A few months ago I decided it was time to kick my baking up a notch and join the Daring Bakers group. Without sounding like a snot, I consider myself a pretty darn good baker. But I tend to stick with the things I know how to do–cookies, cakes, pies. I always think, “man I really should try the Lemon Scented Panna Cotta with Raspberry Sauce” but never seem to find the right occasion for such a treat. So I figured the DB group would be a terrific force to knock me out of my ruts.
When I saw this month’s selection I was really surprised. In my mind baking always equals sweet, never savory. What’s that saying?…Ask and ye shall receive? And boy did I ever receive with the Daring Baker’s November selection–Tender Potato Bread. Since I haven’t ventured much outside the sweet baking I obviously haven’t done too much bread baking. Okay, that actually means I’ve never done any bread baking. I remember a time during high school when my mom got her hands on a sourdough starter and made all sorts of sourdough concoctions. But that’s basically my only exposure to bread baking.
I was a little nervous when I started this project. What if I failed miserably at my first DB challenge? Luckily I didn’t and the bread turned out really really well, especially for a first time bread maker. The host of this month’s challenge Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups kept reminding us that this is a very sticky dough, and I think my listening to her helped me bake a good first-time bread. This dough was INCREDIBLY sticky, compared to the only doughs I’ve worked with before (pizza and pie crust). And the big lumps of potatoes worried me as well, but it all seemed to melt together in the oven. If you can let go of your preconceived ideas on what a finished dough should look like this is a relatively easy bread for first timers to make.
Tender Potato Bread
10 oz. of peeled, chopped Dutch Butter Potatoes
4 cups water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 1/2 – 8 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 7 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 cup whole wheat flour
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 – directions will be for by hand. 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.
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. 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.
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. Bake the large loaf for about 50 minutes at 350F.
To make rolls with the remainder:
Butter a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake pan or a shallow cake pan. Cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball under the palm of your floured hand and place on the baking sheet, leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 35 minutes, until puffy and almost doubled.
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (I sprayed mine with olive oil cooking spray and sprinkled them with garlic salt to make garlic bread rolls). 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 at 350F.
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.