“This is really good but you should try to make potato bread sometime, it’s delicious.” I’ve probably heard my Dad utter a version of that fifty times to date, usually just after eating a slice of my fresh sourdough bread.
I love how eating good food tugs at an invisible, interconnected web of food-memories we’ve constructed over the course of our lifetimes. This complex web, with scattered connections between foods, smells, experiences and memories, is gradually filled in and ever-evolving: it shapes the corpus of foods we enjoy, giving them significance in place and time. Perhaps the construction of this web is instilled at a primal level, maybe it’s a way we’ve evolutionarily progressed to favor foods that provide proper nourishment by exciting our senses, pushing out hollow foods that provide nothing or are uninteresting. I believe it’s one of the many reasons we’ve stayed alive for so long, eating the things we need instead of those we don’t.
But this web might not be as invisible and hidden as it might first seem. We see evidence of the intermingled connections each time we sit down to eat: “this cake reminds me of that one you made 2 years ago when…,” or “this salad reminds me of that time we were traveling through Italy and stopped at…” In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say just about every meal I eat with my family we talk about other meals eaten, or other dishes enjoyed in the past — and its through that traversal of the food-memory web where we are instantly, and clearly, transported to a significant time and place in our otherwise blurred history.
In any case, my Dad must have many connections back to a distant potato bread. He often mentions his Mother and the bread she would make them as a kid: 100% potato to flour by weight, small bits of potato throughout, creamy, soft and of course, starchy.
I set out to pay homage to that bread but modify it slightly (as I do) until I found just the right flavor and texture. I do hesitate to call this potato bread (or pane alle patate) because that might define a bread that has much more potato than my formula. And, as my Dad indicated, most of his memories of this bread from Italy usually have equal ratio potato to flour. While I know that would be delicious, this formula produces a lighter loaf that still pairs very well with other foods (aged cheese comes to mind immediately). If this bread was intended to be eaten on its own, and with 100% potato it surely could be a meal-in-a-slice, I’d continue to push the potato percentage even higher, perhaps to 75% or even up to 100% per tradition. Let’s save this for a future experiment.
I should note that through my development of this recipe I provided my Dad with ample test loaves and gathered his input. My final version here scored the highest marks, even if I did receive a final comment indicating I should push the potato percentage higher one day….
But for now, on to roasting some potatoes.
Sourdough with Roasted Potato and Rosemary (Potato Bread)
My version of potato bread is a spin on an Italian bread laden with mashed/pureed potatoes. In taking cues from my approach to making gnocchi, I like to roast the potatoes, as opposed to boiling them. I find this gives the potatoes a nice color and texture, plus, it helps dry the flesh out preventing unwanted water absorption that could later be released into the dough.
Roast the potatoes instead of boiling to avoid excessive water absorption
Potato and rosemary are a classic pairing but you could substitute the rosemary for another spice such as thyme (which is what I tried for my first few attempts seen below), or omit it entirely for a cleaner, more potato forward flavor. Speaking of rosemary, I find not all rosemary plants produce the same level of potency in their leaves. Some plants, like mine, are quite pungent and strong while others are simply not. Start with the recommended 1% rosemary and scale up/down to suit your taste after you try the first bake. As with my previous polenta sourdough with rosemary, I like to keep the spice light so it doesn’t obscure the other flavors throughout.
I chose to puree the potatoes in my blender for a smooth consistency (and a few chunks) but you could also dice the potatoes if you’d like to have bits of potato very evident in the crumb. Additionally, you could wash the potatoes and leave the skin on for additional texture and interest.
|Total Dough Weight||2050 grams|
|Yield||2 x 1000 gram loaves|
|38g||Mature liquid starter (100% hydration)||100%|
|19g||Stoneground Whole Wheat Flour (Bob’s Red Mill Stoneground Whole Wheat)||50%|
|19g||White Bread Flour, Malted (Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft)||50%|
|38g||H2O @ 85ºF||100%|
Target final dough temperature (FDT) is 77ºF.
Note that the baker’s percentages listed below are with respect to the final dough ingredients and do not take into account the levain.
|529g||White Bread Flour (~11.5% protein), Malted (Central Milling Artisan Baker’s Craft)||65.71%|
|150g||Stoneground Whole Wheat (Bob’s Red Mill Stoneground Whole Wheat)||18.60%|
|127g||High Gluten Bread Flour, ~12.5% Protein (King Arthur Bread Flour)||15.71%|
|464g||Roasted, Peeled & Pureed Potato (about 4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes)||55.00%|
|638g||H2O @ 90ºF||79.06%|
|114g||Mature, 100% hydration liquid levain||14.14%|
1. Levain – 9:30 a.m.
Build the liquid levain (everything listed in the Levain Build section above) in the morning and store somewhere around 78ºF – 82ºF ambient.
2. Roast Potatoes & Prepare Rosemary – 9:35 a.m.
After building the levain, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Prepare a small baking sheet lined with parchment, wash the potatoes and using a fork perform a few shallow pokes around the potato.
Once the oven is preheated, roast the potatoes on the baking sheet for 45 minutes to 1 hour, rotating and flipping them halfway. Test the potatoes at 45 minutes to see if they are done by inserting a knife into the center. The knife should glide easily and not encounter any tough spots.
Let the potatoes cool until you can handle them, then peel and puree in a blender (or mash them with a potato masher) until smooth and just a few large chunks remain. Let cool until called for during mixing.
Pick, wash and coarsely chop the rosemary called for in the formula. Set aside until mixing, later.
