Monday, August 1, 2011

Potato Tarragon Bread

I recently went to a pot luck luncheon and was debating if I should bring dessert or something else.  I decided on making and bringing bread.  I am so glad that I did-the number of desserts were so many that the plates were hanging off of the edge of the table, almost too many to fit.  As far as bread was concerned there was only one store bought loaf there, so needless to say the homemade bread was a hit. I did find it strange however, that only me and one other person actually labeled our dish so people would know what it was.

This is another old recipe from Bon Appetit that I saved from years back.  As you can see, the recipe requires 2 cake pans for baking rather than 2 loaf pans.

The bread has a light flavor of tarragon and is moister than most since it does have potatoes in it.  Usually when I make bread my biggest concern is that the loaf will be heavy and dense.  I was well pleased with the texture.

One thing I always do is use rapid-rise yeast, even when they call for regular yeast.  I believe that rapid-rise yeast is a guarantee on making sure that your bread does rise as big if not bigger than it is supposed to.  This dough took a large bowl and by the time it got done rising, the dough had spilled  over the sides of the bowl, but it did not impact the end result. The original recipe just stated dry yeast and I have listed it as such in the ingredients below. You can use your own judgement on which type of yeast you want to use.

The other point I wanted to bring up was that I do not recommend using a stand mixer for kneading this dough.   After adding about 5 cups of flour to the batter, I realized that the amount of dough would be too much for a stand mixer.  I actually kneaded it by hand.  I remembered something in the original mixer instructions making a specific reference to the amount of dough allowed.

When I looked across at all the people at this luncheon it was nice to see that they had grabbed a piece of my bread to try.  I think that having people outside your family eat and enjoy something you have made is one of the biggest compliments.  

Potato Tarragon Bread
courtesy of Bon Appetit (prior to 2005)

1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs, room temp
4 white potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup or 1/2 stick of butter, cut into cubes
2 envelopes of yeast
2 tbs sugar
5 tsp salt
3 tbs chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tbs dried
7 cups (or a little more) of flour

Using a large saucepan, cook potatoes in boiling salted water until fork tender.  Drain and empty into a heat proof dish.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  The bread recipe needs 1 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes. For this task, a potato ricer, masher or hand mixer can be used.  However, since there will be some excess, you can choose just to mash the required amount for the recipe or mash them all.

Place 1 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes back into saucepan. Add buttermilk, 1/2 cup of water and butter cubes. Cook mixture over low heat, stirring constantly.  The butter will melt and the temperature should rise to about 120-130 degrees.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In another bowl, sift together yeast, sugar, salt and  1 1/2 cups of flour.  Whisk in the tarragon.  Then, with an electric mixer, slowly beat the potato mixture into the dry ingredients.  Add eggs and beat for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Then stir in the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time until a soft dough is formed.

Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured surface,  Knead by hand for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding flour when needed.  Grease the inside of another bowl and transfer dough to the bowl, turning to coat.  Cover bowl and place in a warm, draft free area to rise for 1 hour.  It should double in volume.

Punch down and divide dough in half and shape into 2 rounds.  Place rounds on floured surface and cover and let rise for another 15 minutes.  During this time, grease the bottom and insides of 2 eight inch cake pans.

Place each piece of dough into a cake pan.  Cut slashes on the top of the bread in a crosshatch pattern.  There should be 2 horizontal cuts about 2 inches apart and 2 inches long in the center of each loaf.  Also, there should be two vertical cuts((same distance apart and size of horizontal) running through the horizontal cuts. Cover loaves and let rise again for another hour.

When only 15 minutes remain of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Once rising time is complete, brush top of loaves with milk and place pans in oven.  Bake loaves for about 40 minutes or until done.  Bottom of loaf will sound hollow when tapped and top will be brown.  Remove from oven and run a butter knife between the bread and the insides of the pan.  Turn out loaves onto rack and then turn face up and let cool completely.  Once cooled, slice and serve.