I know this is a book about vegetables, but once a baker, always a baker! And with that, I give you bread! Well, a recipe for bread, using a little bit of mashed potato and the water it was cooked in. Baking bread always makes me feel like I’m a grown-up, like I’ve somehow got this adulting thing figured out. This is not a no-knead recipe, but I let my trusty stand mixer do all of the kneading. The loaf is baked in a very hot pot, so do take care when moving it in and out of the oven. This is a lovely yeasty soft bread with a light-textured crumb and a good chew factor. There is just a whisper of potato flavour, and the crust is crispy, just how I like it. While the bread is delicious when fresh and warm and slathered with salted butter, I really do make it just for the superior toast it produces. When we’re dunking the toasty slices into our runny yolks, Dixon always leans over to me and says, “Babe, you make great bread.”
Recipe Makes One Loaf
- ½ lb peeled russet potatoes, chopped into large chunks
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- Sugar 1 tsp salt
- 3–3½ cups all-purpose or bread flour
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Boil the potato chunks in a small pot with plenty of salted water until tender. Reserve 2 cups of the cooking water and drain off the rest. Mash the potato (don’t add anything) until smooth. You’ll have about 1 cup of mashed potatoes.
- Pour 1 cup of the cooking water into a small bowl. When it’s cooled down to the point where it’s warm but not hot, stir in the yeast and a pinch of sugar. It should froth up in about 5 minutes; but if not, start over with more yeast and the remaining warm cooking water.
- In a large mixing bowl, use your fingertips to work the mashed potato and salt into 3 cups of flour. It will be coarse, but you’re just looking to combine them. Dump the yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the motor running on medium/low speed, gradually add the flour/potato mixture. The dough should be loose and sticky, but if you find it too wet, gradually add more flour. If you find it too dry, add a little more potato water (or warm tap water if you’ve used up all your potato water). Knead with the dough hook for about 5 minutes, until it transforms into a smooth elastic ball. If you’re doing this by hand, add the yeast mixture to the bowl of flour/potato dough and mix until it comes together into a ball. Transfer the ball to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes (this is why I use my stand mixer) until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may need to add more flour. It’s good if it’s still a little sticky!
- Lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil and set the dough inside. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free space until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Gently punch the dough down and shape it into a round. Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper (about 15 inches square) with flour and set the round on top. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another hour or so. You’ll know it’s ready when the round has doubled in size and when you gently press the top with your thumb, a small imprint remains. If not, let it rise for another 15 minutes. Lightly dust the top with flour and use a very sharp knife to score the loaf.
- Move a rack into the middle of the oven. Half an hour before the dough is ready, place a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven fitted with its lid inside the oven as it preheats to 450°F. The oven should be preheating for at least 30 minutes. When the loaf has risen and is dusted with flour and scored, carefully set it inside the very hot pot, parchment paper and all. Cover with the lid and carefully put it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 15–25 minutes, until the bread is crusty and a deep golden brown on top. It should also sound hollow when tapped. Remove the pot to a cooling rack and let the bread cool inside the pot for at least 45 minutes before slicing. Willpower!
Recipe by Renée Kohlman from Vegetables: A Love Story, copyright © 2021 by Renée Kohlman.