Of potato loaves and giant yeasted gnocchi

potato-bread3

How could you say no to a bread loaf that someone has described as “basically a huge, yeasted, baked gnocchi”?

The recipe for this Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) challenge calls for about equal amounts of mashed potatoes and flour, mixed with a small amount of the potato’s cooking water, yeast, olive oil. And after two quick rises, the bread is ready for the oven. Easy, right?

Except. I was baking in the Mr Gander Family beach hut, with a bare, holiday-house-kinda kitchen. It had a great view and gorgeous surroundings (see photos at the end of this post), but none of the baking accessories that forms my comfort zone: kitchen mixer, measuring cups, measuring spoons, kitchen scales, baking stone, and our slightly quirky but familiar oven. Instead, I made the rustic potato loaf with a large salad bowl, an old wooden spoon and by eyeballing the ingredients. It went something like this:

Me: does this look like 1/4 cup to you??

Mr Gander: …

In addition, we came back from the shops with waxy potatoes, not floury potatoes. Waxy potatoes, like kipfler potatoes, are great for salads. They have low starch content, maybe more moisture, and keep their shape when cooked. Floury potatoes, like Russet potatoes, are great for mashing because of their higher starch content and melty-fluffy-ness when mashed. Floury = great for potato bread. Waxy = maybe not so good for potato bread. (See here for more a detailed explanation.)

Probably because of the eyeballing, and the use of undesirable waxy potatoes, the potato loaf dough never quite came together into a satiny elastic ball as I expected. Instead, it looked like ciabatta dough’s cousin thrice removed: wet and shaggy, sticky, consequently a bit difficult to knead and shape; but also rises beautifully, with some irregularities in the moist, open crumb.

On a whim, I added rosemary from the garden, some whole fennel seeds, and a tiny bit of cracked pepper.

There was so much that could have gone wrong with this baking venture. I was unconsciously holding my breath until the bread came out of the oven. And – the bread loaves actually rose and browned in the oven! And most of them were eaten for dinner (before I took a photo). And the left over bread were made into toast the next morning (when I was ready to hover with the camera).

potato-bread2

I made two batches of potato loaves, each with slightly different baking times and temperatures. One turned out more like the ‘classic’ rustic potato loaf. The other turned into a kind of hybrid gnocchi-bread. Surprisingly, the gnocchi-bread was the preferred bread for a few of the Gander clan. Hmm…gotta love the in-laws !?

‘Classic rustic potato loaf’: For the first batch, I turned the oven’s thermostat turned down to about 150C (300F), instead of the 190C (375F) specified in the recipe. This is because the oven in the beach hut has a tendency to “take off”, temperature-wise. The crust turned a golden brown after 40 minutes, and so I removed it from the oven.

The bread was, like the recipe promised, very tasty – and very moist, which was great for mopping up sauces. It also made good toast the next morning, with a lightly toasted edges contrasting with the soft, toothsome interior.

‘Hybrid gnocchi-bread’: This loaf baked for just over 30 minutes, with the thermostat on a higher temperature – apparently 170C (about 340F). Just for the record, I think the temperature in the oven was much higher than 170C / 340F.

The loaf browned much faster and formed a lovely looking crust. But underneath the crust, it was as though the bread decided it wasn’t going to get up and out of bed today (or maybe it was trying to become matzoh…). This left a gnocchi-like texture, with enough yeast-leavened lightness so that it wasn’t tough and chewy (like over-worked gnocchi can be), and instead was just-sufficiently-toothsome, creamy, tasty – especially with a puddle of melted butter on top.

Next time, I would like to make this properly, back within my baking comfort zone and with a few variations in flavouring. But Mr Gander has been making puppy eyes about the gnocchi-bread, so that may be something I will try to replicate back at home.

potato-bread1

Verdict: I made bread in the beach hut!! This says a lot about how versatile and forgiving the recipe is. And it was very tasty, particularly for a dough that doesn’t have a long, slow rise to develop flavour. This is probably because of the potato in the dough – apparently before commercial baking yeast became widely available, people used starch-rich potato water to leaven bread.

So, if you are craving freshly baked bread in a holiday house, make this potato bread.

Now for that gnocchi-bread.

Recipes and other TWD-ers:

Curious about the classic rustic potato loaf recipe? Go to Dawn of Simply Sweet (who made such a gorgeous loaf with ‘baked potato’ filling, I’m jealous…yet inspired at the same time).  To see what other TWD have done with this recipe, go to the TWD links page.

Kitchen with a view: being out of my comfort zone wasn’t so bad when I get this instead:

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41 thoughts on “Of potato loaves and giant yeasted gnocchi

  1. Cathy B. 2 April 2013 at 11:28 pm Reply

    Wow! Both versions of your bread sound (and look) great. This was a beautiful recipe: easy, forgiving and quick. I loved it. I also love the view from your beach hut window. I hope you had a great time.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:29 pm Reply

      We did have a great time, thank you!

  2. Anjo Angela Lim 2 April 2013 at 11:59 pm Reply

    Looks scrumptious! I’d like to have some with some chilled cultured butter and raspberry jam! The crust, the giant air pockets, everything looks superb!!

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:30 pm Reply

      Oooh now I want to make more potato bread, so I can eat it with cultured butter and raspberry jam!

