer the dough, from the bowl, directly into the Dutch oven? I've done it both ways, and noticed that the dough which was inverted after proofing, had a much better rise in the oven. During proofing, most large air bubbles gathered at the upper-half of the dough, leaving the lower-half slightly denser. If not inverted, the baked dough inherently came out with a denser lower-half, and less tall. But by inverting, the low-half was now at the top, which allowed it to expand more during baking, and the larger air bubbles at the bottom, helped push the dough upward as well. And the seam-side also creates a beautiful cracking on the surface.)
  10. Take the preheated Dutch oven out and remove the lid. Lift the parchment to transfer the dough into the Dutch oven (leave the parchment with it as well)(flatten the parchment's folds so it doesn't distort the shape of the bread). Close the lid and bake for 25 min. Then remove the lid and bake for another 13~15 min, until the surface is deeply browned. Remove the parchment and let the bread cool on a cooling-rack for 1 hour.
To cook the purple yam, bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven for 45 min ~1 hour until a knife can be easily inserted into the flesh. Cool completely before using.