What to CookBread

The Unexpected Secret to Chewy, Bready Goodness

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Come on, Let's Get Scrappy. All you need is a little inspiration and...stuff you already have!

Focaccia is one of the most satisfying breads to make at home—it’s low-risk (measuring ingredients is the hardest part) and high-reward (warm, chewy, homemade bread = enough said!).

And did I mention it's easy? There’s no kneading, just some mixing and a bit of wait time before you can start ripping off chunks of salty goodness. There’s only one way to make focaccia even better than it already is: by incorporating a kitchen scrap that ups the ante on tender bread texture (psst: it’s potato peels!).

Now, many cooks know that a little potato can go a long way in doing great things for bread by adding moisture and helping create a tender, chewy crumb. Cook’s Illustrated broke down the benefits in a recipe for potato rolls:

  • Super-Soft Crumb: When potatoes are boiled, the starch molecules swell. This interferes with the ability of flour proteins to form gluten, which means you get bread that's light and tender.
  • Moist Texture: M-word haters, my apologies, but there’s just no other way to describe it. “Potato starch granules are about five times larger than wheat starch granules and are therefore capable of absorbing at least five times more water, resulting in a moister crumb,” notes Cook’s Illustrated.
  • Longer Shelf Life: Bread rarely lasts for long in my household, so I’ll have to take their word for it, but it could help some of you to know that a potato-laden loaf can last a little longer than normal bread because “potato starch molecules hinder wheat starches from staling, thereby keeping the bread’s crumb soft for days.”
Photo by James Ransom

The good news is that potato peels provide all of the same benefits, in addition to great taste (after all, peels are where most of the potatoes’ flavor lives). I first learned that potato peels’ true destiny is in bread from longtime Food52er AntoniaJames. She shared years ago that she cooks her peels in about 4 times their volume of water until tender, then blitzes them with a hand blender, saving both the starchy cooking water and the blended potato peel mush for use in rustic artisanal breads. I wanted to use the starchy water and peels at the same time, so I cooked my peels in less water, then blended the peels right along with it.

While you could use potato peels in any sort of bread, I thought they'd only add to focaccia’s already-pleasantly chewy texture. I started with Alexandra Stafford’s Overnight Refrigerator Focaccia as my base recipe. Stafford’s no-knead bread, and her recent cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs, have taught me so much about bread baking, so I was thrilled when she recently shared a tweaked version of her base focaccia bread. With a heap of potato peels staring me down after I’d made a batch of creamy mashed potatoes, it was meant to be.

One note: hopefully it goes without saying that you should always wash (and scrub, when applicable) your produce before eating, but it’s especially important when you’re cooking with scraps, as by nature, you’re cooking with parts that are frequently discarded. And, when you’re cooking with scraps like potato peels, any lingering dirt will ruin the final result—a vegetable brush will help make sure it’s as clean as possible.

Flax Seed Potato Bread

Flax Seed Potato Bread by AntoniaJames

Hot Dog and Hamburger Potato Buns

Hot Dog and Hamburger Potato Buns by Erin McDowell

Any type of potato peels can be used in this recipe: Lightly-colored, thinner ones will virtually disappear, while darker-colored ones will freckle the dough. I didn’t test this with sweet potato skins, but my guess is that they’d work just as well, and they’d be especially fun to try in a sweeter bread.

I made this focaccia with both Yukon Golds and russet potato peels, and the results were equally delicious. I'd recommend eating it straight up, swiped through olive oil or hummus, or toasted and topped with avocado. I also followed Stafford’s suggestion and turned one round into a giant sandwich—doing so for your next potluck pretty much guarantees coming home with an empty plate.

Inspired by Potato (Peel) Focaccia, my mind immediately jumped to loaded baked potato skins, which is one of the few previously known ways for potato skins to shine (besides now, in bread!). So I made a version of the focaccia loaded with cheddar cheese, green onion, and bacon bits (notes on this version are within the recipe below). It's the perfect partner for a bowl of potato soup—which you just might have the potatoes on hand to make.

Potato (Peel) Focaccia

Potato (Peel) Focaccia

Lindsay-Jean Hard Lindsay-Jean Hard
Makes 2 rounds of focaccia
  • 1 cup (4 to 5 ounces) lightly packed potato peels (see headnote for more)
  • 4 cups (17 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons butter, softened, for greasing
  • Flaky salt for sprinkling
  • Loaded Baked Potato variation
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) bacon bits (see headnote for more)
  • 1/2 cup (3 ounces) packed grated cheddar cheese
Go to Recipe
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Potato, Cooking with Scraps