Potato Rosemary Bread

If you don’t mind holding onto those leftover mashed potatoes for another day, this bread might be just what you’re looking for.  It’s a two day project, but the flavor and texture are simply wonderful.  You start with a “biga”, also known as a “pre-ferment”.  This starter dough is made on the first day, rises once, and then spends the night in the refrigerator.  The next day you mix it into the other bread dough ingredients, along with lots of fragrant rosemary and those leftover potatoes, and you have a delicious savory bread.  The dough is easy to mix and shape; it can be made into two round loaves or eighteen dinner rolls.  The recipe is from Peter Reinhart’s beautiful, instructional book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.  I chose to omit the roasted garlic in the dough and, instead, make a garlic and Parmesan compound butter to serve with my bread.  This is one to add to your list of to-do recipes, it’s worth the time and effort. 

Potato Rosemary Bread
(makes two 1 pound loaves or 18 dinner rolls)
1 1/4 cups (7 ounces) biga (see below) **
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (14 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup (6 ounces) mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7-8 ounces) water, at room temperature
semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
olive oil for brushing on top

One hour before you plan to make the bread, remove the biga from the refrigerator.  Cut it into 10 small pieces, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap, and let sit for an hour to take off the chill.  Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a 4 quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).  Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water.  Stir with a large spoon (or mix with the paddle attachment) for 1 minute, or until the ingredients form a ball.  Add more water, if necessary, or more flour, if the dough is too sticky.  Sprinkle flour on your work surface and begin to knead the dough (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook).  Knead for approximately 10 minutes (or 6 minutes by machine), adding more flour if needed, until the dough is soft and supple, tacky but not sticky.  It should register 77-81F with an instant-read thermometer.  Gather the dough into a ball and transfer to a large, oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until double in size.  Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces for loaves, or 18 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each) for dinner rolls.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper (2 pans for rolls) and dust lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal.  Form the dough into whichever shape(s) you have chosen and place on the parchment, taking care not to let the dough pieces touch, even after they rise.  Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Proof at room temperature for 1-2 hours (depending on the size of the pieces), or until the dough doubles in size once again.  Preheat the oven to 400F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Remove the plastic from the dough and brush lightly with olive oil.  Score the tops of the loaves, if you prefer.  Place the pan(s) in the oven.  Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking.  The loaves will take 35-45 minutes total to bake.  Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, rotate the pans, and then bake for 10 minutes longer.  The loaves and rolls will be a rich golden brown all around, and the internal temperature should register at least 195F.  The loaves will make the characteristic hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.  Remove the bread from the oven to cool on a rack at least 1 hour for loaves and 20 minutes for rolls before serving.
**Biga
(makes about 18 ounces)
This recipe makes more than what you need for the potato-rosemary bread, but you can freeze what you don’t use for up to 3 months.
2 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7-8 ounces) water
Stir together the flour and yeast in a large bowl.  Add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water and stir until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball.  Adjust the flour or water, according to need, so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 4-6  minutes, or until the dough is soft and pliable.  It should be tacky but not sticky.  Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with oil.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2-4 hours, or until it nearly doubles in size.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it lightly to degas.  Return it to the bowl, covered with the plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight.  You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but beyond that it’s best to store it in the freezer.
(from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart)

Garlic and Parmesan Compound Butter
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 small garlic clove, minced, and mashed to a paste with a large pinch of coarse salt
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Place the softened butter in a small bowl and blend in the garlic paste and grated cheese.  Adjust the seasoning for salt and pack into a ramekin or roll into a cylinder in a piece of plastic wrap.  Store in the refrigerator (or freeze if not using within a few days).

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