Monday, November 26, 2007

Tender Potato Bread...Do I Dare?

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Have you ever experienced bread-baking Zen? It happens when you are kneading your dough steadily, like a well-oiled machine, and it starts transforming from a shaggy mess to a smooth, elastic piece of perfection. You are totally in the moment and you feel a peaceful contentment.

Then there is dough that makes it a wee bit more difficult for you to achieve bread-baking Zen. They are stubborn and teasing. With these guys you need a little more perseverance and a lot more imagination – it’s not easy outsmarting bread dough, you see.

But if you’re a Daring Baker, you do what you have to do.

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When Tanna announced that the challenge for this month would be Tender Potato Bread I was thrilled! I really enjoy bread-baking and the way I bliss-out when kneading dough. Yeast is never a problem in this humid oven where I live. And the smell of freshly baked bread is great from masking the garlic I sautéed during the previous meal. Little did I know how much of a challenge this would actually be, and how much harder I would have to work for my bread-bliss.

It started out innocuously enough – flour, potatoes, water, yeast, salt, a bit of butter. I used about 10 ounces potato (I figured I was safe in between the 8 ounces Tanna suggests for beginners and the 16 ounces for experts). Everything was going on much the same as the other bread recipes I’ve tried. Until I added the flour and was supposed to “turn out onto a well-floured board” to knead. Sticky just doesn’t cover it. I valiantly tossed in spoonful after spoonful of additional flour but still there remained more dough stuck to my hands than on the board! I tried my best to knead it into shape but the more I tried the more it seemed to suck my hands in…like bread-dough-quicksand. Just when I thought that I was licked I decided to let the frustrated bread-baker step back, and let the determined gymnast step up.

No, I am not, nor was ever, nor will ever be, a gymnast. But it helps to pretend when you are dealing with stubborn bread-dough. Hear me out.



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When you are dealing with bread-dough that will not bend to your will, close your eyes and imagine you are one of those strong, lithe, gymnasts about to start a super-duper-difficult routine. You know that part when they take some chalk and clap it between their hands? Now take some flour and clap it between your hands. In the movies this part is always shot close up and in slow-motion, the chalk puffing out dramatically between the gymnast’s able fingers, catching the light in the stadium, the crowd’s cheers reduced to a dull thrum as the gymnast places all his/her focus on the routine. This is the mental picture you should be going for. Now, with all that focus and concentration and drama, plunge yourself into the kneading with new vigor. Knead like you have never kneaded before! Get in there wrist-deep, the heel of you palm digging into that dough like you’re going for the gold. Dough still sticking? Don’t even slow down, just toss in some flour and let your magic gymnasts’ hands do the rest! After a while put a little spring in your step…as you knead with your right hand, lean into the dough and skip to your left, and vice versa, until you have achieved a steady rhythm. If you have Eye of the Tiger hiding somewhere in your playlist, now is the time to bring it out.

Although difficult, and much more tiring, you still reach bread-baking Zen. A kind of Bikram bread-baking Zen. Still blissful, just a tad sweatier.



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After you are done, exhausted and sore, and the dough has baked to a heavenly smelling and wonderfully behaved bread, you are ready for another type of bread-bliss. When your bread has cooled enough to slice, but still warm enough to soften some butter, take a slice from anywhere in the loaf that you want (that’s right, if you want a slice from the very middle then cut the loaf in two and get it!). Take a good pat of your best butter and spread it on the warm bread. Take your buttered bread to your most favorite, comfiest place in your house. Turn off your mobile! Toss off those flip-flops! Now sit back, relax, and give yourself 100% to experiencing this piece of magic that you created with your own hands. Bliss no spa can recreate I tell you.

