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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Potato Wheat Bread

Long, long ago in a land far, far away, in a lifetime I don't always feel is my own anymore, I was introduced to homemade potato bread. This was way back in high school, when I first realized that, deep down inside, I am a cowgirl. It was as if I had never really lived until I started working cattle.

As part of this coming of age, I spent a fair amount of time with some friends on their ranch in Soap Lake, Washington. Now, I grew up eating homemade bread and I always loved it, but the bread my mom made was very whole wheat and quite dense and rustic. That's not a bad thing and I know that's how my dad preferred it. But, I guess I had never realized just how soft homemade bread could be until I tried Sy's potato bread. Sometimes, I think I drove over there to visit just so I could eat some of her bread. She was nice enough to give me her recipe and I've made it often over the years, but one day I happened to wonder what it would be like to take that super soft bread and make it a wheat dough. I wondered if it could make a nice, light wheat bread. As it turns out, it does! This is the softest homemade wheat bread you'll ever taste.

By the way, if you can't find soy flour, you can substitute for all-purpose, but the soy flour does some interesting things to the dough's texture, flavor, and storage length. Therefore, I recommend using it if you can find it.

It starts out with boiling a diced up potato in water. Boil it until it's nice and tender.

You need to let it cool quite a bit before heading to the next step or you will end up with scalding hot potato water shooting all over your kitchen. Trust me... I learned that one the hard way a long time ago! Please note that I made a double batch here, so your blender will not be this full. I have a 6 quart Kitchen-Aid, and I must say that a double batch of this bread is so big it's a fair pain in the rear. I'd recommend just sticking with a normal batch size. Blend the potato and water together until it's nice and smooth.

Mix all the wet ingredients together. Boy, doesn't look very appealing here, does it? Don't worry, it will turn into a fairly nice dough. It's going to be a bit sticky even when it's done, but that's why the mixer is nice. Add the soy and whole wheat flour and gluten and mix for a bit with the paddle. Then switch to the dough hook and add 2 cups of the white flour and the salt. Knead, adding as little of the remaining flour as necessary to obtain a nice, cohesive dough. Again, it will still be sticky, but it should also be nice and elastic.

Put the dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm place to rise until double. This dough is very active, so don't walk away and forget about it. I did that once, too, by accident. I had been letting it rise in the oven and, while I went out for a ride on my horse, the dough rose up and over the sides of the bowl and all through the oven rack. Yuck, was it ever a mess. Just be sure you keep an eye on it.

Here it is doubled. It didn't seem to take very long, but I put it in our 80 degree garage for about 45 minutes. The yeast apparently like that.

Dump the dough onto a floured counter and pat it down into a rectangle. Have your pans ready and lubed before getting started. I use the 8x4 size pans. Cut the dough so that you have two rectangles where one side is close to the length of the pan. Again, I made a double batch, so I had four rectangles.

Roll the dough up into a log and pinch the ends together. Pinch the ends up too and then flip the whole thing over and place in the pans, seam side down.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.

Once they have doubled, remove the plastic wrap and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Don't worry if the loaves don't seem to be as poofed as you would like because they have a good spring in the oven. In fact, if you let them rise too long and too high before baking them, they might fall in the oven.

If you like a split-top loaf, you can cut a line down the middle of the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade. Don't cut too deeply or your resulting loaf shape will be odd. About 1/4 of an inch deep is enough. Place bread into the preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when done or have reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees. Let cool slightly before taking the loaves out of the pan to finish cooling. For a beautiful, soft, glossy top like shown in the first picture, brush the tops with butter. For best results, wait until the loaves are completely cooled before cutting... yeah, right.

Potato Wheat Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1 small potato, peeled and diced
water to make 2 1/2 cups potato puree
3 TBS softened or melted butter
1 TBS instant yeast
2 TBS honey
2 TBS molasses
1/2 cup soy flour
3 TBS vital wheat gluten
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp table salt

In a small sauce pan, boil the prepared potato in about 2 cups of water. Boil until the potato is very tender. Remove from heat and let cool. Place mixture into a blender and blend for a few seconds. Add water to make 2 1/2 cups and blend until smooth.

Add the potato water to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter, yeast, honey, and molasses and mix thoroughly. Add the soy flour, gluten, and wheat flour. Mix on medium speed with the paddle for about 5 minutes. Remove the paddle and put on the dough hook. Add 2 cups of white flour and the salt. Knead on speed 2 for another 3-5 minutes, adding as little of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour as you can while still trying to keep the dough from being too sticky. It will never completely lose its stickiness and it is better to err on the side of less flour.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until double. Dump the dough onto a floured counter and pat into a large, flat rectangle. Cut into two rectangles and roll each rectangle into a loaf, pinching the seams closed. Place the load, seam side down into a greased 8x4 inch load pan. Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let rise again until double, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slash the top of the dough if you prefer a split top loaf and place in the oven for about 30 minutes. When done, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped or have reached an internal temperature of 200 degrees. Let cool slightly before removing from the pans to finish cooling on a rack.

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