Friday, November 2, 2012

Purple Potato Bread

I have gotten in a bit of a bread making rut lately. I bake a mean loaf of crusty, tangy, mostly whole grain bread in a free form boule shape, and it's very good. But sometimes I get bored.

I used to make a potato bread that was notable for being tender, quick, and rich tasting with a deceptively simple recipe. I had gotten out of the habit, because of the extra step of boiling up potatoes. Looking at the haul of purple potatoes from our garden, an idea begins.
Purple potato patch, summer 2012

Just over 675 grams

I tell my kid I want to make purple bread out of our potatoes. He says this would be awesome. I mention the real possibility we will end up with grey bread instead.

 He says "that's OK. It will still taste good". The bitter sweetness of a child becoming mature.

The recipe:

1 1/2 pounds (700 grams) of potatoes, scrubbed
4 cups flour (or a little more)
1 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
4 t baking yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
A handful of cornmeal

Place potatoes in a pot with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and then simmer until a knife inserted in meets little resistance, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain, and return to hot pan to steam. A cut open potato shows a dark purple center and a very pale band around the skin.
Boiled and cut open

 Mash potatoes with olive oil and salt. Let them cool to lukewarm. At this point my purple potatoes were an amethyst color, with tatters of dark skin throughout. Because they were mashed without added liquid, they didn't get fluffy and creamy. They were just crumbled up.

Mashed purple potatoes
Mix yeast and water to dissolve.

In a stand mixer, with mixing paddle, combine potato mixture with yeast, and add 3 cups of flour. Set mixer on low and mix to combine.

Change to dough hook and add the remaining flour. The dough will be weird. It starts out as a shaggy mess, and then as the water in the potatoes gradually combines with the flour, it will form a heavy, soft dough. At this point it's clear the bread will be a soft shade of purple at best. All the vibrancy of the potatoes is merged with the pale flour.

Mix on low for 8 minutes, until a soft dough forms. Even after eight minutes, my dough was still not uniform, but rather a very light colored background with flecks of different purples scattered about.

Let the dough rise until doubled in size, one to two hours.

Dough with flecks of purple

Once the dough is doubled in size, gently deflate it by pressing it down. Break or pull it into two equal sized pieces, and knead them briefly and gently. I kneaded too much and started losing flecks of potato. A few moments should be enough.

Shape each half of the dough by stretching it slightly and then tucking the outside edges in so they all meet in the center, forming a ball. Pinch the seams together, then roll the ball between you hands to slightly elongate it. I found the dough to be a bit strange. It felt like children's play dough, and was perhaps the least sticky dough I have ever worked with. I barely had to wash my hands after shaping it.

Shaped loaves

Set each loaf on a sheet of parchment paper, and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Set them in the warmest part of the kitchen to rise for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.  

When the loaves have been rising for 15 minutes, place an oven stone, a cast iron griddle with the smooth side up, or an inverted cookie sheet on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees.

Once the loaves are doubled in size, remove the towel. Sprinkle the baking stone with a bit of cornmeal and gently life one loaf at a time from the parchment paper. Set it down, upside-down, on the stone or sheet in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check the loaves. If they are deep golden brown and sound hollow when you tap their underside, they are done. If they are pale or sound solid, put them back for another fifteen minutes. 

Not grey. But not really purple either

I could tell from the golden exterior of the bread that it wasn't dark enough to be truly purple inside. What I got was a pale lavender bread, flecked with darker purple and maroon. 

The texture was velvety, tender and dense. I tasted olive oil, and just barely a hint of the potato, but I wouldn't call this a potato dominated bread. 

The main flavors were yeast, toasted grain, and a slight sweetness, although no sweeteners were used. This bread would make great cinnamon rolls with a bit of brown sugar added to the dough.

It's also pretty good just the way it is. 
Shared on little house in the suburbs , farm girl blog fest

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