I meant to post this for BBD #23, because this bread certainly was like nothing I have ever made before. This potato bread, from Baking with Julia, is basically a huge, yeasted, baked gnocchi.
The recipe, contributed by Leslie Mackie (Macrina Bakery), calls for mixing mashed potato with flour, salt, a bit of olive oil, yeast, and a very small amount of potato water. When first mixed together, the dough is so dry and crumbly, it looks like pastry dough.
Over the course of being mixed for eleven minutes, the dough goes from dry to wet and sticky as the moisture from the potatoes gets drawn into the flour.
Another unusual feature of this recipe is that the dough rises for only 20 minutes before being shaped, and then the dough has another short rise of 20 minutes before being baked. Despite this short dough development period, the bread has a very full flavor, chewy crust, and a nice crumb. One taster was convinced it was sourdough bread.
The potatoes really need to dry out before being incorporated. My dough went from impossibly dry to unmanageably wet and sticky.
The baking time of 50 minutes and the cooling time of 20 minutes should not be abbreviated. I pulled a loaf out of the oven at 45 minutes. The internal temperature registered 200 degrees, indicating it was fully cooked. I gave it about 15 minutes of cooling off before cutting it. It was damp and gummy inside. It was great toasted, but almost inedible without the toasting.
(update: I froze my second loaf. I took it out weeks layer and popped the still frozen loaf into a hot oven for about a half hour. When the loaf cooled and I sliced it, the crumb was perfect. Still moist, but not at all gummy. And it tasted freshly baked. I guess the lesson is that (1) underbaked loaves can be rescued if they are put back into the oven before being sliced (this really only helps rescue the second loaf that hasn’t been cut into yet); and (2) you can par-bake a loaf, freeze it, and finish baking it weeks later and it will taste freshly made.)
Oh, and the re-baked loaf made fantastic toast.
Be careful about the salt. I added the full amount of salt called for, using fine sea salt, and it was a bit too salty, I think. Add half to three-quarters of the salt, and then taste the raw dough (yes, you can do that) before adding more salt.
Be careful about using extra virgin olive oil. The oil will give a strong flavor to the bread, and not everyone like the flavor of extra virgin olive oil with potatoes. I’m thinking a neutral oil or butter might be better.
(update: the second loaf, frozen and then baked another half hour, for some reason did not taste overly salty or taste of the olive oil. It was perfect).
If I made this bread again, I would try to add some garlic and maybe some fresh herbs. The dough is shaped by pressing the ball of dough into a disk and then rolling it up. I would scatter chopped herbs and garlic (roasted?) or maybe sautéed onions over the disk before rolling it up.
I’m sending this off to Yeastpotting.