I tweeted a few pic's yesterday of things I made from a sweet potato sweet dough. Why? Well, I'm off for a week, and I had been waiting for the opportunity to work with this old recipe again. Expect more random nonsensical stuff.
Actually, this was sparked by a little more than that. My very first ever cooking job (meaning that I was actually dealing with and making things that people could eat and put into their bodies) was as an overnight baker in a suburban New Orleans supermarket. Supermarket bakeries are strangely typical of each other and I would not have lasted more than a week in it had it not been for my 12am to 8am shift where I didn't have to deal with other employees or customers. My regular routine would be to leave work and wait for the Rally's across the street to open at 9am, order 2 burgers and some seasoned fries, eat them, then go to sleep. My palate was really refined during this time... obviously not... definite low point food-wise. But despite this, it was an exciting time because I was learning to work with dough, and although some of the 'from scratch' elements were removed I still got to experience the feeling of making bread. From then, I eventually got hired on as a pizza maker in an Italian restaurant Uptown and the rest is a blurry memory.
One of our regular prep items overnight was making a huge batch of sweet dough that would ultimately end up as half of the items we had for sale. The versatility of some recipes (like sweet dough) make them indispensible as chef tools. Think about all of those Top Chef episodes where they break out the dreaded 'pastry challenge.' All the cheftestants roll their eyes up and put on looks of surprise and fear... c'mon, they break this out every season and it's still a surprise. You do not have to be a pastry chef, but simply memorizing and learning how to work with a handful of solid recipes one could fly through this challenge like some sort of Super Mr. Superhero (alright, that link has nothing to do with anything here, but it's super cool). Point being that by learning to make one thing, you can easily convert it into much coolness.
The donut... this one is easy, but does require frying. The cool part is that you can use a left-over set of take-out chopsticks to flip them like the pros... and it's fun. No point and shoot pic of the sweet potato donut, but I tweeted one here. These are easy. Just roll out the dough to a half-inch or less, cut the rings, let proof then fry. A donut cutter makes it easier, but you can wing it. If you want them glazed, a simple solution of a little bit of water (or milk) and powdered sugar works well.
The beignet... basically a donut, right? Sort of, but not. These are fried up like little puffed pillows then dusted with enough powdered sugar to reenact the last scene from Scarface. Same procedure, roll out thin, cut into rectangles or diamond shapes, drop and fry. Great with cafe au lait.
Cinnamon buns (or any variation thereof)... A little more complex, but just roll out the dough fairly thin, brush with melted butter, sprinkle on brown sugar and cinnamon, roll up, cut, proof, bake, glaze. Try snickerdoodles by adding nuts and baking them in muffin pans.
Fritters... back to the frying. What to do with the scraps from cutting all of those donuts? Chop them into pieces and add in pieces of your cut fruit of choice (these are sweet potato peach fritters... pretty Southern sounding). Shape them like the picture above, chopping and shaping with a bench knife. Allow to lightly proof, then fry.
Versatility. I'm sure there are countless other variations of things you can make with sweet dough, but that currently fulfills my pastry quota for the year.