Sunday, 25 November 2007

Daring Bakers: Potato Bread

The gauntlet was thrown down this month for the Daring Bakers: we were to make a bread recipe, but we were all banned from using a bread machine. Well, thought I, this would be more of a hardship for some than others. I own no bread machine, so I couldn't mourn what I didn't have. Any bread I make has to be done the hard way, and though I'm not a bread expert the prospect didn't leave me shivering in yeast-based fear.

The bread was a potato bread, chosen by Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups (where you can find the recipe). The bread could be formed into humble loaves, shaped into dainty rolls, or laid out as a lovely focaccia. It didn't take long for me to decide on the focaccia; I had never made one before, and I love drizzling that bread with olive oil and different Italian toppings.

The recipe was mildly confusing in that we could use two different quantities of potatoes, depending on our confidence levels. Or, in my case, general foolishness: I has happy to wade in to the deep end despite not being familiar with the recipe. I was also, as is becoming typical for me, facing a few obstacles: we are at the tail end of house construction (namely, creating a new kitchen) so each day that goes by sees more dust and less counter-top space in my already small kitchen; our weekends are taken up by renovation work so finding a window for baking is getting more difficult; taking pictures is nearly impossible since there are no un-cluttered surfaces and the only natural light I can grab demands me waking up early and sneaking into the extension before the builders arrive; and on the only day I could take on the recipe I had a friend's (important) concert to attend in the evening, so I had to finish everything by a given time. Better get cracking.

I started the potatoes boiling around noon, giving me plenty of time to be dressed and out of the house by 6pm. And then friends dropped in for a visit. Despite the place being chaotic and there not being a dusty-free chair to offer them to sit on, they stayed and chatted and I even mustered up a cup of coffee. What was that you said? Oh yes, the potatoes - thanks for reminding me. They boiled for the allotted time but then sat in the water for quite some time more, slowly getting a bit mushier and taking on quite some water.

But these were my only potatoes and my windows were closing fast, so these would have to make do. The mixture was very, very wet even after using all 8 cups of flour. Since I had whittled down my time by chatting with my friends, I calculated that I could only let the dough rise for 1 hour rather than the suggested 2 hours. This rushing was in some ways fortuitous, since even after one hour the dough had risen a good deal - or, more accurately, the very wet dough had made an attempt to rise and was drooling itself over the sides of the bowl.

Kneading the bread was a problem because it was so wet. On the counter-top, it looked more like The Blob than a bread, spilling its way around and trying to absorb the utensils and microwave on the edge of the counter. I added more flour - another 3 cups or so - in order to make it marginally less tacky. This meant that I had a huge amount of dough on hand, so I divided it in two at this point and froze half.

The focaccia would take about 30 minutes to bake, and I had 35 minutes before I had to leave the house (honestly, where had the time gone?!). The bread went in the oven, I got changed (the kitchen and I were covered in flour, but luckily the kitchen didn't have to head out to the concert), I readied all my things and was set to sprint out the door after making sure the oven was off. After the 30 minutes, the bread looked like it could use a bit more time to come to a golden color, but time was the one thing I didn't have. The bread would have to settle for sitting in a still-hot-but-turned-off oven to finish cooking.

The bread was very good despite the compromises I forced upon it. I will make it again, and next time make sure that I take the potatoes out of the water promptly and give the dough the full time to rise. I would also resist adding any extra flour, since my bread was slightly on the dense side, and I felt it could be lighter. And me? I made the concert on time, though I did have to sit there, quietly picking off the dried dough from my wrists and arms which hadn't quite washed off. It's no wonder my friends want a classy person like me to give them moral support.

52 comments:

Gigi said...

I am really kicking myself. So far I have seen the most tempting focaccia bread ever. Looks sooo yummy!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Excellent post Annemarie. I sympathise with the renovations. We bought our house nearly two years ago and still haven't finished renovating. One day - by then of course we'll probably want to move. Hope your friend's concert went well.

glamah16 said...

Well you got it done and you supported your friend! I have made this 3 times this months and the last attempt was like your with time as a obstacle. But it all works out.

Elle said...

You are so funny! I love the image of you in fancy concert attire picking bits of dried bread dough off your hands and wrists. This dough was so soft and sticky that I was doing the same hours after the dough was baked. Amazing that you were able to make such a lovely looking foccacia in a kitchen undergoing renovation! Way to go Daring Baker!

Shawnda said...

The focaccia looks lovely! My poor wedding ring had to soak overnight to get rid of all the encrusted dough bits :)

Courtney said...

loved the post, it made me laugh. glad you liked the bread

Tartelette said...

Great that you were able to complete the challenge in the middle of all that chaos! I love the image of you cleaning dried dough off of yourself! The focaccia looks fabulous!

Rachel said...

Focaccia looks drool-worthy inspite of the all the chaos!!

Ilva said...

You really managed to make the challenge become a double challenge! It looks great!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your focaccia looks wonderful! Scrumptious!

Cheers,

Rosa

Pille said...

Oh, Annemarie, I can imagine the stress levels being high with having such limited time on hand, and the focaccia still in the oven!! Good you enjoyed the end result, however.
I'm not able to make this until tomorrow, as I'm being a very busy baker this month..

Mila said...

This was deffinitly a challenge!! but the foccacia looks great!!

sunita said...

That is a beautiful focaccia...well done!

