Dan Lepard’s sweet potato cinnamon buns


I wanted very much to like this, but something was not right here. I’ve wanted to make these for the longest time. Adding some potato for a tender loaf is something I’ve done before, so I was quite sure this would work. But the dough turned out dry and the grated sweet potato bits stayed intact .

When the recipe calls for the addition of potato, I’ve always popped them into the oven while something is baking, then adding the puree into the dough. This is what I had intended to do but plain forgot to pop the sweet potato in arrghh. Could it be why?? the sweet potato not ‘dissolving’ into the dough and thus not contributing moisture?? I have seen other recipes calling for spuds to be grated in, but perhaps not quite a large qty and significant portion of the total ingredients??

Anyway, bench notes should I want to attempt these again:
- puree not grate the sweet potato
- I skipped the pecan but added 1tsp of extra cinnamon. Could do with a bit more (I love cinnamon).
- cover early enough, not just when it’s browning. The buns were slightly burnt in spots on both the bottom and top.

A pity about these buns because it’s not every day that I make cinnamon buns, and I was so looking forward to these. Meanwhile there are so many other recipes to try! So many and no time/occasion sigh…

Basic sourdough loaf & baking with water kefir

I wanted to
1. test a new T80 (semi-wholewheat) flour sourced from a local miller.
2. test out my last ‘findings’ that substituting water kefir for water makes for a very slightly sweeter and moist crumb.Until I try creating a starter from the kefir itself, using kefir helps me to use up the kefir.
My basic sourdough
350g T80 flour
50g Whole rye flour
150g Levain 100%
300g Water
6g Salt

I prepared two loaves side by side, one with water kefir, the other with water. I felt that the water loaf came together more easily and was stronger. Also the kefir dough had a slightly ‘gassy’ smell after mixing, and throughout the proofing. This is the first time I’ve encountered this, and could have something to do with the fact that the water kefir was rather fermented. (I fed it only ONCE after more than a week in the fridge.) Baked on the day instead.

Baked under the same conditions, the kefir loaf (on top) had a thinner crust and was almost similar in taste, but just that little bit softer in the crumb department. Bob, whom I annoyed by asking repeatedly, are you sure? very, very sure?? do they taste alike to you? are you just saying this because I told you?? shook his head at such inanity.

Fig and Anise (and kefir) Sourdough

This was for a friend from the south of France. I figured he would like anise (although that was a bit of a gamble, since anise is something you either like or hate). Turns out he was fine with anise but couldn’t take figs on account of his kidney stones (who knew figs are high in oxalic acid?!?) I love anise-flavoured breads, actually anise-flavoured anything, and Farine MC’s fig and anise wholewheat loaf has been on my list for the longest time. But I did not have cracked wheat grains, so I turned to another source: Phil’s recipe on TFL, figuring it must work like a charm, and adapted it to what I had on hand.

Fig and Aniseed Sourdough (adapted from PiP’s blog on TFL)
25g            Starter
50g            T65 flour
29g            Water
A pinch of salt

I left to ferment at room temp overnight, but made sure that my starter and water were fridge cold, to slow things down a bit. Nonetheless, by early morning, my leaven was raring to go.

Final dough
81.5g           Levain
410g            T65 flour
50g             Whole rye flour
[original recipe calls for 393g bread flour and 70g spelt]
140g            Dried figs [original recipe: 188g]
7g             Aniseed, toasted
356g            Water [hold back 25g to add if necessary]
9g             Salt

Phil does a very long autolyse, then adds the levain etc.
I use my usual method of an hour-long-or-so autolyse with flour, water and levain. I took advantage of the fact that the mixer was out to use it, instead of mixing and kneading by hand.
I folded in the figs and aniseed during the first fold. A couple more folds, then a rather short first proof before shaping.
My second proof was also shorter than usual (running late!!) and that accounted for the massive oven spring.

* I used less figs than called for because I simply couldn’t squeeze them in any more! These very moist dried figs (not the very dried ones you can buy lined up in a flat box) are like dates; they simply disappear into the dough! Next time I’ll chop them up into slightly smaller pieces and add the full amount called for.
* The quantity of aniseed is spot on—present but not overwhelming.

Barely was the bread baked that I had to whisk it out of the house. It rode on a trivet in the car. Which is a good thing otherwise I might have burnt my arms carrying it.


The travelling bread on a trivet enjoying the view.


Unceremoniously plonked next to the bonsai.


Last time poor bread was seen intact.

Wish I had a crumb shot of the loaf but I think I would have gotten weird looks from our friend. It was so amazingly tender and cake-like and open. Like a “gateau,” exclaimed the recipient. We made short work of this bread that, embarrassingly, was supposed to last him for a few days. I’m really wondering if it isn’t the effect of the water kefir because the last sweet potato hazelnut loaf also had a beautifully soft and moist crumb. Experiments are in order.

Wonderful bread with just the right amount of aniseed flavor. We also paired it with goat’s cheese, and two days later, I had it dipped in olive oil. The combination of mellowed anise flavor and a very good olive oil was a revelation.


Small loaf carved out of the big batard, for tasting purposes.


Sweet potato hazelnut sourdough



Hadn’t intended to make this at all, but I had some leftover sweet potato, and recalling how delicious the roast potato bread from Hamelman was (must make again…), I found and adapted TX Farmer’s sweet potato walnut recipe on TFL. I substituted hazelnuts for walnuts and omitted the maple syrup. Also went out on a limb and threw in some excess water kefir. Yes, summer’s nigh, temperatures are up, and time to bring out the poor water kefir from hibernation!!! The critters fizzled like they had been given a new lease of life, and before I knew it, I had more water kefir on my hands then I could use up. I had no idea about the water/sugar content of the sweet potato (which varies anyway), and from the last experiment, I was afraid it would proof too fast, but it turned out all right.

