Also known as, a bread worth waiting for (one hopes).
I had a dream last night that I used this exfoliator (it looked like the non-business side of a spiralizer/large pencil sharpener) that made my face *~* glow *~*. I woke up and successfully made breakfast and went swimming until I remembered my dream. Washing my face in the shower, I thought, “Wait, why am I not using my new exfoliator that looks like a huge pencil sharpener?” and then immediately realized how uncomfortable that would be. This is one of the things that is happening now that I’m nearly 30; I dream about skincare and wake up deeply disappointed that this miracle product doesn’t actually exist.
It makes me nostalgic for college, when I would dream of sandwiches! I mean, I still dream of sandwiches, but they are more daydreams than nightdreams. My college-time sandwich dreams were usually related to this bread. I’d make loaves and loaves the night before these big house dinners we’d have, and in order to keep them safe from drunk, hungry, grabby hands late at night, I’d store them in my room. It made my room smell like the inside of a baguette, and I could not even be in there because I’d just want toast constantly. I’d dream of sandwiches all night long.
This bread is a huge crowd-pleaser and is worth the slight fuss of cooking the potatoes, which can be done in advance if you want. It’s salty and peppery and hugely puffy without losing any satisfying bite. The potatoes help keep the inside moist. I often recommend it to new bread bakers because it always delivers. Even though I’ve been trying my damnedest to get a nice, complex sourdough, my friends/forced receivers of leftovers sometimes wistfully/pointedly wonder, “Are you ever going to make that potato bread, again?” I did.
From The Cheese Board Collective Works. I love this book so much. I lost my first copy, I think because I lost track of who was borrowing it, and I bought another one. Even on my second copy, it’s my most-loved cookbook with stains, watermarks, and bookmarks throughout — super unusual for me because I’m quite obsessive about keeping my books clean. That’s how much I love these recipes.
2 large potatoes (preferably russet)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour (or 3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup wheat gluten)
1 Tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
Cornmeal for dusting the pan
Preheat the oven to 425˚ F. Prick a few holes into each potato with a fork and lightly coat with olive oil. Wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil and bake until soft, usually 45 minutes to an hour. Allow to cool slightly (cut them in half or quarters to expedite this) and shred using the coarse side of a grater. You can do this a day or two in advance.
Proof the yeast by mixing it in with the lukewarm water. Mix the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add the yeast/water mixture and the oil and mix until the ingredients are roughly combined and the dough is shaggy. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat surface and dump the dough out, kneading until the dough is soft and slightly shiny.
Flatten the dough out into a large round and dump the grated potatoes onto the dough. Knead gently and briefly to incorporate the potatoes. Leave large pieces of potato in the dough if possible. Drizzle a little oil into a large bowl, gently form the dough into a ball, and place into the bowl, rotating it slightly to cover with oil again. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until doubled in size, usually about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 450˚F.
When the first rise is done, split the dough into 2 equal-ish pieces. Prepare one large baking sheet by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal. Form them into loaves. I prefer to make freeform rounds, but loaf pans work well, too. To make a freeform loaf, shape the dough into rounds and start pulling the dough from the top to create a taut surface, pinching the dough at the bottom of the round. Place gently onto your prepared pan and make a few slices (less than 1/2 inch deep) to help the dough rise. Cover again with a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, prepare a steam bath for your loaves. Place 1/2 cup of cold water and 1/2 cup of ice cubes into a metal baking pan. Seriously, use a metal one. I exploded a Pyrex pan doing this in college. Gently place the baking pan in the oven, followed immediately by the loaves, and close the oven. The good people at the Cheese Board recommend doing the steam bath again in 5 minutes, but I usually skip this step.
Bake the loaf for a total of 45 minutes until they are golden and sound hollow when you tap on them.
Allow the loaves to cool as much as you can wait until slicing in.