Monday, 26 November 2007

The Daring Bakers Strike Again

One of the best parts of being part of the Daring Bakers is that it forces me to make recipes that I would not otherwise have picked but end up really loving (like last month’s Bostini Cream Pie) or those that are out of my comfort zone. This month’s challenge was just that. The recipe for the month, hosted by Tanna, was Tender Potato Bread and bread is definitely not my forte. Sure, I’ve made bread before but it has tended to be of the no-knead variety made popular by Mark Bittman.

This month then I got to confront my inner bread demons and take on the challenge of making bread with potato which I’m told makes the dough softer and slightly harder to handle. Our host for the month helpfully suggested that newbies to bread not use more than 8 oz of potato and since I definitely fall into that camp, I measured out my potato to weigh exactly that.

As warned, the dough was indeed extremely soft and sticky to start. With patient kneading and the slow addition of flour though, the dough became increasingly easier to manage and less sticky. Still, I’m no expert and I must say I was relieved when it came time to put the dough away to rise. I chose probably the easiest, though no less satisfying shape – a regular loaf.

While the loaf was baking in the oven, I was really happy to see how impressively it had risen. Whenever I’ve made no-knead bread, my bread never really rises up that high because I use a dutch oven that’s just way too big for the mass of dough. What that means is that I tend to get great tasting bread that makes short, wide sandwiches! This time, as you can see from the pictures posted here, I finally baked bread that looks like a traditional sandwich loaf. Taste-wise I was also extremely happy with the bread. To me, the most noteworthy feature of this bread was the texture of the crumb which I found exceedingly soft and moist. I’ll definitely be adding this delightful bread to my baking repertoire and thanks once again to the Daring Bakers for showing me that baking really doesn’t have to be that hard.

PS: You can check out the results of all the other DBers here.

Tender Potato Bread
From Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World

4 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
4 cups water
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

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.

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.
Makes 1 large tender-crumbed pan loaf and something more; one 10X15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia, 12 soft dinner rolls, or a small pan loaf