When last we spoke, it was all about the glory of the chip butty, that I-shouldn’t-but-I’m-going-to sandwich of bread, butter and chips (and if you should feel the need to go and make one right now, go ahead, as mention of the idea does seem to have that effect on people…). The only trouble I had with the whole chip butty thing was where to go next. What lies beyond the chip-in-a-sandwich? And so I thought that we should talk about getting potatoes into the very substance of what makes every sandwich. It was time to meet Mr. Potato Bread…
I discovered this yeasty concoction in Elizabeth David’s masterful volume, English Bread and Yeast Cookery, probably my all-time favourite cookbook. In the book, she notes that the use of potato in breadmaking was very common in the 19th century, during times of grain shortage, where boiled and mashed potatoes were mixed with flour to provide extra bulk. It wasn’t always used as an economic measure, however. Potato interacts very well with yeast and 19th century bakers often used a small amount as a fermenting agent. They also found a small proportion of potato very useful in keeping bread moist and light and it was also advocated by some as the best bread for toast. A big thumbs up from the Victorians for potato in your bread, then.
The recipe she gives is a 19th century one which originated in a book called Receipts in Modern Cookery by one Dr. A. Hunter, published in 1805. She quotes Dr. Hunter, who says of the recipe:
…lovers of toast and butter will be much pleased with this kind of bread. The potato here is not added with a view to economy, but to increase the lightness of the bread, in which state it will imbibe the butter with more freedom…
So have your Kerrygold at the ready, then.
Yeasted Potato Bread
- The original recipe (being quite old ‘n’ all), called for fresh yeast. I’ve adapted it to reflect (my) use of fast action yeast – the stuff you can add directly to flour without having to activate in tepid sugary liquid first and which only requires one rising, not two.
- The instructions don’t assume that you are in possession of a stand mixer with a dough hook but, by all means, use it if you got it. Otherwise get some exercise by doing some good, old-fashioned kneading. And I’m not remotely bitter about not owning a KitchenAid, honest.
- The recipe only requires a small amount of potato, but you can always cook more than you need for this recipe and use the excess for mash or potato cakes or any number of other things.
- 450g strong white bread flour
- 1-2 medium potatoes (enough to yield about 120g of cooked, mashed potato)
- 140ml milk
- 140ml water
- 2 tsp fine-grained salt
- 1x7g sachet fast action / easy blend yeast
The Potato Steps:
- What’s needed for this bread is potato that has been cooked and mashed very finely (sieved, in fact). The potato should be completely dry and used while still warm. So…
- Scrub the potatoes and leave the skins on.
- Bring a saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil and plop in your potatoes.
- Cover the saucepan and cook the potatoes until just fork tender – 20 minutes or more, depending on size. Before the potatoes start to disintegrate, pour off the water, cover the potatoes with a thick, clean cloth, put the lid back on the saucepan and leave them for a few minutes
- Peel the potatoes, break them into chunks and place in a sieve. Push the potatoes through the sieve using the back of a wooden spoon, until you have about 120g of sieved potato.
The Bread Steps:
- Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large, warm mixing bowl.
- Add the still-warm cooked, sieved potato to the flour and, using your hands, rub the potatoes into the flour (in the same way you would rub in fat), so that they are thoroughly mixed.
- Make a warm mixture of milk and water by combining about 90ml of boiling water with 50ml of cold water and then add this to about 140ml of cold milk.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water and milk mixture. Mix to form a soft dough with your hands. If it feels too wet and sticky, sprinkle with some more flour.
- Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, or go ahead and knead using your mixer and dough hook for about 5 minutes.
- Now shape the dough as desired. For a single loaf, place the dough into a warmed and greased loaf tin (about 2.5 to 3 pint capacity), or shape into about 8 roughly equal-sized rolls and place on a warmed, greased baking tray.
- Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise until about doubled in bulk (this will take longer than for ordinary yeast bread, anything up to 2 hours). The use of a damp cloth is important, as this dough tends to form a skin, which can inhibit rising when put in the oven and makes for a tougher crust.
- Bake in a hot oven, 220C – about 35-45 minutes for a single loaf, about 15-20 minutes for rolls. The bread should make a hollow sound when tapped. Don’t let the crust get too browned or hard.