Lisa Michele was to be our July hostess, but unfortunately she had an accident and was unable to host this month’s challenge. We therefore had to choose a recipe from any of the completed challenges. We could choose from challenges we had missed previously or those we had completed but felt that there was room for improvement or simply one where we had great success and wanted to re-invent once more. Daring Bakers were also given the freedom of picking a Daring Cooks challenge and turn it into a dessert of their choice.

I wanted my July challenge to be something simple, healthy and comforting so I went for the November 2007 Daring Bakers’ challenge. Hosted by Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups, it featured a Tender Potato Bread. Potatoes and potato water give this bread wonderful flavor and texture. The dough is very soft and moist and might feel a little scary if you’ve never handled soft dough before but once baked, the crumb is tender and airy, with tiny soft pieces of potato in it and a fine flecking of whole wheat. Totally worth the effort and dirty dishes!

TENDER POTATO BREAD

Ingredients:

4 large floury potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 cups (950 ml) water, reserve cooking water

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast

6 ½ cups to 8 ½ cups (1 kg to 1350g) unbleached all-purpose

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (130g) whole wheat flour

Method:

  • Put potatoes and 4 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add 1 tsp salt and cook, half covered, until potatoes are very tender.
  • Drain the potatoes, save the potato water, and mash the potatoes well. Measure out 3 cups (750ml) of the reserved potato water.
  • Add extra water if needed to make 3 cups. Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in.

  • Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 – 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand.
  • If using Active Dry Yeast or Fresh yeast, mix and stir yeast into cooled water and mashed potatoes and let stand 5 minutes.
  • Add 2 cups flour to yeast mix and allow to rest several minutes. If using Instant Dry Yeast, add yeast to 2 cups flour and whisk.

  • Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest for approximately 5 minutes.
  • Sprinkle in the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
  • Add 2 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all of that flour has been incorporated.

  • Turn out dough onto a generously floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes; add flour as needed to prevent sticking.
  • The dough will be very sticky but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle.
  • Use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft. Place dough in a large clean bowl.

  • Cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume. Turn out onto a well-floured surface.
  • Knead gently several minutes. To make focaccia: Flatten out the dough to a rectangle about 10 x 15 inches with your fingertips.
  • Tear off a piece of parchment paper or wax paper a little longer than the dough and dust it generously with flour.

  • Transfer the focaccia to the paper. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt.
  • You can add as some rosemary leaves or any fresh herb, if you wish and then finally dimple all over with your fingertips.
  • Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes. Prepare a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles or a no-edged baking sheet.

  • Place the stone or tiles or baking sheet on a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450°F/230°C for few minutes.
  • Just before baking, dimple the bread all over again with your fingertips. Transfer to the hot baking stone, tiles or baking sheet.
  • Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack (remove paper) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.