Sweet Potato [Turkey Shaped] Bread

This month’s challenge for The Recipe Redux was to re-do a recipe that we remember as a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but make it a little healthier. At first, I had a hard time thinking of anything that specifically stuck out to me as “special” or specific or in need of a re-do. When I had Thanksgiving at one side of the family’s house when I was little, I couldn’t think of anything out of the ordinary that stuck out as a unique dish. Then, when we had it at the other side of the family’s, everything was Italian-ish and already super healthy (like roasted veggies and salads).

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Hmm, sigh. As I’m normally such a nostalgic human, I was a bit shocked that nothing immediately stood out to me. Then, out of no where, I remembered TURKEY BREAD and could not believe that I had forgot this beloved carby pillowy fluffy wonder of the world. This is something my mom would make with us when we were little almost every.single.year. I can recall once in high school hearing there were no plans of turkey bread on the menu and being a demanding little diva and insist it got made. It did. (insert emoji hand flip girl here).

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So what is turkey bread, exactly? Well, I feel like I should preface that there is no turkey or traces of turkey in this bread. It’s a brioche-type soft, fluffy bread that we always shaped into a turkey, you know, to be festive. [Read: my mom said we were driving her crazy and wanted to give us a hands-on project]. But now vegetarians and vegans can have a piece of turkey (bread), too ;-).

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This version of the bread is made healthier and even more festive via use of a sweet potato to provide softness and tenderness that was provided in the original recipe by egg yolks. So yes, I made brioche-inspired bread with no egg yolks, eggs, or butter, and yes, it turned out soft and fluffy and wonderful. In fact, I enjoyed the additional sweetness the sweet potato provided.

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This bread is super fun to make and serve and everyone will love it. As long as you plan ahead with ample time to let the dough rise, it’s pretty easy to make, as well. The assembly is also much easier than it looks if you glance at the directions. Honestly the easiest way to do it is to just look at the picture and try to copy the shape. It seems to work best. Or make your own shape! It’s really up to you; I just hope you do make it and enjoy it!

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I genuinely hope you have a terrific Thanksgiving and long weekend! It’s honestly one of my favorite times of year because matter your religion or background, everyone comes together to celebrate delicious food and family. What is better than that? Have a good one and eat all da noms ! :-).

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Prep Time: At least 4 hours (to allow ample time for yeast to rise)

Bake Time: 20-30 minutes

Level: Medium

Yield: 1 medium-sized turkey bread that would probably be enough to serve as a side for 4-6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 large sweet potato (about 1/2 a pound or 8 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil (can also use other vegetable oil, or non-dairy spread or butter)
  • 1 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 1 1/4-oz package dry active yeast (~2.5 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry (can sub all all-purpose flour or oat flour if desired)

Directions:

1. Cut sweet potato into small cubes (about 1 inch pieces) and place in a small sauce pan. Cover potato cubes with about 1″ water above the potatoes. Bring to a boil then reduce and simmer until the potato cubes are tender, about 15-18 minutes.

2. While potato is cooking, melt coconut oil in a second small saucepan and add almond milk and stir for about one minute.

3. Remove potato from heat. Strain the potato cubes, but KEEP THE POTATO LIQUID aka the water the potato pieces cooked in. I repeat, do not throw it away. Set it aside. This water has starch in it and you will use it to make your bread extra luscious and soft. Also, it’s basically #reclycing. #ecofriendly.

4. Take potato pieces and place in a medium sized bowl. Mash it and add stir in milk mixture and 1 tablspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Take 1/3 cup potato water and place in a microwave safe bowl or pyrex and heat to 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit. Actually take the time to use a food thermometer and check to make sure you’re in this range, or you can kill or under-activate the yeast and all your efforts will be lost! Once it’s in this range, add 1 tablespoon sugar and the sea salt and allow to sit until foamy, at least 10 minutes.

5. When foam is formed, transfer yeast mixture to potato mixture and stir. Add all the flours and mix with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough has formed. Knead for 5-10 minutes until dough is elastic-y and you have all your frustrations worked out. Then transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rolling surface with a small amount of flour or plastic wrap and grab a rolling pin. Punch down the dough (this redistributes the yeast #foodscience) and give it a few good kneads. Then, remove about 1/5th of the dough to make the bird’s body. Set this aside. Roll the rest of the dough into a ball, and flatten with a rolling pin into a giant circle.

7. To make the feathers: cut the dough like you would a pizza into small triangles. Flatten each triangle with a rolling pin, and roll, from narrow tip to thick side (if each were a pizza crust, from the tip to the crust) to form rolled cylinders. They can and should vary in size, as they are wings, and you need a variety of sizes!

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8. Take the 1/5th of dough you set aside. Roll about 80% of that into a small ball for the body of the turkey. Roll out the other small piece into a cylinder, and twist and shape one end of it into a head, with a beak, and add a small bead for an eye. Place onto the body of the turkey, and wrap the neck as desired. Move body onto parchment paper on a baking sheet and begin to assemble.

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9. Assemble feathers onto body by gently pressing the cylinders you rolled out into the body from behind. Place shorter cylinders towards the end, and the longer ones on top. If you need to cut and shape and re-roll a few, do it. Honestly this whole thing is easier to just look at the pictures and try to recreate the shape. Just pretend the dough is delicate play-doh I guess. Okay I spend too much time working with children and playing with play-doh.

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10. Cover turkey with a towel and allow to proof for at least an hour. Don’t skip this step. According to everything I learned in food science, the second rising is more important than the first.

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11. Place baking sheet into the oven and bake for 22-28 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges and puffed. When you lift the bread’s edges, the bottom should be slightly browned. And/or tap on the bread, and it should sound hollow. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

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12. Serve alongside your other favorite Thanksgiving noms and enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving :-D.

For more healthy takes on classic Thanksgivng dishes, click around below for awesome ideas from fellow members of The Recipe Redux !

15 thoughts on “Sweet Potato [Turkey Shaped] Bread

  1. SO glad you remembered this awesome tradition – I love making bread and can’t wait to try it out. Our tradition was sticking a felt turkey head that I made in 2nd grade on a pineapple laying on it side (which looked like the turkey body and feathers.) Did that for many many years 🙂

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