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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grandma's Potato Bread

Homemade bread must be the epitome of comfort food.  Just the aroma of the yeast dissolving in water is enough to make my husband say "I love that smell".   I'd been making bread for a few years when Grandma explained to me how she made hers and I caught right on.  There are no measurements so if you are a novice breadmaker, this isn't a good place to start, try a recipe from a cookbook first and make it a few times so you understand how the dough should feel, then give this one a try when you feel confident of your skills and ability to eyeball your ingredient quantities.  If you're a bread baker, you should have no trouble with this at all (and the results are worth it). 

Grandma's Potato Bread

The night or morning before:  
Peel & quarter a potato (any kind, any size).  Place in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until fork tender.  Turn off the heat but DO NOT DRAIN.  Mash it up and let it sit until morning. 

In the morning:  Dissolve 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp) yeast in lukewarm water and let it sit 5-10 minutes until it gets foamy on the surface.  Heat potato-water mixture until just about the same temperature as the water you dissolved your yeast in (if you get it too hot, just let it cool until the temp matches the yeast mixture or is slightly cooler).  Add yeast mixture to potato-water mixture.  Add salt & sugar or honey, stir until combined.   Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well as you go, to form a sponge.  Continue adding flour gradually until you can't stir it anymore & when you knead it by hand, it won't stick to your hands or the board.  Place in a bowl & cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set it in a warm place until doubled in size.  Punch it down, knead it back into a smooth ball.  Allow to rise until double once more.  Punch it down again and divide into the desired number of loaves or rolls.  Cover & allow to rise again, until doubled.  Bake at 375 degrees until golden brown on top & until it sounds hollow when you tap it with your fingertip (it should also be lightly browned on the bottom).

Grandma had a wide variety of loaf sizes from long loaves like you buy in the grocery store, to short, extra wide pans to small, individual loaves.  I'm lucky enough to have those bread pans - although I don't use them nearly enough these days.  She told me that the number of loaves she ended up with depended on how much water she added, so you'll just have to eyeball it.  For rolls, I usually make balls of dough about 2 inches in diameter, then put them in round cake pans & let them rise - they're always popular in our house during the holidays. 

I usually only just cover the potato with water and get about 2 standard loaves.  Typically I end up using about 1 tsp salt & 2 TBLS sugar or honey when I make it this way.  You can also use milk instead of water for a sweeter dough for cinnamon or breakfast type rolls plus as much as 1/4 - 1/2 C honey.   The longer you let the potato mixture sit prior to adding the rest of the ingredients, the tangier the dough will be - I recently read that this was one way sourdough was made in the pioneer days. 

I hope you enjoy the bread!

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