Butta Buns said...

Your focaccia looks wonderful next to that pool of olive oil. I'm chuckling over you last paragraph, dough picking is definitely a nice activity during a concert.

BB
buttabuns.wordpress.com

April said...

The focaccia looks great!

slush said...

Man, everyones focaccia looks sooo good!! Hilarious post. So glad you made it on time! Great job!

Megan said...

Looks wonderful and I'm sure you did too.

breadchick said...

Great job on the challenge. I love the mental picture of you sitting in the concert clumps of dough stuck to your hand. Loved the way the focaccia looked.

marias23 said...

Delicious-looking foccacia! I wish I had some left over for dinner tonight...

Meryl said...

Dipped in olive oil--what a good idea!

CB said...

That dough was totally The Blob. I'm really impressed that you thought to freeze it and the focaccia looks perfect.

Deborah said...

It looks wonderful, despite the time restraints!!

Julius said...

Your post is such a delight to read, Anne Marie. It made me smile imagining someone in a concert picking dough off. :)

Congrats!

Julius from Occasional Baker

Peabody said...

Beautiful foccacia.

Jen Yu said...

Ha ha ha! That is great how you had flecks of dough on your person. I too discovered bits and pieces well after I had made the bread (as in, even the next morning). Considering your constraints, you came through with flying colors! It looks wonderful.

-jen at use real butter

Kevin said...

The focaccia looks good. I like the olive oil for dipping.

I(dot)J said...

Wow.. I really love the way that your bread came out. Especially the last pic with the small dips.

Cherry said...

Beautiful focaccia! I wish I could have a bite =D

Baking Soda said...

Applaud you for taking on this challenge right in the middle of kitchen renovation! Great job!
Maybe this helps? After draining the potatoes I let them steam, uncovered, on medium heat for a couple of minutes, give a good shake so they get all floury on the outsides. Helps in getting rid of excess liquid and thus requiring less flour.

Anne said...

the focaccia looks simply lovely and I heart your photos :)

african vanielje said...

still looks totally ediblicious!! Well done

Foodie Froggy said...

Congrats for both your focacia...and your new kitchen. I will be in your city next thursday for a long week-end, isn't it great ?

ostwestwind said...

Wow, your focaccia looks great!

I couldn't bake without a scale, even my grandma did it. I liked it to put on the weights.

Sheltie Girl said...

Your bread looks delightful. I enjoyed eating my focaccia with drizzled olive oil too.

Good luck with your new kitchen...would you share a few pictures of your under construction kitchen with us?

Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

Gretchen Noelle said...

This certainly looks fantastic! I once had a bread machine, but gave it away since I never used it. Would have enjoyed tasting your delicious foccacia!

Freya and Paul said...

Your bread looks delicious! Yours isn't the only one I've seen that oozes over the side of the bowl either, but looks like you caught it in time. I've had really wet doughs that, provided the yeast is working properly, give yummy, airy breads.

kitten said...

Glad to know there are others out there that got attacked by the sticky runny blob of dough. I had a very similar experience of "pouring" my dough onto the counter top. Good job on getting all of that done in your time frame, everything looked awesome.

Julie said...

I hope the renovations go well, and I'm glad you made your concert! Your focaccia looks yummy!

Dolores said...

I so loved reading your adventurees... battling both finicky dough and a fast-moving class. Looks like you got the upper hand! Congratulations, and good luck with the remodel.

Judy @ No Fear Entertaining said...

I'm with you...the biggest challenge was the time issues!!! Very funny. Your focaccia looks great!

cupcaketastic said...

I love how you recounted your effects. I have to to admitt I giggled more than twice. Congrats on still completing the challenge and your bread still turned out. Well done

linda said...

Despite it all your focaccia looks lovely. I experienced The Blob too, it seemed to have a life of its own when proofing and 'flowing' out of the bowl...

chronicler said...

Your focaccia looks so delicious!

A, said...

I love reading your posts Annemarie. I look forward to visiting your blog every month. Your focaccia look amazing.

iCook2live said...

I love reading your posts Annemarie. I look forward to visiting your blog every month. Your focaccia look amazing.

Gabi said...

I feel your pain on the renovations- I have a beautiful kitchen now but I went through two years of a remodel on it- when I was cooking on a grill, a crockpot and a micro in the living room. I send you a bubble of calm to get through it all.
Your focaccia turned out great even with your impositions!
xoxox
Gabi

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

How I love the thought of you sitting in the concert picking dough off! Potatoes do change the whole game with bread baking don't they. I'm delighted you enjoyed the bread baking and the group. About now we're all starting to check for the December challenge . . . what will it be . . . sugar and butter and chocolate . . . time will tell.
You really did ask a lot of the bread to cool itself in a hot oven! Looks pretty!

LizG said...

Great post! That blob was alive, wasn't it?..Well done. :)

Bev and Ollie "O" said...

I also had no bread machine, so it was just making bread the "normal" way for me.
The focaccia was a success as yours was and has persuaded me to do it again, looks yummy on the plate with the olive oil x

sher said...

I loved thinking about you at the concert with bread dough residue! Oh the things we do to be a Daring Baker!!! Your focaccia looks marvelous!

Christina said...

I'm glad you made the concert and I'm glad you made some stellar focaccia!

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats

creampuff said...

Wow! That focaccia is just gorgeous!