More notes on the challenge:

  • You can find the original recipe here.
  • I made the loaf and the focaccia.
  • I used anchovies, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes on the focaccia. The reason there are no sun-dried tomatoes in the photo is because I bought a horrible brand that burnt to a black crisp…so I swept them off and replaced them with parsley.
  • I still do not own a potato ricer or a food mill so between the kneading and mashing I think I got a pretty good workout…yay! :)
  • I really liked the way the bread turned out – it had a great chew to it much like the potato breads I’ve had in the past (which is why I like potato bread), plus the best crust I have ever produced on bread!
  • The focaccia is a weird uneven shape. I wish I could say I was going for “rustic” but I just couldn’t shape it evenly.
  • The dough was rising like mad in the heat of my flat!
  • I was beside myself with excitement because I finally baptized my pizza stone…wooh!
  • I will definitely make this again, using caramelized onions, goat’s cheese, and anchovies as a topping!
  • The photo of the loaf was taken in the kitchen at night…thus the strange lighting.

  • Thank you Tanna for choosing a terrific challenge! To say I had fun would be an understatement ;)

    People: Check out all the Daring Bakers’ Tender Potato Breads here!

    70 comments:

    Manggy said...

    Oh Joey, you're too honest. It's "rustic!" Really! That looks really good, especially the foccacia. I bought a pizza stone just today! I'm getting the shivers just imagining what to do with it! Did you use unbleached all-purpose? Where did you get it?

    marias23 said...

    Hey there! Lovely bread and I'm glad you were able to reach the baking with yeast Zen :)

    I like that you were creative with the foccacia toppings.

    kellypea said...

    The chalk, the gymnast and The Eye of the Tiger are hilarious! I can just see you...with sticky dough up to your arm pits. Wait! That was me -- except with no music. Your bread looks perfect. And my sun dried toms burnt, too. I'm thinking add them in the end next time.

    Barbara said...

    I know that Zen feeling. It is wonderful when you think this bread is just not working and suddenly it changes to what you want and how it should be. Lovley loaves Joey.

    Courtney said...

    wow that looks so yummy, everyone is making me want to make this over again

    Dolores said...

    I love the mental images you conjure up in the face of adversity. And your finished focaccia proves that it was worth the challenge.

    Pille said...

    I will - hopefully - have that zen-moment tomorrow, Joey! Beautiful breads - well done!!

    Shawnda said...

    Zen for me that first bite of a warm, butter-slathered roll :)

    You did a beautiful job!

    breadchick said...

    Wow, look at the rise on your loaf! Your bread is lovely and fantastic looking in crumb and spring.

    ~Amber~ said...

    Your loaf and foccocia look amazing. I chose those to items too. Congratulations on a challenge well done.

    Laura Rebecca said...

    Hee! I thought it was ridiculously sticky, too! Nicely done on your challenge.

    Meryl said...

    I had some trouble with the dough too, but your bread turned out lovely!

    Miss Ifi said...

    That focaccia looks beautiful, and the loaf looks so perfect and aity... CONGRATULATIONS!!

    Meeta said...

    Yes, it did give that zen moment. I loved your mental visual effects and the Eye of the tiger is always my choice when things get tough in the kitchen. Joey, you put a smile on my face. Wish we roughed this one out together.

    Jennyfer said...

    The gymnast thing had me giggling, but it makes perfect sense!! Good job.

    Peabody said...

    A wonderful job on your breads...a well fought battle with the sticky dough.

    Gigi said...

    Amazing looking Focaccia!

    Anita said...

    I think they turned out so delicious looking - glad you reached your Zen!

    Jen Yu said...

    That bread looks terrific and the focaccia is beautiful. Awesome job! I was kneading my dough in mid afternoon when it got pretty bloody hot in the house. I was so scared I would sweat into the dough :( Good on ya for your achievement of Zen!

    -jen at use real butter

    MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

    Well how obvious, of course a gymnast would be the perfect image to take on sticky! You rule Joey!
    I love your focaccia! Totally awesome.

    marye said...

    It all looks great. Can't wait to see the chevre one that you plan on doing.

    Splurge Sisters said...

