I'm not much of a traveler these days, not because of a lack of desire but more because this pesky thing called life keeps getting in the way and mucking up all my grand plans (boo). Which means that my dream vacation to Patagonia—yes, Patagonia—takes a seat waaaay at the back of the Thing-to-Do bus. Instead, we've got work! More work! Pets! Funds-sucking pet emergencies! Time-sucking family emergencies! Conflicting schedules! Vacation time that disappear because you have to spend the day at the doctor! Or waiting for the plumber! Or helping people move! Oh yeah, the days when I could work for a bit to save some money, bag the job, shoulder my trusty backpack and take off for months at a stretch are long gone. Because I'm an adult with responsibilities. And to that I say, "Phooey." So sadly, these days my traveling, such that it is, is confined to the kitchen where I bake my way around the world. A poor substitute, I grant you, but work with me here, people! It's all I've got (cue violins).
I'm pretty much a sucker for any cookbook that has "…From Around the World" or some such in the title. I figure if I can't actually get to GO to another country I can at least eat like I'm there, so if book is chockful of international bounty, I'm on it. (Plus, baking internationally often means I get to BUY MORE STUFF! Woo!) Jane Mason's book, The Book of Buns: Over 50 Brilliant Bakes from Around the World, definitely delivers on the international front because, well, duh…"From Around the World" is right there in the title. It's loaded with an abundance of recipes, techniques, and gorgeous photos, and I was so smitten with it that I made plans to bake my way through, when wonder of wonders, after my Sfoof post, my first foray into the book, I was invited to join a group of fellow bakers who are indeed doing just that! (Thank you, Sonya!) The socially networked interwebs never cease to amaze. I became a member just in time for Pan de Camote, lovely little Peruvian sweet potato buns.
I'd made potato bread before, but never with whole potatoes–just potato flour–and never with sweet potatoes either, so I was pretty psyched for this one. I wouldn't say this was the easiest dough to work with at first, especially when it came to incorporating the butter (we're talking a LOT of squooshing here), but in the end I had a very pretty, light orange dough that was smooth and soft–but a dry soft that wasn't at all what I was expecting. In my mind, I guess, I equate a soft dough with a wet one and this definitely wasn't. But it shaped up nicely, baked to perfection and the taste was a revelation. The sweet potato flavor is very subtle, again different from I was expecting. It's not like chowing down on a big ol' baked yammy thing; it's more like the essence of potato with a hint of sweetness (one taste-tester asked if it was a challah, so that will give you a idea of the flavor). I do think the sweet potato-ness becomes more pronounced the next day, but it's still subtle and light and delicious and just wonderful with a little butter. A definite winner. The real seal of approval for these lovely Peruvian delights, though, came from an actual, certified, authentic Peruvian, who knew exactly what they were, gave them a major thumbs-up and took them all home with him. Now if that's not a ringing endorsement for tasty authenticity, I don't know what is. Like what? A llama should come to your house and butter your buns or something?
So go! Bake! Enjoy! And join me for my next international adventure as I travel around the world in 80 breads. Give or take a few.
pan de camote
Makes 16 buns
- 250g peeled sweet potatoes
- 100g lard or butter (I used butter this time)
- 650g all purpose flour
- 3g instant yeast
- 100g whole milk, heated to just below boiling, then cooled to room temperature
- 2 eggs
- 12g salt
- Cook the sweet potatoes using your preferred method, then add half the butter or lard, mash and let cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, add flour and make a well in the center. Add yeast to the well, then add the cooled milk, cover the well with flour and let this mixture sit for about an hour.
- After the rest period and once the sweet potatoes are completely cooled, add the eggs to the sweet potatoes and mix until completely incorporated.
- Add the sweet potato mixture to the flour mixture, along with the salt. Stir together until roughly incorporated, then dump everything onto a work surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes then add the remaining butter and continue kneading for another 10 minutes. It's a bit of a mess but hang in there and squish and resist the urge to add more flour. The kneaded dough will be smooth and soft.
- Put the dough back in the bowl, cover and allow to sit for about 2 hours.
- At the end of the rest time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 16 equal pieces.
- Shape each piece into a tight ball, then place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Flour the tops of the buns, then cover with plastic or a dry towel and let rest for 45 minutes.
- While the buns are resting, preheat the oven to 425°.
- Bake the buns for 20 minutes, switching racks and rotating the pans at the halfway point.
- Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.
Adapted from The Book of Buns by Jane Mason