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).
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 !?