Southern ingredients take priority at the Nashville restaurant Husk: Tennessee trout and vegetables, South Carolina rice, even Georgia olive oil. That’s why pastry chef Rachel Rathgeb leans on sweet potatoes. “We can get them year-round from our farmers, and they’re always great quality,” Rathgeb says. Currently, sweet potatoes appear on Rathgeb’s dessert menu in a sweet potato bread that’s griddled and then served with peanut toffee sauce.
Technically a quick bread, it eats like a moist cake, Rathgeb says. Like any quick bread, this recipe comes together simply and requires neither fuss nor careful watching. That’s useful in the restaurant kitchen, but it’s a boon for home bakers too, especially beginners. “I feel like this is a great entry into baking,” Rathgeb says. Unlike butter-based cakes, in which temperatures matter more and might require techniques like creaming, this oil-based bread is more forgiving.
Sweet potatoes, in the form of puree, take up some of the role that butter would otherwise play by adding moisture, flavor, and a pleasing denseness to the bread. Roasting the sweet potatoes before pureeing them ensures that they add a rich toasty flavor. The key to the best texture is mixing until the batter is just combined with no visible dry pockets of flour, Rathgeb notes.
After baking, Rathgeb likes to slice the cake and then brown both sides in clarified butter before serving, a choice inspired by her preferred way to eat leftover muffins. She then places the griddled bread over the peanut toffee sauce, which further boosts its toasty flavor. If you’re lucky enough to have leftover sauce, save it in a container in the fridge and warm it up to drizzle — Rathgeb says it would be great on top of ice cream.
Sweet Potato Bread Recipe
Makes 1 (9x5-inch) loaf
For the bread:
1 large (12-ounce) sweet potato
1¾ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
½ cup (118 ml) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
For the peanut toffee sauce:
⅓ cup unsalted butter
1 ¾ cup (400 grams) brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 cup (237 ml) heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
⅓ cup (85 grams) creamy peanut butter
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup finely chopped roasted salted peanuts, for garnish
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, for pan frying the sliced bread
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Poke the sweet potato with a knife a few times and place it on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until it squishes easily when squeezed with an oven mitt, about 1 hour. Split the sweet potato lengthwise and scoop out the flesh and mash until you have 1 cup (8 ounces) Set aside to cool. Reserve any remaining sweet potato for another use.
Step 2: Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line the bottom and the long sides with a piece of parchment.
Step 3: Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Set aside.
Step 4: Combine the sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 1 minute.
Step 5: Add the eggs to the bowl one at a time, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl between additions.
Step 6: Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low until just blended. Add half of the sweet potatoes and mix on low until just blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, the remaining sweet potatoes. Stir in the remaining flour by hand.
Step 7: Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean with a few crumbs, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let stand at room temperature until completely cooled. Wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Step 8: To make the toffee sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar, cream, and salt into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.
Remove the saucepan from the stove and add the peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth.
Step 9: To serve, slice the bread into 8 slices. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add half of the bread slices and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining butter and bread slices.
Step 10: Place the bread slices on dessert plates. Spread the peanuts generously across the top of the slices. Pour the warm toffee sauce around the base of the slices and serve.
Dina Ávila is a photographer in Portland, Oregon.
Recipe tested by Ivy Manning