I did attempt to bake a bread (just flour, yeast and some water) from a cooking magazine last fall and got a bit mixed results. For a first try it wasn't a complete disaster, but the bread didn't rise very much and had a pretty dense crumb. I thought this might be due to some rookie mistakes made by me like not allowing not enough time to rise, letting the dough rise on the cool workbench instead of someplace warm etc.. So, when a new Bread Baking Day was anounced I decided to give it another go. This months Bread Baking Day is hosted by Notitie van Lien and has the theme Bread and Potatoes.
I chose a recipe for rustic potatoe bread collected by Petra Holzapfel, who blogs at Chili und Ciabatta. This time I successfully avoided all the above mistakes, but still the bread didn't get a soft airy crumb (compared to the reference pictures at the source link given below) and a kind of leathery crust. The latter is probably due to not enough moisture/steam in the oven. The potatoe bread was quite moist and together with some air-dried Bratwurst from a local butcher made for a hearty snack.
Concerning the crumb issue, I'm at a bit of a loss. My new favourite suspects are the yeast (which still had a Best-Before Date late in 2010) and the flour. I've done some reading on the web, and there are some favourable mentions of flour produced by the Adlermühle in Balingen, which seems to be some kind of old-world equivalent of King Arthur Flour. :) So maybe I should order some of their flour and see if it makes a difference.
Rustic potatoe bread
Source: Petras Brotkasten
Original Source: Leslie Mackie in
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
680 g Potatoes,starchy kind (Russet-Potatoes)
4 tsp. salt
125 ml water, warm (from the boiling process)
1 Tblsp. dry yeast
2 Tblsp. olive oil
665 g wheat flour type 550, (or all purpose flour)
Yields 2 breads.
Scrub and quarter the potatoes. Transfer to a pot, cover with water and add half the salt. Boil until soft. Drain in a colander, hereby catching 125 ml of the cooking water (about half a cup). Let dry and cool. Mash the potatoes (peel them first, if you want). Add the yeast to the water (if water has gone cold, warm in microwave) and let stand for 5 min. Mix the mashed potatoes, yeast mixture and olive oil until reaching a homogenous stage, using an electric hand mixer or food processor at low speed. Add the flour and salt, continoue mixing for 2-3 min. Now switch to medium speed and mix for about 11 min. The dough may be very firm and crumbly at the outset, but he will come become smooth and soft during kneading.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise for about 30 min at room temperature. Put a bread baking stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 190°C. On a floured work space half the dough and form two loafs. Wrap each in a floured kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 min. Immediately prior to baking, sprinkle the oven walls with water, put the bread in the oven, sprinkle the oven some more and close hte door. Bake for 45 to 50 min until the bread has turned brown and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom side.