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Sweet potato brioche is a classic variation on brioche. The problem is that it typically results in a moist crumb but not much sweet potato flavor. I remember making a batch or two back in pastry school—it tends to have a beautiful orange hue and the subtle sweet potato flavor can be enhanced with a bit of baking spices.
I made a few batches between home and work, trying to create a truly sweet potato-flavored plate of French toast without having to resort to a pile of candied yams on the side. Adding a swirl of spiced sweet potato puree, as one would for a cinnamon swirl bread, helped, but the spices were a little overpowering and the bread had gaps in the swirl. It turns out, though, that the spiral of dough can be encouraged to stick to itself with a little egg yolk, so I replaced the filling with a simple mixture of sweet potato puree and yolk, which not only did a great job of getting the bread to adhere to itself but added an almost custardy element to the loaf.
The brioche gets a rich soak made out of milk, butter, brown sugar, liqueur, and more yolks, and is cut into nearly inch-thick slices to further accentuate the custardy middle. The finishing touch comes in the form of a sweet potato syrup with maple and orange juice, of course with some salty, crispy bacon on the side.
There are a lot of steps involved but none of them are hard, and if you've never made brioche, be reassured that it's among the easiest of bread doughs. If you can make cake, you can make brioche (though the method of incorporating butter reminds me more of buttercream). I recommend spreading the work out over a few days; making the dough the first day, baking it the next, then making the French toast the following morning, though you can accomplish it in a shorter or longer time as needed. Brioche keeps very well tightly wrapped in the refrigerator or frozen.
Make some, stash it away, and impress houseguests at Thanksgiving with your breakfast prowess!
About the Author: Anna Markow is a pastry chef obsessed with doing things that no one else does and giving unusual ingredients their time to shine. You can follow her sometimes-pastry-related thoughts on Twitter @VerySmallAnna.
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