Voting is closed, and I came in second place--only three points behind first place! I call that a wonderful victory. Thank you all for your votes, and I hope you try these yourself!
Alright, folks, I posted twice in a row about plants. Now it's food's turn!
I signed up for another Foodie Fights competition: sweet potato and coffee. One is one of my favourite food items, the other is my favourite beverage. How could I not sign up to cook something and be judged on the basis of the "yum" factor and my photography?
Well, the "yum" factor turned out to break the chart! But don't take my word for it--decide for yourself on the basis of these mouthwatering photos! (Also, don't forget to vote starting Tuesday.)
I had a hard time deciding what to cook. Sweet potato scones with a coffee glaze? Sweet potato gnocchi with a savory coffee sauce? Sweet potato coffee cake with coffee in it somehow? Maybe just coffee candied sweet potatoes. Everything sounded good and simple (because I couldn't really think of anything more complex), but nothing really jumped out at me.
Until I came across this blog post with a recipe for Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls. I was all like "Hell yeah!" I adapted this recipe only slightly in order to include the coffee (I also substituted agave nectar for corn syrup and cut down the butter in the filling by half because I was using coffee in it--besides, five sticks of butter in this recipe? For serious?). Let's get on to the recipe!
All of my ingredients! Sweet potatoes, pecans, egg, butter, heavy cream, agave nectar, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, yeast, buttermilk, fair-trade locally roasted (in Nova Scotia...) coffee from Just Us! Coffee Roasters & Co-Op, and sugar. Used but not pictured: salt and orange extract. Pictured but not used: powdered sugar (dead centre!). I just assumed I would need it, having made regular ol' cinnamon rolls before, but this recipe didn't call for powdered sugar at all!
To start, peel and cube the sweet potatoes and boil them for about 10 or so minute to soften them. Drain and mash with a fork--it should be easy! While the sweet potatoes are cooking, mix 1/2 cup warm water, 2 packets yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl and let sit for five minutes. After that, I used my food processor to combine 1/2 cup flour into the yeast. Then I added my 1 cup sweet potatoes, 1 egg, 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 stick melted butter, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and (instead of 2 tablespoons grated orange rind) a few drops of orange extract. I combined all that until smooth, then started adding 5 cups of flour in 1/2-cup increments until I got a nice dough.
Here's my nice dough! I used Pam cooking spray to grease the bowl and then sprayed the dough, too. I stuck it on my bed (because I have 12 inches of counter space), covered with a towel, and let it rise for about an hour.
While the dough was rising, I prepared the filling for the rolls. The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup melted butter, 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans, and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. I wanted to include the coffee into the filling--I thought the caramely cinnamon flavour would go well with a hint of bitter coffee. So, instead of 3 sticks of butter, I used only 1 and 1/2 sticks and added about 1/2 cup of coffee.
I heated the butter, coffee, and sugar in a pan to create something of a syrup. I wanted it a little thicker than I got it--I think I could have used even less butter, maybe a bit more coffee, and reduced it further to create a stronger coffee flavour in the rolls.
After the syrup became thick (and before the butter and sugar left the solution, becoming chunky, as happened when I tested the syrup the night before), I stuck it in a bowl with the 1 cup chopped pecans and 2 tablespoons cinnamon. I couldn't stop myself from "sampling" it every once in a while--it was way too tasty!
Once the dough finished rising, I punched it down and kneaded it a little. I attempted to roll it out into a rectangle, but it could have used a bit more punching, I think. It was very thick and fluffy, but I think it is supposed to be? Anyway, I got a fairly rectangular shape. The recipe calls for a 10-inch by 18-inch rectangle.
Once rolled out, I coated the dough with the filling. One of the reasons I would adapt my adaptation is because this made a huge mess! The filling was pretty liquidy (y'know, because it's half coffee and melted butter) and ran all over my counter. So I rolled the dough up right quick (from the top edge first, folding over the un-filling-coated edge last) and sliced about 11 rolls (I think you're supposed to get 12, but I like mine thick, apparently) before the filling could run all over the floor.
With the leftover filling, I liberally doused the rolls after putting them in a greased 9-inch by 13-inch pan. Then I stuck them in my oven, which I had preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10 minutes.
While they were cooking, I prepared the glaze (in the pan on the bottom right). I debated just using the powdered-sugar-with-water standard glaze, but then I decided to actually follow the recipe. I put 1 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup agave nectar (instead of the recipe's corn syrup), and 1/4 cup butter in a pan, stirring constantly over pretty low heat until reduced and thick (but not so reduced and thick that it became chunky). Then, I mixed in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 cup heavy cream.
This glaze tasted almost exactly like those soft-chew caramel candies, except it was pretty liquidy. When I pulled the buns out of the oven (as seen here) to coat them with the glaze (which is supposed to soak into the buns before cooking a bit further), I realized that my buns are huge and fluffy delights of sugary goodness! (Or, that is, they had risen and I was scared the glaze would just drip over the sides of the pan.) So I drizzled the glaze on them not as liberally as I had with the filling, baked for another 10 minutes (until a fork I stuck in the test bun didn't come out gooey), then coated them again with glaze and served with coffee.
Oh so delicious! A lot of the filling found its way to the bottom of the pan, creating a coffee-caramel-flavoured bottom on the buns, which was amazing! The citrus and sweet potato worked well together in the dough, and the caramel glaze sealed the deal. I ate four of these the night I baked them, and another two the following day (I brought half of the batch to a committee meeting potluck I had--everyone was very complimentary about them!). The coffee and sweet potato flavours were evident, but not overpowering. I think they actually worked splendidly together in this creation, but next time, I might emphasize the coffee flavour and make the buns a bit less sweet, a bit more savoury--a side dish instead of a dessert, maybe!