I have been wanting to try purple sweet potatoes since reading about the Okinawa people. In this little Japanese island, there wasn’t a big variety of food and locals mostly ate purple sweet potatoes, complemented with rice and legumes and very little more. They have estimated that animal proteins altogether contributed slightly above 1% of the total calorie intake of this population, making them 99% vegetarian.
What made the Okinawan famous, though, was their longevity and the virtual absence of disease up to a very old age. Ever heard of the Blue Zones? It is a list of places in the world where the highest proportions of very old folks can be found. Okinawa is one of them.
It has been said that the very high daily intake of purple sweet potato was one of the reasons for the incredible good health of Okinawans. This interesting tuber, which is used as a coloring agent in some places (South America), owes its color to the massive presence of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins offer protection against liver injuries, significant reduction of blood pressure, improvement of eyesight, strong anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activities, inhibition of mutations caused by mutagens from cooked food, and suppression of proliferation of human cancer cells. Not bad?
To me these interesting tubers have an extra charm: they can naturally color bread. Here my first try, with a potato roll that was already in my repertoire and which was very easy to adapt. The good thing of potato rolls in general is that you can achieve that soft bun consistency you may like without adding fat, milk or eggs. So here you, go, a light and soft bread roll loaded with antioxidant (and it’s even vegan!).
PURPLE SWEET POTATO SUPER-SOFT ROLLS
225 g 100% hydration wheat starter
500 g wheat flour
350 g purple sweet potatoes
150 g water (plus more if needed)
1 and 1/2 tea-spoon marine salt
1) Wash the sweet potatoes and boil them in abundant salted water with their peel on.
2) When the potatoes are tender but not too soft, drain them.
3) Peel the sweet potatoes while still warm, then, mash them.
4) Combine the starter with the water and the flour and start mixing at low speed or do a series of stretch and folds if you don’t fancy using a mixer.
5) Add the sweet potato and then the salt last. Check if more water needs to be added. The dough should be rather firm, but not dry.
6) Mix (or stretch and fold) until you reach good gluten net development.
7) Let the dough rest until it has risen 1/2 in volume.
8) Transfer the dough to a working surface and shape as round rolls.
9) Let proof, covered, until the dough, when pressed with your fingertip, bounces back slowly.
10) Bake at 225 degrees (Celsius) for the first 15 minutes with steam, then release the steam and lower to 190 degrees (Celsius) and bake until done (I checked internal temperature and I extracted at 98 degrees).
Note: To obtain a more “rustic” effect, you could press the rolls slightly with the tip of your fingers before baking them.