    Your foccacia is really beautiful looking - well done!

    Tartelette said...

    Love the whole gymnast analogy....I felt more like Rocky punching that sucker down!! THe focaccia looks particularly appetizing! Great job again!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Manggy! Haha! Thank you! :) Oh goody, pizza stone! It really makes the crust crisp...I love it! I used regular all-purpose flour because I couldn't find unleached at the time but I have seen King Arthur before in Rustans and in Healthy Options :)

    Hi Maria23! Thanks :) I wanted to experiment with even more toppings but I didn't have the time...will have to wait for round two :)

    Hi Kellypea! Ack...those blasted sun-dried tomatoes...yes, add them in the end should work :) Haha! Sometimes you need to inject a bit of the hilarious when things aren't going they way we want ;)

    Hi Barbara! It felt great turning the situation around and seeing the dough come together...even more so for the extra effort!

    Hi Courtney! Thank you :) I want to make it again soon too!

    Hi Dolores! Glad you enjoyed the post...try it sometime, it works :)

    Thanks Pille! Good luck tomorrow! :)

    Thank you Shawnda! Yes, taking that first bite into warm butter-slathered bread is really something :)

    Hi Breadchick! Thanks! :) I hardly ever have trouble with the rising because it is just so darned warm here...The tricky part is when the dough threatens to spill over...like when the focaccia was baking and I thought the loaf was going to overflow already!

    Hi Amber! Thanks :) I always wanted to make a "flatbread" and the opportunity to use my pizza stone was just too tempting!

    Hi Laura Rebecca! Hehe :) It made it more of a challenge :)

    Hi Meryl! Thank you!

    Thanks Miss Ifi! :)

    Hi Meeta! Glad I put a smile on your face :) I would have loved to rough this one out with you! We could be an Eye of the Tiger tag team :)

    Hi Jennyfer! Yes, sometimes the wackiest things are those which make perfect sense ;)

    Hi Peabody! And what a rewarding battle it was! :)

    Thanks Gigi!

    Thanks Anita :) Glad you think so!

    Hi Jen! It's always hot here, especially in my kitchen...I so know that "sweating in the baking" feeling! Argh :-/

    Thanks Tanna! Hehe :) I thought you would appreciate "unleashing" my imagination :) Thanks for choosing such a great challenge!

    Thanks Marye! Can't wait to see how that'll turn out too!

    Hi Splurge Sisters! Thank you :)

    Hi Helene! Thank you! Hehe...yes there are definitely Rocky moments! :)

    Ruy said...

    Hi! I can feel your determination emanating from this post. Very inspiring for people who like to dream of going beyond their abilities in the kitchen (like me). May I just ask how you know if you have "baking" potatoes? Do we have those here in the Philippines?

    Madeleine said...

    Your bread looks great! :)

    Good work!

    Gretchen Noelle said...

    I think the foccacia looks especially colorful with the added parsley. The loaf looks perfect as well! Yum!

    Brilynn said...

    Next time, I am definitely cutting my loaf in two to get a middle slice!

    I(dot)J said...

    Lovely. And oh, do I wish to experience the Zen that comes when baking bread.

    Iisha of http://thefablifeofi2daj.blogspot.com/

    mtan said...

    You might find the same level of moisture when you do your no-knead. Pretty hard to get a grip when it's so sticky.

    I read a recipe for dinner rolls recently and started wondering if I could use potato bread dough to make them with. I'll check the list of the Daring Bakers to see what they have made with their potato bread.

    kaoko said...

    Ooooh, that foccacia looks heavenly! And your description of potato bread interests me. Is there anywhere in the metro I can buy some? I don't think I can brave the baking challenge. ^_^;;

    Cherry said...

    It was pretty heaty over here when I made the dough and it rose like a monster too! I gave the monster some punching =). Your bread looks great! I agree that the lighting don't give the bread the honor they deserve!

    Great job!

    Julie said...

