[Potatoes on Monday* - Tender potato bread]

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Ever since those two weeks, which I restlessly spent mostly mixing flour, butter and yeast or shaping croissants and brioches, I’ve been a bread-making addict.
It seems to have that double-effect-factor. The act of making the dough come together in a nice smooth ball certainly is relaxing, but the greatest part is the facial expressions of both my parents and sister when they bite into a warm slice of freshly baked homemade bread. And trust me, this is just priceless, and makes you forget that a couple of hours before your hands were stuck in a sticky mess.

As you may have noticed, my go-to recipe comes from Dan Lepard. It’s simple and reliable, and the end-result – a loaf of fluffy white bread – tastes terrific. I usually make at least one batch a week: for lunchbox sandwiches or just to dip in my usual dinner soup.
However, I’m always happy to find new recipes, especially when it comes to bread. For this month’s daring bakers challenge, Tanna gave me the opportunity to try out a lovely potato bread.

The experiment
This tender potato bread is made of:
- boiled potatoes
- cooking water from the potatoes
- active dry yeast
- white flour
- whole wheat flour
- salt
- butter

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This soft bread is made special with the addition of cooked potatoes and their cooking liquid. The amount of potato you use will have a direct impact on the stickiness of the dough. Thus, Tanna suggested to add from 230 to 450g of potatoes (weighed raw), depending on how confident you feel.
I went for middle-ness and decided to peel and chop 4 medium sized potatoes, for a total weight of 320g.

It all starts by boiling them in one litre of water until tender and cooked through. I did not add salt to the water as it’s known to slow down the yeast fermentation – which I don’t want.
The cooking liquid is then measured and only 750ml is kept.
Given that I was looking for some interesting texture, I placed both the potatoes and water in a bowl, and mashed with my forks until few lumps remained.

Once this mixture reaches 32°C, which is the optimal yeast fermentation temperature (lower when using fresh yeast as it’s more sensitive to temperature changes), you can mix in the active dry yeast.
Adding the yeast to warm liquid is essential in the case of active dry yeast. However, any other type of yeasts will benefit from this step as it allows the cells to wake up steadily. Being spanked isn’t an option for your mornings, is it? So expect the same for your loved yeast cells.

The yeast/water mixture is left for ten minutes at room temperature. the cells will find all they need to start working efficiently: warmness and fermentable sugars. The presence of mashed potatoes and their cooking water also plays a great role in waking-up the yeast. Indeed, potato starch is degraded more rapidly than wheat starch. Hence, the initial growth will be quick and significant, making for a great production of carbon dioxide = bubbles!

Once the yeasts have had plenty of time to get moist and fluffy, 130g of whole wheat flour is added along with 250g of plain flour. Here, the whole wheat flour is mostly used for flavour and texture, and is in my opinion a great add-on.
It’s briefly mixed, just until soggy and lumpy, and then left for a couple of minutes. At this point, the dough has the perfect consistency for adding salt and butter, which enhances the softness of the dough.

Another 250g of plain flour is then added. The dough will be very sticky but you still have 500g of flour to add. How, you may ask. Just don’t dump it directly onto your dough, but generously flour (= 250g) a surface and start kneading.
Given that I like wet doughs as they make fantastic breads, but hate to have my hands covered with so much dough lumps that I can’t move my fingers anymore, I came up with a great method for kneading wet doughs.
Wet your hands. Dip them in the nearest flour bag. Yes, it’s that easy!
Now, it’s time to stretch and fold for 10 minutes, incorporating flour and air as you go. The dough will start to feel firmer. However, if it ever happens to start sticking again, adding more flour and getting your hands clean-wet-and-flour-covered will work like charm.
At the end of the process, I suggest that you keep at least 60g of flour for the next steps.

The first fermentation was fast. I mean really fast. In an hour, I had created a monster. All bubbly and ropy and sticky.
I put the dough back on my marble with the remaining flour and gently pressed it down to get the air out. Do not worry if it’s gooey. It should. Just handle it as you can and place it – or like me, throw it – in a pan for proofing.
The baking is long and barely bearable as the bread fills your house with warming potato and golden-crust (or more accurately Maillard-generated) aromas.

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Soooo…
This bread was soft and fragrant and I’m sure I’ll make it again. Although the dough is quite sticky, it’s funny to work with.
I was pleased to see how fast it was to make. Potatoes do really have an amazing impact on yeasts’ growth, not to mention the pleasing flavour they bring.

* The title refers to a French song much loved by children, which sounds like:
Lundi, des patates.
Mardi, des patates.

Dimanche, des patates aussi.