Patience is the unspoken ingredient that makes for perfect roasted sweet potatoes. At moderate oven heat, they remain stubbornly firm for almost an hour. Then all at once, molten caramelized sugar bursts through splits in the potato skins and the texture folds into a sticky ripe softness. After this stage I like to let them sit in a covered pan at room temperature so they cool slowly. This allows every last starch molecule to break down into sugar form. Cooked in this way, a sweet potato is almost candy-like and well worth the wait.
Patience … it’s a virtue, but not unconditionally virtuous. The dark side of patience is passivity. This past year was a challenging one as I moved cities, adjusted to changes at work, and battled running injuries. (I’m referring to the lunar year, not the Western calendar year - 2/8 was the first day of Chinese New Year!) Chinese people believe your zodiac year is an unlucky one, and that a lot needs to be done to counteract this: wearing red, avoiding haircuts for the first month, and other actions that range from trivial to ridiculous. I took none of these measures last year, and when sheep year had obstacles – as all years do — I told myself I just had to patiently wait out the calendar! It was easy to blame my Chinese zodiac sign rather than poor execution or rash decision-making. Obviously there were many good and even great things that happened through the year (including starting this blog!), all of which I of course took full credit for. Superstition is very one-sided that way.
The other eleven years of the zodiac cycle, I tend to have very practical view on luck: you create your own. I suppose I have a little over a decade before I decide whether to stock up on red socks!
Whether it has anything to do with luck or not, monkey year is off to a good start with this sweet potato and black sesame loaf. It’s pleasantly sweet but not cloying, mildly nutty from generous black sesame inside and atop the bread. Full-fat Greek yogurt makes for a soft, rich texture – no butter necessary. I cut a slice, then another, until I had eaten half the loaf in one sitting. Some habits don’t change in a new year.
Black Sesame Sweet Potato Bread Recipe (makes 1 loaf that should serve 8-10; adapted from Running With Spoons Banana Bread)
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. - optional
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
- 1 cup roasted sweet potato, mashed (I roast mine at 325 degrees until they are quite tender, which should take an hour or more depending on size)
- 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1/2 cup black sesame paste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a loaf pan (or a muffin pan, and adjust baking time accordingly - 15-18 min should do the trick).
Mix the dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) together in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add in the yogurt, sweet potato, and honey or maple syrup.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just combined and do your best to not overmix.
Pour half the batter into the loaf pan, then add in half the black sesame paste, spreading evenly. Pour remainder of batter into the pan. Cover with remainder of black sesame paste.
Bake for ~40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.