  3. Seriously? I’d take the opportunity to make anything in that beach hut. Love the view! And the idea of the huge gnocchi.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:31 pm Reply

      The ‘gnocchi’ description is a stroke of genius, even if I didn’t come up with it. :-)

  4. breaddivas 3 April 2013 at 4:06 am Reply

    Wow, bread in a beach hut… Congratulations! Your bread looks like it turned out beautifully.

  5. SandraM 3 April 2013 at 11:07 am Reply

    Bravo baking out of your comfort zone!! And the bread looks great. It has a great texture. Beautiful pictures out of the ‘hut’. Looks like a lovely place to be, eating yummy homemade bread! :)

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:33 pm Reply

      Thanks, I think baking (and cooking) out of our comfort zone can teach us a lot, like, how to improvise. :-)

  6. galettista 3 April 2013 at 12:32 pm Reply

    Both the bread and the setting look lovely. This seems like a recipe that could date back to pre-electric appliance times.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:34 pm Reply

      Yes, the ingredients and steps are so simple, I can definitely see this being made in old-times kitchens. The simple things can be the best, right?

  7. yummychunklet 3 April 2013 at 1:08 pm Reply

    I love the description as a yeasted, baked gnocchi! Your loaf looks delicious.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:37 pm Reply

      I love the description too! All kudos to Pragmatic Attic blog.

  8. Elaine 3 April 2013 at 3:22 pm Reply

    With views like those who cares if you have the tools you need or not? Your bread looks great and I am glad that your family enjoyed it.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:38 pm Reply

      Thanks, the view definitely enhanced our enjoyment of the bread!

  9. Karen @ Karen's Kitchen Stories 3 April 2013 at 5:21 pm Reply

    Your empty plate just made me smile.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:39 pm Reply

      Thanks! It was one of those moments..

  10. Teresa 3 April 2013 at 6:54 pm Reply

    Lovely photos. Your beach hut looks like a place that’s worth a little bread improvisation! Thanks for taking us through your two versions. Both sound delicious.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:40 pm Reply

      The hut was definitely worth it, glad you liked the photos!

  11. TheKitchenLioness 3 April 2013 at 8:36 pm Reply

    Wonderful looking rustic potato bread – and your additions of fennel, rosemary and cracked black pepper sound fabulous. What a wonderful scenery too!
    Have a great Wednesday!

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:43 pm Reply

      Thanks! I’d like to try more herbs in bread after this one.

  12. leaf (the indolent cook) 3 April 2013 at 11:32 pm Reply

    The bread looks enticing, and I’m a potato fan, so I think I will adore it. Well done on making it despite the obstacles along the way!

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:44 pm Reply

      Thanks – if you like potatoes I think you will like the bread. The potatoes definitely add to the flavour.

  13. Created by Carlene 4 April 2013 at 12:42 am Reply

    Nicely written. You were courageous to tackle bread outside of your kitchen. I have baked at the vacation cabin before, but always take my Bosch mixer with me. Adding rosemary, fennel and black pepper sound wonderful.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:47 pm Reply

      I love my Bosch too, and if I was doing anything more tricky (like sponge cake or a really wet dough), I would definitely have taken it with me.

  14. Sunshine x 2 4 April 2013 at 7:27 am Reply

    Yes, I would not trade those views for a real kitchen! Well done.

  15. gfcelebration 4 April 2013 at 3:03 pm Reply

    Would bake in that beach hut any day. It definitely looks like the place to be – what a view. Your bread looks amazing.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:49 pm Reply

      Yep, I’m very lucky to be able to visit that beach hut, we never get tired of that view. More photos coming in the next week or so..

  16. oven chaos 4 April 2013 at 3:31 pm Reply

    This bread is totally beach inspired :) Kudos for baking in an unfamiliar oven such a gorgeous looking bread! Have a great holiday!

  17. Amanda 5 April 2013 at 5:11 am Reply

    The only thing that could make a beach hut better would be eating this bread in a beach hut! It really was a very versatile bread. Glad it worked for you there. It looks amazing!

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:51 pm Reply

      Yes, the bread was so good, I’m already looking for a reason to make it again.

  18. teaandscones 5 April 2013 at 6:30 am Reply

    Now I wish I had added some herbs to the bread. It would be perfect with that. Gnocchi bread is a perfect description. What a view to bake with.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:54 pm Reply

      The gnocchi bread was an unexpected (but good) result, glad you liked the view too!

  19. Cathleen 5 April 2013 at 3:51 pm Reply

    Your additions sound great! I am always impressed with others who take on projects outside their own kitchens. The vacation pictures are beautiful.

    • saucygander 6 April 2013 at 9:58 pm Reply

      This was probably one of the easier recipes to make in a holiday kitchen. Nonetheless, I’m glad (and relieved) it turned out well!

  20. loavesandstitches 9 April 2013 at 3:55 am Reply

    Good to know that the bread turns out well in a beach hut, too! it looks yummy…definitely worth trying again.

  21. stephanieclairelay 3 May 2013 at 1:47 am Reply

    That looks glorious! How well did it last? Or was it all eaten too quickly to evaluate keeping length?

    • saucygander 4 May 2013 at 3:11 am Reply

      We ate the bread by the next day. But a few Tuesdays with Dorie bakers have said it keeps well & stays moist for a few (maybe 3-4) days. It was great toasted!

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