    Nice, I give you a 10 for sticking the landing! Your bread looks great and your post cracked me up. I have a feeling there will be a lot of parallels drawn between making this bread and endurance sports. It was worth it, though! And yes, that bread baking Zen rocks, however you conjure it!

    Baking Soda said...

    I just LOVE the gymnastic experience, you took me right there with you! Great results!

    Bev and Ollie "O" said...

    You obviously did something right, your bread lookd fantastic and your focaccia amazing!

    Anne said...

    Everything here is so beautiful! Love reading your post...and your photos are awesome as always :)

    Amanda at Little Foodies said...

    You had me laughing all the way through there and now I can't get 'the eye of the tiger' lyrics out of my head. Bikram bread-baking Zen! Thanks for the giggle and your bread and focaccia look fab!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Ruy! I was determined! Heehee :) If we keep pushing who knows how far we'll go in the kitchen...and consequently, how well we will eat from our own efforts! :) Our potato variety here is not too good...so I just bought what was in the grocery and hoped for the best!

    Thanks Madeleine! :)

    Hi Gretchen Noelle! Thank you :) I like the way the parsley looks as well...and taste-wise it always adds a bright note that I really love :)

    Hi Brilynn! Yes you go do just that girl! You deserve it :)

    Hi i(dot)j! It's the best...try it! :)

    Hi M! Oooh! I am so excited to finally try the no-knead in my new pot! ;) Check out the other Daring Baker posts, rolls were among the variations so there are tons out there...I have already seen some of them and they look great!

    Hi Kaoko! Thanks! I don't know where they sell potato bread around here...but I'll let you know if I bump into any! :) They previous times I tried it was my own (I used Nigella Lawson's recipe before) and my uncle's...

    Thanks Cherry :) Haha! I so know what you mean...I really had to keep an eye on it lest it really go wild! The punching's the best part, hehehe :)

    Hi Julie! Glad you enjoyed this post :) You summed it up perfectly with "endurance sports"!

    Hi Baking Soda! Glad you liked it! Thank you :)

    Hello Bev and Ollie "O"! Thank you :)

    Thanks Anne! Likewise...you always have something to gawk at on your site! :)

    Hi Amanda! Hahahaha! Thank you! And I'm glad I achieved the main purpose of this post...for someone to be singing Eye of the Tiger all day like I was! :)

    katrina said...

    Joey, you are a riot! The gymnastics analogy is hysterical!

    Both your breads look perfect! The focaccia, especially, is beautiful -- I love me some focaccia! I SO regret I wasn't able to take you up on your offer. Oh, well, hopefully next time. :-)

    slush said...

    Kneading is my problem, I never know when I should be done kneading.

    Your bread is gorgeous and the post is killer. Great job!

    S. said...

    I love the combination of bread and olives! Fabu.

    Freya and Paul said...

    Great pictures! The bread(s) really do look tender!

    clumsy said...

    "Sticky just doesn’t cover it." --That was my thought exactly... Jeez was it sticky!!

    Your bread looks fantastic!

    Veron said...

    Ha..ha...gymnast indeed. It was quite the sticky dough...it got therapeutic after a while though.

    Veron said...

    gorgeous looking loaves , by the way...

    Deborah said...

    I highly recommend trying caramelized onions on your next foccacia. I did, and they were my favorite!! It all looks so beautiful!

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Katrina! Haha! Sometimes I can have an overactive imagination :) Don't worry, I won't stop texting you to get stuff off our hands! Hehe :)

    Hi Slush! TThat's like me with beating egg whites! I never know when to stop...

    Hi S! Big olive fan here :)

    Hi Freya and Paul! Thank you :) It was tender...and fresh out of the oven really goooood...I have some slices in the freezer now and let's see how they fare...

    Thanks Clumsy! Wasn't it though? :)

    Hi Veron! Thanks! Yep...I really felt for a while like the dough was trying to such my hand in!

