Sunday, 6 May 2007

Potato Bread

'...there's a certain chewiness about it, an almost waxy softness.' - Nigella Lawson

Does that sound like bread? Waxy? I wouldn't have thought so, but now, I know what she's talking about.

Until a friend taught me to bake bread at Christmas, I studiously avoided the bread section of How To Be a Domestic Goddess. Once shown the steps, I was an immediate, evangelical convert to the art of bread making. You just can't beat it. I'm so enamoured of it now that when I'm in a grumpy mood, my husband tells me to go and bake bread. He knows the good that comes from it.

So to potato bread. Nigella says to save both the water you've boiled your peeled potatoes in, as well as 300g of cold potatoes (that was about 4 small potatoes).

Elsewhere in the book, Nigella advocates putting potato water in any bread, not just potato bread. She seems to suggest it improves the longevity of the bread. I don't care. If the bread I made today is any indication, longevity isn't going to be much of an issue. The loaf is half gone before we've even reached the middle of the afternoon!

The verdict

Unusual or substituted ingredients:
You can use fresh or instant yeast. I'm pretty happy with instant. It's all I've ever used. I suppose one day i'll try fresh. And it's kind of gross to think of water you've boiled potatoes in as edible, but trust me, it's worth it.

It's worth noting too I used about half the salt Nigella suggests. I've found her 1tbs in other breads too much in the past so I use about half a tablespoon now.

Special Utensils or Cookware: Nigella talks about using a dough hook, if you have one, although elsewhere in the book she extols the virtues of kneading by hand. I think that's because this bread is heavier and wetter than others but I managed fine without a dough hook. I do love kneading, though.

She also suggests using a potato ricer to mash up the potatoes before adding them to the mix. It just so happens I have one, left over from my first flush of love for Nigella. I bought a lot of stuff she said to buy. I used it once and tossed it aside as useless.

I thought it would be perfectly useful for the texture you'd need for this bread though. However, it was tough and stiff and the potatoes were hardened from a night in the fridge so I had to get Sean to do this bit for me. He was cursing it within seconds too. I say, just mash them with a masher or a fork.

Repeatability: I happily make bread all the time but sometimes veering away from standard bread isn't so good. This is not one of those times. I'll never look at potato water or cold, grey potatoes in the same way. This is a delicious, slightly unusual bread. Not in the least bit heavy and not overly flavoured with potatoes. You can taste them, but they really just add to the flavour, rather than defining it.

Sauciness: Bread is less saucy, more earthy, to me. I was kneading away happily when I declared to Sean, hey, I am making bread from scratch with potatoes I grew myself! He could see how my mind was working and said, 'No Bells, we are not growing our own wheat as well.' Damn.

Overall pleasure level: There's certainly a level of smug self satisfaction that comes with making your own bread. I highly recommend it. It's worth it just to be amused/thrilled by the sight of your dough growing at a steady rate in a warm spot in the kitchen.

Now, I'm on a campaign to convince RoseRed to make bread. There are plenty of other recipes for bread in the book and I'm not making them all!

Maybe use the comments to back me up and convince her she needs to give it a go? :-)