Potato is not among my favourite vegetables. I know, I am a little strange that way. It is usually the last vegetable I turn to; and when I do, my family know that I am running short on my vegetable supply at home. Now don’t get me wrong. I love french fries (my hips don’t, but I do) I can eat a baked potato (I love the toppings more than the potato itself) and I certainly don’t mind roast potatoes once in a while. But for a veggie side, give me something a little more colourful. My husband and daughter, on the other hand, can survive just on potatoes. However, he who holds the ladle decides on the menu, so my table rarely plays host to potatoes. Now breads on the other hand, I am willing to experiment. I am ready to add almost anything edible that I can find in my kitchen to my breads.
I also realised that my Peter Reninhart book, which I have had with me for a while, was grossly under used. While I was willing to read and re read the book and ear mark plenty of recipes, I had not really worked on too many of them. One that kept popping up everytime I was perusing the book was a potato bread. In my mind, I was trying very hard to understand what potato would do to a bread. My food science 101 told me that potato was gluten-free and most of the breads call for high gluten flour. So would potato make the bread crumbly? What about the structural integrity? Would the potato absorb all the extra liquid and would this in turn make the bread gummy or dry? So many questions. . .
In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I decided to plunge deep into the a bowl of mashed potato. Like a lot of Peter’s recipes, there was a pre-ferment involved. I love breads which call for this. You may need to plan these breads a little in advance but the slow ferment manages to coax so much flavour from the simple wheat flour. It is totally worth it.
The biga is simple enough to make. It takes all of five minutes of hands on work and time does the rest. This is where the planning counts. If you are a regular baker, it pays to have some in your freezer ready to go in a couple of hours. I usually have some starter going but rarely a biga. So once I had decided on the potato bread, I got the biga going and then turned to the roasted garlic. Next time you are baking, wrap a few bulbs of garlic in foil and throw it into the oven. In about 45 minutes you will have buttery soft, roasted garlic. You can easily preserve this in a refrigerator. Sometime, I just squeeze a pod or two on to my toast and spread that garlicky deliciousness and woof it down. Makes a great instant garlic toast without all that guilt of butter. Why roasted garlic? and why not freshly chopped ones? The roasted garlic has a well-rounded sweetness without any of the raw acrid sting of the fresh ones. Enough, I am digressing from the bread.
I had the mashed potato ready, the herbs were fresh, and I was set to get the kneading started. The biga was chopped into little pieces, the flour, salt, mashed potato and the rosemary was kneaded into a soft, supple dough. Into it went the roasted garlic adding a huge punch of flavour. I was salivating just imagining the end result. Rosemary, garlic and potato–it was a match made in heaven. The feel of the dough was making me very happy. It felt smooth and silky and stretched into a beautiful ‘windowpane’. Maybe I could start liking spuds after all.
From here on it was smooth sailing. Let dough rise till double, punch down, form into a tight boule, let it rest till nearly double and bake till golden. For me, the true test would come after the bread cooled down. As I slid the knife gently, I could feel the bread slice though, yielding under the gentle pressure. The crumb was tender and the flavour was a knockout.The garlic and rosemary was assertive in an otherwise subtle dough. Would I make it again? Yes I would! Let me tell you frankly it tastes even better the next day as toast!!
For the Biga
1 1/4 cups Bread Flour
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1/4 to 1/2 cup Water
Knead all the ingredients together to form a soft but not sticky dough. (adjust the water to get the correct consistency). Cover the dough until double. Degas and replace in the covered bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight. Use within 3 days or freeze in a plastic bag for up to 3 months.
You will need 1 1/4 cups of Biga for this recipe.
3 cups + 2 Tbs Bread Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Coarsely ground Black Pepper
1 1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
1 cup Mashed Potato
1 Tbs Olive oil
2 Tbs Fresh Rosemary Chopped
3/4 to 1 cup Water
4 Tbs roasted Garlic, coarsely chopped.
1. Take the biga out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to make the bread and chop into little pieces.
2. Stir together flour, salt, pepper and yeast. Add the biga, mashed potato, oil and rosemary.
3. Add enough water and knead to form a soft dough which is not sticky. Once it passes the windowpane test, flatten the dough and spread the garlic and knead gently to distribute the garlic.
4. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and cover till the dough doubles.
5. Once doubled, divide the dough (this quantity will make 1 big, 2 medium or 18 small rolls).
6. Dust lightly with semolina and form into a tight boule. Mist lightly or brush with olive oil and loosely cover with a plastic wrap and allow the dough to nearly double.
7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and bake the boule for about 40 minutes or until done. If the bread looks too soft (yes that can happen) turn off the oven and let the loaf sit in the warm oven for another 5 to 10 minutes to firm up a bit.
8. Cool the loaf completely before slicing.
The potato is gluten-free so try to use a high gluten flour to compensate. If you cannot get hold of bread flour, add a couple of tablespoons of gluten to all-purpose flour. I like baking this bread as a lovely rustic boule but if you prefer you could bake it in a loaf pan. Next time you have leftover mashed potato you know what to make.