Very delicious bread. You can taste the sweet potato even after baking (unlike the potato bread, which smells irresistibly potato-ish while baking but doesn’t taste so) and the hazelnuts… It was as if I were tasting hazelnuts anew.

Sweet potato hazelnut sourdough (Adapted from TXFarmer’s recipe)
230g            T65 flour
70g             T80 flour (semi-wholewheat)
105g            sweet potato purée (from roasted sweet potato)
105g            Leaven, 100% hydration
155g            Water kefir
77g             Hazelnuts

Autolyse with flour, leaven and water. (I added the puree after autolyse, but will add it the next time at autolyse stage; once the gluten forms, it’s harder to incorporate the puree).
Add salt and knead somewhat.
A couple of stretch and folds over the next few hours, adding the hazelnuts after the first fold.
Shape and either refrigerate straight away—or if you’re like me—after letting it sit out another hour or so on the counter.
Bake the next morning to gorgeous smells. And be chuffed that you still had decent oven spring despite the wet dough and lack of shaping skills and overall negligence, and wonder why sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but you won’t push it.
The bread gods must occasionally look away  while I blunder along.

Sweet potato hazelnut

Sweet potato hazelnut


I usually shape, refrigerate then bake straight from the fridge the next morning. This time I tried cold retarding then shaping cold, proofing only as long as the oven took to preheat. The dough was slightly under proofed I felt, as a result, and I noticed the crust didn’t have the usual blisters of an overnight dough. The crust was also too thin for my liking – but this could be because I didn’t open the oven early enough to let the steam escape. I’ve heard more than once that a cold first proof, not the second proof, is the crucial element for developing flavour, and it has to do with the dough cold retarding in a large mass. The details escape me. I assume this applies to the professional bakery with its large volumes of dough. And there’s probably also the question of logistics and ease—it’s easier to cold retard a large mass of dough than individually shaped doughs. But could there be a difference for one or two loaves??? Yet another one of the myriad factors to consider. Of late too, I haven’t been liking the smell of my leaven. It’s been acidic or at best, neutral and flat-smelling, even after a few consecutive feedings. I suspect it didn’t take well to the change of my go-to flour. 

I’ll never forget how once, long ago, for one fleeting time, it smelt so distinctly of meadows and butter, yes, that’s right, butter and cream and dairy. I felt I had somehow crossed into a meadow just by opening and sniffing the jar of leaven in the fridge. Pure magic. Since I change flours all the time (I like to experiment), as well as feeding patterns, I don’t know by what alchemy it had arrived at that state, and how to retain or perpetuate it. And dear leaven, you know that I would love to feed you daily that you may be constant and bubbly and constantly bubbly, but alas I don’t bake enough to warrant daily feeds. So suffer you must and together we try to arrive at something this side of edible.

Still experimenting with a basic go-to sourdough loaf. This one was promising with nutty notes from the wholewheat and rye flours.Image

Recent bakes—old favourites and new ones


Black sesame sourdough pain de mie


Tomato pesto sourdough

Black sesame sourdough pain de mie. I used Tx Farmer, amazing baker on TFL’s fluffy sourdough pain de mie recipe, but added black sesame. The first and second proofs were very long so the sour overrode the black sesame taste. I’ve had this problem before (probably my leaven was not quite up to the mark as well) but next time I’ll use a young and raring to go leaven/add a pinch of yeast.

Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s tomato paste sourdough which I’ve made before. This time I used tomato pesto and the crumb was barely reddish. We had it with sheep’s cheese and ham from the Basque region.


Dan Lepard’s mill loaf (left) and semolina sourdough (right)


Dan Lepard’s mill loaf in his The Handmade Loaf, don’t know why I’ve never made this before. And semolina sourdough, which I really do love for its taste and colour.



Sourdough Spelt loaf


100% white spelt sourdough

After the last spelt experiment, I learnt from kind bloggers that the gluten in spelt behaves differently and that if white spelt is less distinctive in taste, whole spelt is quite tasty. Looking through my copy of Michel Suas’s Advanced Pastry and Bread, I found a recipe for spelt flour that uses a poolish. What was interesting is that it calls for a very short second proof (recipe includes a pinch of yeast) and free-form shaping with no slashing – like a ciabatta. This, I thought, makes some sense because I remembered how slack the spelt and wheat flour dough was, yet how it had good oven spring. I adapted the recipe to use a spelt leaven and totally changed the proofing times, so it’s quite a different recipe after all.

100% spelt sourdough
280g        White spelt flour
280g        100% spelt flour leaven
146g        Water
 7.5g        Salt

This is quite an easy recipe to remember: flour and leaven in equal quantities (not exactly that in the recipe, but I rounded it off), and the quantity of water almost half the that of flour. 
Autolyse of 45 mins.
Three folds in three hours. I felt the dough getting stronger with each fold.
I then popped it into the fridge for a few hours and left it on the counter overnight at coolish temperatures of 17 degrees. In all, 1st proof was some 11 hours. The dough was very puffy at the end.
It was just picked up clumsily, folded over itself and plopped onto parchment paper before going into the oven, no slashes.

The crumb was creamy, sweet, cool and only slightly acidic. Spelt might just have redeemed itself with this loaf! 
* I felt the dough could handle more water, especially if it’s going to be baked free-form, so I might up the water a little by feel the next time.


Creamy open crumb