Daring Bakers Challenge – Tender Potato Bread

I had a quiet chuckle when it was announced by Tanna (My Kitchen In Half Cups) the Daring Bakers Challenge for November was for tender potato bread. I have “a thing” about working with yeast and making bread. I’m a lot less scared of it now than I ever was after a run of making my own sourdough loaves thanks to Suse but it is still not something that sits completely calmly with me.

Couple that apprehension with the tales of fellow bakers far more organised than I who were making the bread many times over throughout the month.

And then suddenly it was the 24th and I was all g’ah, I have to make bread! Being a slow learner, I have spent many a night up until the small hours of the morning after starting to make something that whoops, needs a few hours to proof, so today, granted, was the day of posting and the day of making, but it all happened during daylight hours and was a delicious part of dinner, which was a Nigella recipe in keeping with my month long ode to the cooking uber chick.

The short story is this makes a LOT of dough and the dough is very light and sticky. Very. I used the full 8 1/2 cups of flour and probably could have kept adding more had I not got bored of kneading the blasted thing. That said, it was a beautifully pliable dough that resulted in a very soft, dense, chewy bread. Would I make it again? If I was in the mood for a very real commitment to some serious carbs. Otherwise I am really much more of a sourdough girl. This is the sort of bread you want when you’re really looking for those Comfort Carbs. A friend of mine calls Tom Hanks “white bread on white bread” and indeed, this fits that ilk, and is a bread, so there you have it, this makes the Tom Hanks of bread.

The notion of knocking it back after the first rise was pretty challenging as it is just such a soft loaf it did it itself. It was at that point I was kinda glad I’d made up my mind to make it into two focaccias because the thought of trying to turn this wet claggy goo into rolls just seemed way too challenging for my heavy hands.

After the first rise, knocked back and placed in baking trays

Having done a quick whizz through the blogosphere at some other people’s efforts I am feeling very very slack in my two simple focaccias and now I feel like going back to it, making it again and trying some of the amazingly creative things I’ve seen (check out Bread Chick‘s work – it is gold, pure gold).

So go visit everyone else and see just how daring some of the bakers among us truly are.

Tender Potato Bread

  • 4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (I used five smallish potatoes which were 500g or 16oz)
  • (Note from Tanna: For the beginner bread baker I suggest no more than 8 ounces of potato; for the more advanced no more than 16 ounces. The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include Idaho, Russet & Yukon gold, there are others.)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour
  1. Put the potatoes and 4 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil, add the 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender
  2. Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well
  3. Measure out 3 cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed)
  4. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in and let it cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 – 29°C) – 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 (this takes some time).
  5. Add yeast to 2 cups of the all-purpose flour and add to the cooled mashed potatoes & water then allow it to rest for 5 minutes
    (Note about adding yeast: If using active dry yeast or fresh yeast, mix and stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes and let stand for 5 minutes, then add the 2 cups of flour and allow to rest for several minutes. If using instant dry yeast, add the yeast to the 2 cups of all-purpose flour and then add to the cooled mashed potatoes and water and allow it to rest/sit for the 5 minutes)
  6. Sprinkle in the 1 tablespoon of salt and the softened butter; mix well
  7. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly
  8. Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated
    (Tanna Note: At this point you have used 4 cups of the possible 8 ½ cups suggested by the recipe)
  9. Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking
  10. 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
  11. The kneaded dough will still be very soft
  12. Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise for about 2 hours or until it’s doubled in volume
  13. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes – it will be moist and a little sticky
    (Kim note: it was so soft and sticky I literally turned it out onto the bench, cut it into two pieces and pushed it into the trays I was using.)

Forming the Bread
For a large and small loaf
Divide the dough into 2 unequal pieces in a proportion of one-third and two-thirds. Place the smaller piece to one side and cover loosely.

To shape the large loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 x 2.5 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 8x4X2 inch bread pan. Shape and proof the loaf the same way as the large loaf.

To make rolls
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.

To make focaccia
Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your palms and fingertips. Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour. Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.

Baking the bread(s)
Note about baking order: bake the flat-bread before you bake the loaf; bake the rolls at the same time as the loaf.

