This batch was for Bill. He wanted a soft bread, something good for sandwiches.
And I had potatoes.
The recipe is from one of my favorite bread books, George Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker, on pages 51-53 (at least in the edition I have). I made one little minor change to the recipe, which I've indicated below.
Mr. Greenstein had this to say about Potato Bread:
Long before the invention of modern yeast, potatoes and the starchy water in which they are boiled were used to leaven bread. Today we use the potatoes and their boiling water for the flavor and tenderness they impart to the finished bread. Potato breads keep exceptionally well in the bread box or refrigerator and can be frozen. Friends in the Midwest still compete at fairs and food shows, justifiably proud of their potato breads, some of which come from family recipes handed down through the generations. My father often spoke about potato breads that were baked in Europe when he was a young man. Although we now have potato flour, starch, and instant flakes available for baking, I like this recipe using fresh mashed potatoes and the water in which they cooked. You can use instant mashed potatoes but you do not get the benefits of the potato water.
This recipe provides two loaves of soft but substantial bread,
just perfect for sandwiches or toast.
Shall we? Mr. Greenstein's instructions are in bold, and my commentary is in italics throughout the recipe.
Here's what you'll need:
1 medium potato
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup warm water*
2 packages active dry yeast
2 T unsalted butter or shortening, at room temperature (I used butter)
2 T sugar
1/3 cup skim milk powder*
5 to 6 cups unbleaches all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
Flour, for dusting work top
Vegetable oil, for coating bowl
Shortening, for greasing pans
Water or melted butter, for brushing loaves (I'm not sure why – it wasn't mentioned in the instructions)
*I substituted a quarter cup of warm 2% milk for the water and skim milk powder.
Got everything ready? Okay, let's make some bread.
Wash and thoroughly scrub the potato, then cook in the boiling water until soft (approximately 10 minutes) (actually, it took longer than that with my potato, fyi).
Drain, reserving 2 cups potato water. Peel the potato, mash, and set aside to cool. Extra potato water can be refrigerated and used in any yeast recipe for added nutritive value and tenderizing power. (I boiled off a bit too much water, so I just added a little plain water to the potato water to make it 2 cups even.)
In a large bowl sprinkle the yeast over the 1/4 cup warm water (in my case, the warm milk); stir to dissolve.
Stir together the cooled mashed potato and butter and add to the bowl together with the 2 cups reserved potato water.
Add the sugar, milk powder (unless you're me) 5 cups flour, and salt. Stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl, adding more flour 1/4 cup at a time if necessary.
(And you might want to WAKE UP, JAYNE and switch to a dough hook before you go any farther. Duh.)
Potato dough will remain a little sticky.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary, until the dough feels smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes).
(I used my stand mixer for the whole kneading process.)
Transfer the dough to a clean, oiled mixing bowl and turn to coat.
Cover and set aside until the dough doubles in volume.
Punch down, cut in half, shape into two balls, and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
(tick tock tick tock)
Press down each ball and shape into a pan loaf.
Place into 2 greased 8- or 9-inch loaf pans, cover, and set aside to proof until the breads come up above the tops of the pans.
Dust with flour and cut a deep slash down the length of each loaf.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree F oven until the bread has a hollow sound when the bottom is tapped with your fingertips (about 50 minutes).
The sides should feel firm. If necessary return the bread to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. If using tiles or an oven stone, finish the bread on them for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and let cool on a wire rack.
When cooled to room temperature, slice – and enjoy!