3. Autolyse – 11:30 a.m.
Mix flour and water (reserve 100g water for mix, later) in a bowl until all dry bits are hydrated. Cover bowl and store somewhere warm near the levain for 1 hour.
4. Mix – 12:30 p.m.
Add the called for levain and about half of the reserved water to the mixing bowl. Mix until well combined.
Dump the dough onto the counter and slap and fold the dough (French fold) for about 3-4 minutes, just until the dough starts to show signs of a smooth surface. The dough should be fairly strong.
Let the dough rest 15 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt, rosemary and pureed potato on top of the dough and pour on the remaining water. Pinch the ingredients through the dough and fold it over until everything is incorporated very well. Perform a series of stretch and folds in the bowl until the dough comes back together into a cohesive mass and the ingredients look well distributed throughout. If you encounter any unwanted large chunks of potato, just smash them with your fingers and smear it onto the dough.
Transfer dough to a tub or thick-walled bowl for bulk fermentation.
4. Bulk Fermentation – 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
At 78-82ºF ambient temperature bulk fermentation should go for about 3 hours. Perform a total of 2 sets of stretch and folds during bulk, spaced out by 30 minutes.
This dough felt very strong due to the low hydration (relative to the flour I’m using) but the pureed potato will give it a sticky, tacky feel to it at the end of bulk. Keep an eye on the dough during bulk!
5. Divide & Preshape – 4:00 p.m.
Dump the dough from the bulk container to an un-floured work surface. Divide the dough roughly in half and preshape each half into a round. The dough will feel strong but sticky.
Let the two rounds rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes until relaxed.
6. Shape – 4:30 p.m.
Flour the work surface and the top of each rested dough.To shape as a batard: flip the resting round over onto the floured surface and fold the top half up and over to the middle and the bottom half up and over the recently folded top. You’ll have a long horizontal rectangle sitting in front of you. Turn the rectangle 90º and grab a small portion of the top, pull up and fold over a little bit, pressing down to seal. Take the rolled top and continue to gently roll it downward toward your body with two hands working together. As you do each roll and work your way down the vertical rectangle, use your thumbs to gently press the dough into itself.
You can see a video of me performing this shaping method on my Instagram feed (ignore the beginning portion where I fold the sides and top down, only the entire top needs to be folded down and sealed at first).
Once shaped, transfer each to a basket lined with a cotton towel (I like to use these towels for this potentially sticky and messy dough — much easier to clean) that has been lightly dusted with white rice flour, seam side up.
7. Rest & Proof – 4:50 p.m.
Cover each basket with plastic and then place in the refrigerator at 38ºF for 13-14 hours.
8. Bake – Next Morning: Preheat oven at 6:00 a.m., Bake at 7:00 a.m.
Preheat oven for one hour at 500ºF.
Take out both of the baskets from the fridge and cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over the top, quickly invert each basket onto each piece of parchment. Using a sharp razor blade fastened to a stick (or a lame) score the top of each at a shallow angle to the dough and just deep enough to cut below the top skin of the dough. Start at the top of the oblong loaf and with a single decisive stroke cut from top to bottom with a slight outward bend.
Bake the loaves at 500ºF for 20 minutes with steam, then remove the steaming pans from inside the oven. Bake the loaves for an additional 5 minutes at 500ºF, then turn the oven down to 450ºF and bake for an additional 25 minutes or until done.
I steamed my oven in my usual way, described here in my post on how to steam your home oven for baking.
The taste, texture and wholesomeness of this bread is evident from the first bite: it’s filling and solid, but somehow also delightfully light and soft. Sometimes there’s a loaf of sourdough that compels you to temporarily forgo any notion of restraint, a bread that threatens to take hold of, and subdue, your willpower. You might find yourself in a deep trance with your hands on autopilot, cutting this bread slice after slice as they quickly disappear from the cutting board to your mouth. If you have brie or a similar cheese within arms reach, you might want to call for help.
This crust runs the most striking gamut of colors from dark mahogany to light yellow. There’s no doubt the extra sugars in the potato helped this crust color nicely in the oven. While it may look craggy and hard, it’s actually quite soft and when toasted, it becomes super svelte and crunchy.
The bits of potato and rosemary that found their way to the surface colored deeply, in a good way. If you don’t like well-toasted pieces like this, poke them back into the mass of dough right before you transfer them to their proofing baskets.
The interior of this bread stays superbly moist and tender for days after baking. I enjoy this type of bread heavily toasted as the entire interior becomes crispy in a way that you’ll only find in highly hydrated loaves or porridge bread — fantastic. The crumb does become softer, creamier and slightly more tight as the percentage of potato increases, but thanks to this starchy addition the tender texture of the crumb is what makes this bread really stand out.
Depending on how well the potatoes were pureed (if even), you’ll encounter bits and pieces of potato throughout as your make your way through the loaf. These little explosions of flavor are boosted by the rosemary, the fusion of the two flavors and textures play so well together. The interior is rich with potato but balanced nicely by the rosemary and soft crumb. As I mentioned above, the taste compels you to eat your way through each loaf much quicker than you anticipated.
This is a bread I’ll definitely be making for our next family gathering. Cut into thick, hearty slices it’s one that will ensure your guests to remember the meal and the time spent together at the table.
I hope this sourdough bread with roasted potato and rosemary, with its deep, rich flavor and surprisingly light texture, helps you form new food-memory connections for you and whomever you share your loaves with. Perhaps now my Dad’s desire for potato bread is satiated, at least until I develop my next recipe.