Note about Baking Temps: I believe that 450°F(230°C) is going to prove to be too hot for the either the large or small loaf of bread for the entire 40/50 minutes. I am going to put the loaves in at 450°(230°C) for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 375°F (190 °C) for the remaining time.

Note about cooling times: Let all the breads cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Rolls can be served warm or at room temperature.
For loaves and rolls
Dust risen loaves and rolls with a little all-purpose flour or lightly brush the tops with a little melted butter or olive oil (the butter will give a golden/browned crust). 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.
For foccaia
Place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, if not use a no edged baking/sheet (you want to be able to slide the shaped dough on the parchment paper onto the stone or baking sheet and an edge complicates things). Place the stone or cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C.

If making foccacia, just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Leaving it on the paper, transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Part of dinner tonight:


The making of Suse’s sourdough.
A short story.

There is someone in our blogsphere who has a life I crave aspects of – the home with an outlook, the new kitchen, children at a Steiner school, the ability to knit, to name just a few. She makes bread. This is probably the pinnacle anyone can reach in my esteem.

So one day, she generously shared her sourdough recipe with the world. This caught me by surprise as some of her other baking efforts were well, funny looking.

I made the starter. It doesn’t look like hers. But it smells all fermenty and sour.

I followed the recipe. I may have forgotten one of the cups of flour, but am not sure. I (very very stupidly and completely due to total sleep deprivation) started making it after dinner with children everywhere and crying coming from what seemed like every possible orifice of all of them.

So I had to keep adding flour. And more flour. And more.

Due to my kneading insecurities I was leaving that job to the Kitchen Aid. Maybe this was part of the problem – kneading too fast? too long? Who knows. It kept ending up like a very smooth silken goop.

I sort of gave up, knowing it was going to be a leaden mass due to all of this. And then it was really late. So I moved it to the laundry to stop it rising anymore (it was cooler in there) and then faced it the following morning.

I cooked it, but as suspected, it was just a dense dense dense mass. The taste was sensational – a really decent sourdough flavour – and it had a really good crust (I can’t stand sourdough which has a soft crust) and tasted magnificent with salted butter.

Next time I’ll do all the kneading by hand and add a little more salt.

But still the cooking mojo is not quite as it should be. (And you know, when I cook something that doesn’t hit the mark or is not quite right, it affects my mood. Greatly.)

Suse’s Sourdough*

The starter
2 cups tepid water
2 cups bread flour (a good quality all purpose flour with a high protein content)
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Mix together in a ceramic or glass bowl with a wooden spoon (do not use metal bowls or implements)
Sit the starter, covered, in a warm location for a week, gently stirring once a day.

When you use some of your starter to make a loaf, you must ‘feed’ the remaining starter with 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water.
If you don’t use your starter once a week, throw away a cup of it and feed it with fresh flour and water.
It can also be frozen if you are going away on holiday. On your return, thaw it in the fridge, and then when thawed, remove a cupful and feed as usual.

The dough
1/2 cup tepid water
1 cup sourdough starter
2 1/4 cup bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 tbsp yeast

Mix the ingredients together, turn out onto a bench and knead. Return to the bowl and let rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and knead gently, pulling all the creases to the bottom.
Place the dough smooth side down into a bowl lined with a floured teatowel.
Cover and stand in a warm location for an hour or until doubled in size.
Turn the bowl onto a greased oven tray and gently remove the teatowel.
Score the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
Bake on the middle shelf of a hot (210 celsius) oven with a dish of boiling water on the bottom shelf to create steam, for 20 minutes.
Reduce to a moderate (180 celsius) heat and bake for a further 15-20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

*For the original with glorious pictures, visit Suse here. Suse – if I’ve got any of this wrong, let me know and I’ll amend it!

So I know make it following the recipe above and knead it by hand for 9 minutes. It is a wet dough so I just add more flour as required as I knead it. I then give it a light knockback, shape it as I want and let it rise the second time.

For an olive loaf, roughly chop 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives and fold through after you’ve knocked it back.