Baby it’s cold outside… like -22F I mean (and lower at night!). Doesn’t seem believable but sadly it’s true. What’s a girl to do in weather like this? Bake , of course. And make it comfort food please. Like soups, stews, chocolate chip cookies, and fresh bread. Warm out of the oven fresh bread. That should help a little with this kind of cold. And it does. Needless to say I haven’t been outside much this past week. It’s been crazy cold like this for the past week so there has been a lot of home time, which can be really nice sometimes. My daughter and I have been able to play a lot of games together this week and I have had the chance to bake this wonderful bread. Potatoes are used two ways in this bread. First, the potato water, or I should say, the water that the potato is cooked in. It is rich in starch and flavor. Second, the boiled potato itself. This make the bread moist and supple with a crisp crust. So good.
This recipe comes from one of my favorite bread books Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. I picked it up a long time ago at a local book sale for $3C. Worth every penny, and then some. No fancy pictures, but simple to follow instructions. These are recipes, so it’s not about techniques or the science behind bread baking, which is why I like it so much. I am not an advanced bread baker with knowledge about the percentage of moisture in my starter. Maybe one day I’ll get there. I just know that I like to bake bread. A lot. This book gives you three methods for every recipe; by hand, by standing mixer, and by processor. It’s a real every mans kind of book. Wait, I mean, every bakers kind of book. So, Bake on!
* A small note about yeast in this recipe. I have made this using 2 different kinds of yeast with different rising times. When I use active dry yeast, I measure out 1/2 cup of the potato water and let it sit until it is 100F. I then add the yeast and proof it for ten minutes before adding it to the flour with the hot potato water mixture. This first rise takes about 1 1/2. This particular time I used instant dry yeast (SAF gold) and followed the recipe below with my rise only taking 50 minutes. I can’t say I could taste any difference, especially since they weren’t side by side. In other words, use what you have on hand!
This recipe makes 2 loaves and freezes beautifully. I made braided loaves but you can also use 2 loaf pans
2 small to medium potatoes or 1 large one (which is what I used)
2 cups water
5 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
4 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast, or 2 packages
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 Cup unsalted butter
Peel the potato (es) and bring to a boil with the water in a medium-sized pot. Cook until tender. Drain, saving the water, and rice or mash the potato. Set them both aside. You should have 1 3/4 cups potato water left; if not add some tap water if necessary.
Stir together 3 cups of flour, the yeast, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.
Place the riced potato, potato water and butter back into the pot. Stir in all together and heat, if necessary, to 120F (yes, this is hot). Add to the flour mixture. Using the dough hook attachment (or beat by hand using a wooden spoon), add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time. The dough will be sticky at first, but this will change as you sprinkle in the flour. The dough will clean the sides of the bowl and form a ball. Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Place the ball of dough into a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in volume. This will take 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on your yeast*
Punch down the dough and divide into 2 equal pieces ( a kitchen scale is quite handy and I recommend everyone treat themselves to this very useful item- otherwise, just eye it as best as possible). If you want to make a braid, divide one of your pieces into 3 more equal pieces. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes and then roll the pieces out into 14 inch ropes and braid then, making sure to pinch the ends together tightly. I like to slightly roll the ends under. Repeat with the other piece of dough and place these on a large, parchment lined baking sheet with about 4 inches of space between them. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 40 minutes.
Bake for 15 minutes and then turn your oven down to 350F and bake for an additional 25 minutes. If they brown too quickly, cover them loosely with a piece of foil. They are fully baked when they bottom of the bread sounds hard and hollow when tapped with your finger.
Cool on a wire cooling rack (for as long as you can wait, which was only about 10 minutes in our house).