Sweet potatoes and generous use of added butter make this challah feel especially Southern. Yes, I am emphatically pro-butter. No, that does not make me pro-Paula Deen. Just because she loves butter doesn’t mean we can’t, too. Oh, and don’t forget the sage - the difference it makes is well worth the hassle.
Makes 2 3-braid loaves or one large, 6-braid loaf
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 large pinch of sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 whole egg + 2 yolks, + one additional whole egg for egg wash
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour + more for dusting
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (1 medium sweet potato should make enough)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Peel the sweet potato, cut it into 1-inch chunks, place it in a medium sized pot, cover with a few inches of cold water and bring it to a boil. Let it boil about 5 to 10 minutes - until soft enough to easily break up with a fork. Remove from heat, drain, place in a bowl and mash.
While the mashed sweet potato cools, melt the butter in a small saucepan, adding thc sage. Cook it over low heat until just melted. Take off heat and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add a pinch of sugar to help it get started. Once the yeast has become foamy (about 5 to 10 minutes), pour in the honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, eggs, mashed sweet potato, and salt, and stir until everything is well blended.
Add the flour one cup at a time - it’ll be much easier that way. Once all of the flour is incorporated into the dough, knead it on a well-floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Place the dough in a large, lightly greased mixing bowl, cover it, and wait until it has doubled in size - about 1 to 2 hours.
Punch down the dough, divide it into 6 equal portions and form them into strands of about 18 inches in length. Braid the strands into either two three-braid loaves or on six-braid loaf. Once formed, cover the dough and let it rise until the dough has puffed up to one and a half times its original size - about one hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. About 5 minutes before the baking, crack the extra egg into a small bowl and mix in one tablespoon of water. Brush the egg mixture all over each loaf, taking care to get every nook and cranny and making sure that the liquid doesn’t pool in any one area.
Bake for about 25 minutes - a fully baked loaf should be a deep golden color with no doughy looking parts along the seams.
Allow the bread to cool for at least one hour before serving. This bread goes well with sage butter, or really just about anything.