Saturday, December 1, 2007

Daring Bakers: Tender Potato Bread

I bit off more than I could chew in November. First, I signed on to do a blog challenge of organizing my office. Well, that wasn't so successful (though it's much better than it was). Then we celebrated my grandmother's 90th birthday and a week later celebrated by husband's grandmother's 90th birthday. Then it was Thanksgiving! By Thanksgiving night I was totally pooped! But, I still needed to complete my November Daring Bakers challenge!

I started the recipe at about 5pm on Saturday evening (not the best time to start a yeast bread, especially when you hosted 12 people for dinner 2 days earlier). I cooked the potatoes and kind of forgot about them on the stove (I'm a space cadet), so by the time I got to them they had largely become one with the cooking water. Now, I don't have a baking scale (maybe Santa will bring me one?) so I used 3 big potatoes--perhaps that was too many. I measured my potato water and I just about had 3 cups so just added a little extra water to it.

I followed the recipe, adding yeast, all purpose flour, and wheat flour and floured by counter top (I have a beautiful board given to me by D's cousins, but I hadn't
used it yet so needed to oil it before the first use and I just didn't have time for that). The dough was extremely sticky, but I figured this was how it was supposed to be. I kept kneading in flour until I ran out of all purpose flour (I hadn't measured before I started, I just assumed I had enough). The dough was still extremely sticky, so I kneaded in some whole wheat flour--not sure how much. Then I put the dough into a bowl, covered it with a towel, and set it on the mantel of our gas fireplace to rise. Then...I fell asleep!
Yes, in the midst of my bread-making, I fell asleep on the sofa. I woke up around 10 and realized I had to finish the bread! So, back to kneading, and it was still soooo sticky. I definitely think I over kneaded though. It was sticky and I was tired, so I buttered up 2 pans and a muffin tin and threw the dough in them (it was so sticky there was no "shaping" my loaf). Then I stuck the bread in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer dinged I stuck the muffin tin in the oven.

When the bread was done it looked nice, but man did it feel dense! I cut open one of the "rolls" to see what it was like. Okay, but dense. I ate it with some honey.On Sunday I was re-reading the recipe and that's when I saw it: "Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume." Oops! I forgot to let it rise in the pans before baking!!! So a combination of using more whole wheat flour than called for, over-kneading, and not doing the second rise made the bread very dense. But, I am pleased to report it still tasted very good. perfect with jam or honey on it, or to dunk in soup. I also made a very good "Pilgrim Sandwich" with it. Yum!

Lessons learned:
1) Measure all ingredients before starting in case you need to run out to the market
2) When instructions are given my weight, use a scale. Don't guess
3) Don't make a new recipe when you're tired, and don't start so late that you won't finish until past your bedtime
4) Read the entire recipe and make sure you understand the instructions before you begin

Oh, and the "Mrs." apron I'm wearing? That was a gift from my wedding caterer, Fine Catering by Russell Morin. If you need a caterer in Rhode Island or Massachusetts I very highly recommend them!

Here's the recipe if anyone would like to try it:

Tender Potato Bread

From Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf and something more (I made 2 8x4 loaves and 1 dozen muffin-tin rolls).

Potatoes and potato water give this bread wonderful flavor and texture. The dough is very soft and moist and might feel a little scary if you’ve never handled soft dough before. But don’t worry: Leaving it on parchment or wax paper to proof and to bake makes it easy to handle.

Once baked, the crumb is tender and airy, with ting soft pieces of potato in it and a fine flecking of whole wheat. The loaves have a fabulous crisp texture on the outside and a slightly flat-topped shape. They make great toast and tender yet strong sliced bread for sandwiches.


4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold

For the beginner I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces.

4 cups water (See Note)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour

For Loaves and Rolls: melted butter (optional)

Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.

Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well.

Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to make 3 cups). Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread in and let cool to lukewarm – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.

Add yeast one of two ways:

Mix & stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes & water and let stand 5 minutes. Then mix in 2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix. Allow to rest several minutes.

Add yeast to 2 cups all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.

Sprinkle on the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.

Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.

At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.

As a beginner, you may be tempted to add more flour than needed. Most/many bread recipes give a range of flour needed. This is going to be a soft dough. At this point, add flour to the counter slowly, say a ¼ cup at a time. Do not feel you must use all of the suggested flour. When the dough is soft and smooth and not too sticky, it’s probably ready.

Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.

Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds (one will be twice as large as the other). Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:

Butter a 9X5 inch loaf/bread pan.

Flatten the larger piece of dough on the floured surface to an approximate 12 x 8 inch oval, then roll it up from a narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and gently place seam side down in the buttered pan. The dough should come about three-quarters of the way up the sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 35 to 45 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled in volume.

To make a small loaf with the remainder:

Butter an 8 x 4 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.

Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter. Slash loaves crosswise two or three times with a razor blade or very sharp knife and immediately place on the stone, tiles or baking sheet in the oven. Place the rolls next to the loaf in the oven.

Bake rolls until golden, about 30 minutes.
Bake the small loaf for about 40 minutes.
Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes.

Transfer the rolls to a rack when done to cool. When the loaf or loaves have baked for the specified time, remove from the pans and place back on the stone, tiles or baking sheet for another 5 to 10 minutes. The corners should be firm when pinched and the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Let breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.
Interested in being a Daring Baker? Check out the blogroll site for information on joining the group, and check out all of the other Daring Bakers' blogs!


creampuff said...

I have fallen asleep many times in the midst of baking so not to worry! I loved all the pics of you working with the dough!

Dolores said...

I'm with Ivonne... your photo stream tells the story of this dough perfectly. I'm glad you were able to complete the challenge despite a busy month, and look forward to seeing what you have to offer in December.

Deborah said...

So glad you were able to do this challenge! I love all of the pics!

Christina said...

Great play-by-play pictures! Even if you didn't let them rise, the loaves and rolls still look beautiful.

Thanks for the kind words you left on my blog about Cat (I feel the same way about cats) and I'm sorry to hear about Lancelot. I can't believe it was the same day and I think Cat was also 18, too.

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats