daring bakers: a taste of two potato breads
the only bread i make regularly is flat bread so i was looking forward to trying this, especially given tanna’s descriptions: “potatoes and potato water give this bread wonderful flavour and texture… once baked, the crumb is tender and airy, with tiny soft pieces of potato in it and a fine flecking of whole wheat.” the recipe offered the option of making different shapes with the dough but i was sold on the fact that “the focaccia is memorable.”
a reread of the recipe triggered a slight nervousness in me as the dough is apparently very soft and moist, so i steeled myself for some very messy kitchen baking! and then things got interesting – there was a baking supplement in the saturday paper which included dan lepard’s recipe for olive oil and potato focaccia-style flatbread.
the method was different – the tender potato bread uses cooked mashed potato whereas dan’s uses grated raw potato. however, they both shared the characteristic of extra-sticky dough. i decided to make both and see which produced the definitive potato foccacia
so, how did i get on?
making both doughs at the same time was quite easy as they each involve regular breaks while the dough rises.
as you’ll see from the original recipe, the tender potato bread is a little odd in that you only add around half the flour to the mix before you start kneading it. i found that i needed all the flour, plus some extra to get a dough that was kneadable and wouldn’t run off the kitchen surface onto the floor. my dough didn’t rise very well at any stage so the regular instructions of waiting for it to double in size were regular moments of disappointment.
the lepard dough was much more fun to make – the texture was instantly more sensual to work with and his methods for stretching and folding the dough which opens the texture and helps create large bubbles in the crumb were great fun to use.
in both cases i decided on a rosemary and smoked salt topping. nice and simple.
so, how did they turn out?
the two breads were surprisingly similar – tanna’s tender bread (above) had more large holes in the crumb but both were light and moisty. the taste was very similar too, taking into account the fact that one used whole-wheat flour and the other all white flour. the yeast flavour was perhaps more pronounced in the lepard bread (below), which also had a subtle olive oil flavour which was really nice. the smoked salt and rosemary toppings worked well with both.
the final verdict:
would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? maybe. i don’t make much bread but the unusual inclusion of potato and the variety of ways you can use the dough was very appealing.
would i try this recipe again in the future? definitely. the bread tasted fabulous and had a great texture – moist insides and crusty crunchy outside. playing around with other flavourings and toppings is on the cards too. i’ll be using the lepard recipe and technique though as it is so much more enjoyable.
tender potato bread (makes one 10x15 inch crusty yet tender foccacia)
(adapted from from home baking: the artful mix of flour & tradition around the world by jeffrey alford and naomi duguid)
200g floury potatoes.
2 cups water for cooking the potatoes, reserve cooking water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
3½ cups to 4½ cups strong white flour (i used much more than this, nearer 5-6 cups)
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened
½ cup strong wholewheat flour
smoked sea salt
fresh rosemary leaves
put the potatoes and 2 cups water in a pan and bring to boil. add ½ a teaspoon of salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender. drain the potatoes, saving the potato water, and mash the potatoes well.
measure out 1 ½ cups of the reserved potato water (add extra water if needed to) and place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. let it cool until it feels barely warm to your hand. add the yeast, mix well and let it stand for 5 minutes.
add 1 cup of white flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.
sprinkle in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and the softened butter. mix well. add the whole wheat flour and stir briefly. add an additional cup of white flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface ( i needed to add at least 2 more cups of flour before turning the dough out onto the surface – keep adding it until it resembles a dough, albeit a very soft and sticky one), and knead for about 10 minutes incorporating additional 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. place the dough in a large clean bowl cover with a tea towel and let it 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.
to make foccacia, flatten out the dough on a well-oiled baking sheet. brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little smoked sea salt, as well as some rosemary leaves and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips. place the tray in a plastic bag and let it rise for 20 minutes. heat the oven to 200c
bake the bread for 30 minutes. let it cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.
olive oil and potato flatbread (makes one large sheet of bread)
(adapted from dan lepard)
200g 00 pasta flour
200g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 large potato (about 175g), peeled
275ml warm water
olive oil for stretching the dough
smoked sea salt
fresh rosemary leaves
scald a large bowl with boiling water, then dry it out and add the 00 flour, strong white bread flour and salt and mix the lot together with your fingers.
mix the yeast with the warm water and leave for 5 minutes. grate the potato into the warm water, then mix this with the dry ingredients until you have an incredibly soft and sticky dough (i needed an extra 125ml of water). cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it undisturbed for 10 minutes. this will give the flour time to fully absorb the water and aid the development of the elastic protein called gluten, which will catch all of the gas produced by the yeast.
pour a tablespoon of oil over the dough and a smaller spoonful on your hands. rub the top of the dough to spread the oil and tuck down around the edge to loosen the dough so it moves freely, coated in oil. now, while rotating the bowl, pull the dough up out of the bowl about a hand's width, then let it drop back down. do this 6 or 8 times to stretch the dough, then cover the bowl again and leave for 10 minutes. repeat this twice more at 10-minute intervals, then cover the bowl and leave for 30 minutes.
oil a large dinner plate well. using a plastic scraper, lift the dough out of the bowl in one swift movement and plonk it on the plate.
give the dough a blanket fold by stretching into a rectangular shape and folding it in by thirds then stick the plate and dough inside a carrier bag and leave for 30 minutes. repeat this stretch and fold once more, then cover the plate and leave for another 30 minutes. try and keep the dough in a neat-looking rectangle each time.
heat the oven to 200c. generously oil a large 30cm square baking tray and flip the dough on to the centre of it. give the dough a single fold to get it looking neat, then flip it over so the seam is underneath. use the carrier bag again to cover the tray and leave the dough for about 30 minutes, or until you notice it looks puffier.
to bake, simply take the bag off the top, pour a little more oil over the dough, dimple the top well with your fingertips, sprinkle a little smoked sea salt and rosemary leaves over the top and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes until the loaf is a dark golden brown.