Tanna of the wonderful cooking blog The Half Cup chose the challenge item for this month, a delicious bread that can be shaped in many different ways. As the name suggests, the bread is tender and quite flavorful, and it’s one that I enjoyed making, so I’m sending a big THANK YOU to Tanna for selecting this bread for us to try this month! I had some for breakfast this morning, and it’s still tasty.
Each month the host chooses the rules for preparation, and Tanna set the standards pretty high, but she also gave us free reign for shaping the bread. The rules for this month were as follows:
1. You must follow the recipe as written until you get to shaping the bread.
2. This bread must be savory and not sweet.
3. You must knead by hand (medical exception allowed).
4. You can not use a biga, sponge, or starter method.
5. Recipe ingredient exception allowed only if allergy or an ingredient not available or cost prohibitive in your region.
6. You may shape this dough anyway you would like: as a loaf, as rolls, as focaccia. You can braid it, twist it, whatever.
7. You may season this bread in any way you see fit: maybe it becomes your turkey stuffing. Maybe you season some sandwich bread for great turkey sandwiches.
8. You can fill it if you think that will work for you. Think calzone or anything with a savory filling. Again however it must be savory and not sweet.
So the first time I made the bread, I followed the instructions exactly, but my right hand ached horribly during the mixing stage, so after that first time I went back to using my KitchenAid for the mixing and kneading. I also made half a recipe the first time around just because I’ve learned that my first attempt with any Daring Bakers project is not always successful, and I’m less upset if I’ve ruined only half of something. So for my first attempt I made an 8-inch round focaccia with rosemary and thyme and a dozen rolls. They were quite a hit, and the focaccia was gone very quickly.
I made the bread a total of three times during the month, and for me that’s a first for a Daring Baker’s challenge. I usually feel guilty about loads of calories, fat, and (sometimes) expensive ingredients in our challenges and I limit myself to one chance per month, but this time I didn’t have to worry about any of those! I made some mini rolls and focaccia for Thanksgiving dinner, and then I made some more focaccia to share with the neighbors.
The dough is very soft and wet after the two hour rise, and I found the volume to be a difficult to handle when making the full recipe. I’m glad that I had made half a recipe a couple times before tackling the full recipe, because even then I was frantically trying to scoop up the dough as it spread across my board and onto the counter top. Every time I made the bread, I used a bench scraper in the final knead to help keep the dough from sticking to the board. Though we were given the option for making free-form breads, I stuck with pans to keep the dough under control. Maybe after a few more times I’ll try a braided loaf. There are some beautiful braided loaves on other Daring Baker blogs!
The recipe lists potatoes as the first ingredient, but it only states a suggested number of medium or large potatoes, which can be problematic since perceptions of size can vary greatly. Tanna suggested a weight of 8 ounces to 16 ounces for the full recipe depending on the experience of the baker. I used 8 ounces in the half recipe and 16 ounces in the full recipe, and I used a kitchen scale to determine the weight. If you do not have access to a scale, you can make a reasonable guess by comparing the weight of a known object, such as an 8-ounce can of vegetables or fruit, to the weight of a potato. Just hold both objects, one in each hand, and determine how close they are.
We particularly liked the bread as a focaccia and I will definitely make it again and again. The crumb is soft and has a wonderful mouth feel. Our favorite topping is Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade. Half a recipe seems to be optimal for us, plus it was much easier to work with than the full recipe, so I’ve posted a half recipe below along with tips for things I learned from other DBs and in my own trials. The half recipe will make 2 (8 or 9-inch) round focaccias, 2 (8x4x2) rectangular loaves, or 12 rolls plus one focaccia or rectangular loaf. The full original recipe comes from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour & Tradition Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and you can also find the recipe at Tanna’s blog.
The Daring Bakers group has experienced amazing growth in the last few months, and we now have close to 400 members from all around the world! This means that there is a virtual feast for the eyes of beautiful loaves of potato bread that you can access from The Daring Bakers Blogroll.
- 1 or 2 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes (8 ounces total), peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 cups (950 ml) water
- 1/2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
- 3 ½ cups to 4 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup (130g) whole wheat flour
- melted butter
- FOCACCIA TOPPINGS
- sea salt
- thyme, chopped
- rosemary, chopped
- In the pot, bring the potatoes and water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and allow to cook until fork tender. Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon and add them to the work bowl of the stand mixer. Reserve the potato water.
- Using the paddle attachment, mix the potatoes until the are smooth. Measure 1-1/2 cups of the reserved potato water, adding more water as necessary, and mix in with the potatoes. Allow to cool to about 75º F/23.88º C. The water should feel just barely warm.
- In the medium bowl, stir together 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon of yeast. Add the flour and yeast mixture to the potato mixture and mix well. The mixture will look very wet and look like a batter. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Add the softened butter and 1/2 tablespoon salt and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and stir.
- Add 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and mix. (So far you've used 2 cups of the all-purpose flour.) Remove the paddle attachment and attach the dough hook. Adding 1/2 cup of flour at a time, up to 2 more cups of flour, mix on low. The dough will still be very wet and sticky and will not come together in a ball like many other doughs. The dough hook will probably have dough dripping from it.
- Pour the dough into a large, clean container for rising. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and keep in a warm place until the dough doubles, about 2 hours. The surface will look bubbly and the dough will still be very sticky.
- Generously flour your work surface. Pour the risen dough onto the work surface and knead it for several minutes, working in more flour in as you go. Use the bench scraper to clean the sticky dough off the work surface. The dough will be quite soft and loose.
- Shape dough. To make a loaf, take half the dough and shape it into a log. Put into a medium loaf pan. To make rolls, take half the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Drop each piece into the muffin tin. To make focaccia, take half of the dough and shape into a loose ball. Put into an 8-inch round cake pan and brush the surface with olive oil, and sprinkle sea salt, chopped thyme, and rosemary on top. Use your fingers to dimple the surface. Cover and allow the dough to rise for about 30 minutes.
- While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 450º F (425º F if you are using dark nonstick pans). Brush the risen rolls with melted butter. Brush the risen bread with melted butter and slash on a diagonal in two places. Dimple the surface of the focaccia again, as needed.
- Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes and the focaccia for about 25 minutes, and the loaves for about 35 to 40 minutes. The bread should be golden brown on top and feel a bit crusty to the touch. Remove from the pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes, before slicing.
stand mixer with paddle and dough hook attachments
large mixing bowl or other container
bench or pastry scraper
2 (8 or 9-inch) round cake pans, lightly coated with olive oil
2 (8x4x2) loaf pans, lightly coated with olive oil
muffin pan, lightly coated with olive oil
Prep Time includes rising time.