Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Potato Bread

Potato Bread
I love the smell of freshly baked bread in my kitchen.  There is something very warm and comforting about that smell.  
It may be easier and less time consuming to use a bread maker.  But I love the feel of the dough in my hands when I am kneading it.  I like experiencing the process of making the dough by hand.  It feels therapeutic.  Plus, my counter and kitchen storage space is limited.
Yeast loves the starch in potatoes.  Potatoes make for a softer, more flavorful bread.  I like to use fresh potatoes.  But instant mashed potatoes work well as a substitute as well.  A smoother consistency will be achieved with instant mashed potatoes, but you don't get the benefits of being able to use the potato water.  I also like the tiny little specks of potato in the crust.
I keep a jar of yeast in the freezer and buy bread flour in bulk just for this.
Over the years, I have tweaked and perfected my recipe and technique.  This also just happens to be vegan (egg- and dairy-free) as well.  The loaf keeps for about 1 week in the bread box on my counter.

Potato Bread (single loaf)
3/4 cup peeled and diced potatoes
water for boiling potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3-4 cups bread flour
flour for kneading
vegetable oil for greasing

Bring water and potatoes to a boil.  Cook until potatoes are soft and mashable.  Measure out 1/2 cup of the potato water.  Dissolve the sugar in the 1/2 cup reserve potato water and set aside.  Measure out another 1/4 cup of potato water and set aside.
*If using instant mashed potatoes, prepare mashed potatoes according to package instructions yielding 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes and use regular hot water instead of potato water.  Same if using leftover mashed potatoes.
Drain potatoes.  Using a handheld blender (or a food processor), blend together salt, potatoes and 1/4 cup of reserve potato water together until smooth.
Once the 1/2 cup of reserve potato water is cooled to 110 degrees F (warm but not hot), sprinkle the yeast evenly over the surface of the water.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, the mixture should be foamy at the surface.  That means the yeast is active.  If the mixture is not foamy, it means the yeast is dead and of no use.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yeast water, vegetable oil and mashed potatoes.  With a rubber spatula, mix in 2 cups of bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix in remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, by hand.  Dough should feel slightly stiff.  Mix in more flour if needed.
Turn dough onto clean, lightly floured surface.  Knead for about 6 minutes, sprinkling on more flour to keep dough from sticking to the surface.  Dough should be smooth and elastic.  Shape the dough into a ball.  Lightly pat the ball of dough all over with a few drops of vegetable oil.
Lightly oil a large pot with a lid.  Place the ball of dough in pot.  Cover with lid.  Place covered pot in the oven to let dough rise for about 1 hour or until double in size.  The pilot light keeps the oven at the perfect warm temperature for letting the dough rise.
*To let the dough rise over night, place covered pot in the refrigerator for about 8 hours or until dough is double in size.
Lightly oil your hands with vegetable oil.  Punch down the dough and knead on a lightly floured surface for 2 minutes.
**See instructions below for dinner rolls.

With a rolling pin, roll the dough out into an oblong shape.  Starting with the short end, roll the dough into a log.  Pinch the ends together and tuck under.  Lightly pat the surface of the dough log with a few drops of vegetable oil.
Lightly oil and flour a loaf pan.  Place the dough in the loaf pan.  Run the point of a knife lengthwise along the top of the dough to let steam escape when baking.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes, until dough fills out the loaf pan.
Bake in preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 30-45 minutes, or until top is light brown.  Take bread out of the oven.  Lightly tap the top of the bread.  It should feel/sound kind of hollow.
Let bread cool on a wire rack, the crust will soften a bit while the bread cools.  Once bread is cooled, slice and enjoy!

**Separate dough into pieces that are roughly the size of an egg.  Line baking sheet lined with a lightly greased and floured silicone baking sheet.  Rub a few drops of oil in your hands.  Shape the pieces of dough into round balls.  Place the dough balls on the lined baking sheet 1 inch apart.  Let rise for about 10 minutes or until touching each other.  Bake in preheated 350 degree F for about 20 minutes or until rolls are a light golden brown.  Keep warm in a bowl or basket, wrapped in a clean dish towel.

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