    Hi Deborah! Thanks for the tip...I really wanted to but didn't have the time...now I'll be sure to try that :)

    Maryann said...

    Wonderful post, Joey! I like that first photo and wish I had some right now. Thanks for the comment on my blog also. I appreciate it.

    Linda said...

    what a stunning loaf!

    iCook2live said...

    Dude, your photos are always on point. I love how you can see all the nocks and crannies of your sliced bread.

    Princess of the kitchen said...

    Your loaf looks crusty and delicious and the foccacia so yummy! Well done

    cupcaketastic said...

    Zen baking rock, especially to Eye of the Tiger, love the colour of your Foccacia toppings.

    Inne said...

    Zen and a good workout! Such a funny post. You're lucky Joey with your ideal 'yeast conditions'. My kitchen is very cold and drafty, and even with the oven on full blast during proofing, the dough still doesnt' rise with much conviction.

    chronicler said...

    Very nice! Your bread does look rustic and that's a good thing!!! Glad to be a part of DB!

    Gabi said...

    Too funny! I love your "Zen and the art of Gymnastic Bread Baking" post! :)
    Great job!
    xoxo
    Gabi

    ChichaJo said...

    Hi Maryann! Thanks! Visiting all the other potato bread posts is making me want to have some more too :) I already had some for "dessert" slathered with butter and strawberry jam!

    Thanks Linda!

    Hi icook2live! Thanks! :) Thank goodness my "model" was in the mood to pose ;)

    Hello there Princess of the Kitchen! Thank you :)

    Hi Cupcaketastic! Zen baking is the best...and you can't be beat when Eye of the Tiger is egging you on ;)

    Hi Inne! Although the conditions are ideal for yeast, they are sometimes not (ideal) for humans...leaving us slow and sluggish, quite the opposite of the yeast effect! :)

    Hi Chronicler! Thanks :) I love taking refuge behind "rustic" when my stuff is a bit uneven :)

    Hi Gabi! Thanks and glad you enjoyed it! :)

    broadcasting from a knitting parlour said...

    Alright! Bikram Bread. Zen and the Art of Tender Potato. Yes. Thoroughly enjoyed your post. And, darlin', that crust is just about perfect, isn't it?

    --Dove

    Princess of the kitchen said...

    Your foccacia and loaf look amazing! Bet they were just as delicious as they look. Well done!

    Em Dy said...

    Picture looks good, bread seems to leap out of the page. I'd love to eat that.

    Sheltie Girl said...

    Your bread turned out beautifully. I love the look of your focaccia. Sorry the sun-dried tomatoes turned black, but true DB gymnast that you are you flipped into action. Great job! Thanks for the story.

    Natalie @ Gluten A Go Go

    Mindy said...

    I do know about wierd light..it seems like whenever I want to create something- the only time I've got to do it in is off hours... Oh Yonkers! The things we put up in needing to take pictures of our food-

    By the way- I LIKE the foccacia's uneven crust VERY much.

    Kelly-Jane said...

    Mine is rustic... yours is great! You did a great job here, well done DB :)

    Lydia Hamre said...

    looks so flaky.

    Christina said...

    A) Your loaf looks amazing, and B) so does your focaccia! Nice job!

    Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats

    Heather said...

    Love the Zen story. I do think that listening to Eye of the Tiger would have contributed to my kneeding.

    Elisabeth said...

    You did a marvelous job. Your foccacia bread looks so so good.

    Congratulations on winning with your terrine. How exciting! :)

    creampuff said...

    I want to crawl into that loaf while being wrapped in the focaccia.

    I would be in bread heaven. Beautiful!

    Andrea said...

    Your bread turned out lovely. Very nice crumb!

    Linda said...

    wow what a line up! that foccacia looks divine!!!

    jun castelo said...

    Oh my gosh! I never thought that bread making can be that emotional. Now I am so motivated that I now wanted to make bread even if I don't know a thing about cooking...BWAAAAH