The recipe for this delicious, light bread came from Elizabeth David’s English Bread and Yeast Cookery. Browsing through that book is a pleasure. I start reading for fun, absorbed in food history, almost hearing Ms. David’s distinctive, elegantly British voice, and then hit the recipes. Oh, those crumpets and muffins, those brioches and yeast buns!
Every time I go through it, another recipe catches my eye. This time, it was potato bread. Ms. David took old recipes and adjusted them to her modern English kitchen. Here in Israel, I took this recipe and did the same.
One of the adjustments I made was to keep this loaf pareve (containing neither meat nor milk). Ms. David suggests using a mixture of warm milk and water for the liquid. Note: there is no fat nor commercial sugar in this bread.
1 large loaf
White flour: 450 grm or 3 1/2 cups
Salt: 20 grm. or 2 tsp.
Warm, dry, mashed and sieved potato: 120 grm or 1/2 cup, firmly packed. One medium-sized potato should do it.
Yeast from fresh cube: 15 grm. or 1 Tblsp.
Water, warm: 280 grm. or 1 cup plus a little less than 1/2 cup
1. Boil the potato, in its skin, till it’s quite soft, but not disintegrating.
2. While the potato is cooking, put the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water. Allow it to dissolve.
3. Measure 3 cups of flour into a bowl and add the salt to it.
4. When the potato is done, drain it and bring the cooking pot back to the stove, shaking it over the flame to dry it out well. Remove the potato to a dish and let it cool just enough to handle. I didn’t peel my potato, but if you want to, go ahead. Mash it and force it through a sieve to eliminate lumps in the dough.
5. Rub the sieved potato through the flour as if it were fat for a pie crust, till the potato is “thoroughly amalgamated.”
6. Make a well in the center of the potatoey flour and pour the yeasty water in. With a spoon, throw flour from the sides over the liquid and mix it in.
7. Keep stirring and mixing. You will get a loose, sloppy dough. Don’t let that worry you, just cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise. Between 2 and 3 hours later, it will look like this:
8. Knock it back and sprinkle in, a little at a time, another 1/2 cup of flour. Lightly knead, or fold and stretch the dough till it’s a cohesive mass. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Both of these parts are important: you let the dough rest to absorb the new quantity of flour, and the damp towel is there to keep the top crust a little moisturized lest you get a crust too hard to cut.
Preheat the oven to 425° F 225° C.
9. While the oven is heating, shape the dough into a loaf. You can place it into a loaf tin or leave it free-form. What I did was shape the loaf on a floured sheet of baking paper and roll the paper back and forth a few times under it. The normally bottom, seam side stayed up on purpose to let the loaf open along the seam – instead of slashing the loaf on the top side. Let the loaf rise till light – again, covered with a damp towel – another 20 minutes or so.
10. Spritz, or brush the loaf with water.
11. Bake it for 45 minutes.
Cool on a rack. Wait till the bread is entirely cool before slicing into it. In fact, it’s better the next day. Good to eat plain or toasted; good for sandwiches; good for croutons. Just really good bread.