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Author Notes: This is one of our favorite sandwich breads. It has a tender crust, is a bit chewy, it slices effortlessly and smells great when you put it into your mouth. I call this “everyday” potato bread because I use potato flakes (plain, unseasoned instant potatoes) instead of a cooked potato. If you haven’t used potato flakes before, you’ll be surprised at how effective they are in making a good loaf of sandwich bread even better. You can substitute potato flour (2 parts flakes : 1 part flour) if you can't easily get potato flakes. This is one of the first breads I started making on a regular basis, to use for sandwiches in the lunches my boys took to school when they were little. I still make it, at least once every other week, though the boys are off at college now. Like any good sandwich loaf, this makes excellent toast. Enjoy!! ;o)
Makes one good-sized loaf
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup (23 grams) plain potato flakes, or 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (or 23 grams) of potato flour (See note below.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 cups (360 grams) bread flour + a bit more for kneading, if necessary (I always need about 20 more grams, so lately I've just been measuring 380 at the outset.)
- 2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
- Proof the yeast in ½ cup of warm water (no hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit) with a pinch of sugar. Give it at least ten minutes, so that it doubles in volume and is foamy on top.
- (Please see the note below about kneading. You don't have to knead this by hand, if you don't care to do so.) In a large bowl, mix the milk, potato flakes, oil, salt and honey. Beat well, using a sturdy wooden spoon. Add one cup of flour. Beat again.
- Add the yeast mixture, once it’s proofed, and a second cup of flour. Stir until thoroughly combined.
- Add the third cup of flour and the wheat germ. Stir to combine as much as you can without too much difficulty. Then dump it all out onto a lightly floured work surface everything in the bowl (and scrape the sides and add that to the pile). Put a few tablespoons of flour on the counter, within easy reach off to the side.
- Knead the bread well, using a bench scraper to pull up dough that sticks to the counter. If the dough is so sticky that you can’t pull your hand off it, add a bit more flour (including on your hands). Be careful though not to add too much. I use my bench scraper to pull over about a teaspoon or two at a time from the little pile of flour I measured out before I started kneading. Remember, you may not need all of extra flour you put out to use in kneading.
- After kneading for about ten minutes, the dough should be smooth and elastic. If it isn’t, continue to knead until it is. You can’t over-knead it
- Shape the dough into a ball, put it in an oiled bowl, then turn it over to coat it well. Let rise for an hour, or until doubled, in a covered bowl in a draft-free place that’s not too chilly. (See note below.)
- When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down gently, knead a few times and shape it into a loaf; let it rise for another 30-40 minutes. If you are using a standard loaf pan, oil it lightly and let the dough rise in it. Otherwise, put the dough on a piece of parchment. (Cut it so it will fit the clay pot, if you using one.)
- If you want a great sandwich loaf, you actually don’t want to let it double in volume on the second rise, as it is likely to be too airy and won’t slice well or hold together when made into a sandwich.
- If you are using a clay pot, you’ll know that (i) it benefits from soaking in water before using; and (b) you can’t put it, while cold, into a hot oven. So fill up the clay pot about ¾ with water and put it into the oven; also fill the top of the clay pot, if it has one. (You won't be covering the bread with it, but it's nice to have extra hot water in the oven creating moisture.)
- 20 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, turn the oven on to 325 degrees Fahrenheit for a convection oven, or 350 for a regular oven. If you are not using a clay pot, put an ovenproof skillet or dish on the bottom shelf and put your tea kettle on to boil. Once it boils, put a cup or two of it in the skillet or dish that's in the oven.
- When the dough has finished its second rise, take the clay pot, if you’re using one, out of the oven and pour out the warm water; line it with parchment and gently put in the dough. Or, put a bit of cornmeal on your pizza stone and put the dough on it. (If you don’t have a clay pot and don’t care to use a stone, use a regular loaf pan that you’ve lightly oiled.) Using a bread knife, carefully make four or five slits, setting the knife edge at an angle, across the top of the loaf.
- Brush it generously with olive oil. This is key. It helps gives the bread a beautiful, fragrant crust.
- Put it in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Check the loaf after about 25 minutes. Convection ovens can often make the crust a bit dark, especially those made with milk, so if the crust is looking too brown after 25 or 30 minutes, cover it very lightly with a piece of foil.
- When the loaf is done baking, remove from pan and let sit on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
- This makes excellent toast, and is perfect for sandwiches. Natural peanut butter plus homemade jam are also natural allies.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- A Note about Potato Flakes: It’s no secret that potato gives bread a lovely texture. The beauty of the flakes is that, unlike with leftover mashed potatoes, you (a) don’t have to wait until you have leftover mashed potatoes, or otherwise cook some up, to make a loaf of potato bread; and (ii) you don’t have to worry about getting the salt right, or whether you’ve estimated the liquids correctly. (Potatoes and the liquids used in mashing them vary considerably from batch to batch, depending on the moisture of the potatoes themselves, how much cooking water has been poured off, etc.) That never stops me from using leftover mashed potatoes if I have them, because I have enough experience to correct any mistakes by adding more liquid or flour as necessary during the kneading process, and to avoid over salting. I love the convenience of potato flakes.
- A Note about Rising: Your bread dough won’t rise easily if it’s cold or subjected to drafts. My favorite place for protecting it from both are in my microwave. Put a small cup of water in your microwave, and turn it on high for two minutes. Remove the cup and put your covered bowl of dough in there and shut the door. Instruct everyone in your household, in no uncertain terms, that if they wish to use the microwave and they see dough in it, they are to remove the dough, gently, and to replace it, gently, closing the door, gently, when they are done. Or, you can warm up your regular oven to no more than 100 degrees (turning it off immediately so it doesn’t get any hotter), leave the door open just a crack for a minute or so, then pop your bread bowl in there, covered lightly with a tea towel. Shut the oven door, and leave it alone.
- A Note about Clay Pots for Bread: Instead of a standard loaf pan, I use a clay pot designed for roasting. The clay pot is soaked, which in turn produces moisture in the oven, which improves the crust. This pot I use is not glazed, like the clay pans made especially for bread making, so I use a bit of parchment. I highly recommend this. It’s something that I stumbled on when I realized how perfect the size of my small roasting clay pot is for my standard bread recipes. (I have another larger one that I use for roasting chickens and savory main dishes. The smaller clay pot is now reserved strictly for bread.)
- A Note about Kneading: This dough does not necessarily have to be kneaded by hand, if you have another method that you prefer, and are able to make adjustments accordingly. I happen to like stirring and kneading, because I rely on my hands to tell me when the correct amount of flour has been added. Plus, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of using your own hands to turn a shaggy, floury mass of not-quite combined ingredients into the most glorious, smooth, shiny and supple ball of dough. I do some of my best thinking while kneading, too.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best (Savory) Yeast Bread
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