I recently joined an online community of home cooks and bakers. Every month we are given a challenge recipe that each of us tries. Everyone must follow certain elements of the recipe but there is room for creative license. On a given day at the end of the month we post our results on our various blogs.
My first challenge recipe to make was the tender potato bread. I have to say that I was somewhat bummed that it was not a gorgeous dessert! It worked out just fine though because I served the bread at my Thanksgiving dinner.
It was also surprisingly easy to do the basic recipe. I was nervous about doing anything complicated since I'd never handled potato dough but it was a success!
The crumb is moist and dense with bits of potato but not at all heavy or stodgy. I don't know what baking chemistry occurred to make that happen. I'm not a huge baker, so I am always impressed by the magic of food chemistry.
The recipe makes one loaf plus a small loaf, or 12 dinner rolls, or a foccacia. I chose the loaf and dinner roll. The loaf was especially gorgeous. I didn't like the shape of the rolls. I was hoping for rounder. They looked more like hockey pucks than baseballs. While very tasty, I would have preferred something a little more attractive.
No one seemed to mind the hockey pucks, and maybe I'm exaggerating, because we ate them up. I sent half a loaf of bread home with some friends and I kept the other half for the endless cycle of turkey sandwiches.
Here is the recipe as I followed it for tender potato bread:
2 large Idaho potatoes (approx 8 0z), peeled and cut up
4 cups of water, save this water after boiling potatoes
1T plus 1t of salt
1 package of active dry yeast
7 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
1T unsalted butter softened
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use Bob's Red Mill...they are nice people)
Put potatoes and water in a pot and bring to boil, then add 1t. salt. Cook until potatoes are very tender. Drain but SAVE the potato water. Thoroughly mash the potatoes w/ a masher or food mill.
Measure out 3 cups of the potato water, adding additional water if necessary to make 3 cups. Put the water and the potatoes into the bowl you plan to mix the dough in. Allow to cool to lukewarm and mix well. I cooled the dough to 100F on a candy thermometer (as I am notorious at killing yeast by putting it into hot water).
Sprinkle the yeast over the water/potato mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir. Then add 2 cups of the unbleached flour. Mix well. Allow it to rest another 5 minutes. Stir in remaining 1T of salt and softened butter. Add the 1 cup of whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 2 cups of the unbleached flour and stir until it is incorporated. At this point 4 of the 7 cups of flour will have been used.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface (you'll need the remaining 3 cups of flour for the surface and you'll pick up the flour as you knead the dough) and knead for 10 minutes. This is my favorite part!
Bear in mind that this is a very soft dough even once it is kneaded. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl cover w/ lid or plastic wrap also oiled (I smear some butter on everything so there is no sticking). Allow it to rise for 2 hours or almost double in volume. My bowl wasn't quite big enough so the dough raneth over.
Turn the dough out again onto a floured surface and need gently for several more minutes. Divide the dough into two unequal portions: one portion is 2/3 of the dough, the other is 1/3 of the dough.
Shape the larger piece, on a floured surface, into a 12 x 8 inch rectangle. Roll it up from the narrow end to form a loaf. Pinch the seam closed and place the loaf seam side down into a buttered 9 x 5 x 2.5 loaf pan. Cover and let rise 35 or 45 minutes or until puffy and almost doubled.
Shape the rolls by dividing the smaller piece of dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls. Place them in a buttered 13 x 9 cake pan or baking sheet leaving 1/2 inch between the balls. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes until puffy and almost doubled.
Brush dough with butter. Slash the top of the loaf three times with a sharp knife. Bake at 450F for 10 minutes. Then put the oven on 375 for the remaing time: the rolls cook for an additional 25 to 30 minutes and the loaf for an additional 40 to 45 minutes.