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Recipe: Potato rosemary bread (with recipe slideshow)

Though the rosemary seedlings in my indoor garden are still working their way to the surface, I already have plans for the piney fronds for when they reach their flavorful maturity. This recipe is a great way to use up extra mashed potatoes, and creates a moist, complex bread without too much time or effort. It is also an exceptionally good dinner roll, fun to form and tear off in individual portions and perfect to pair with roasted chicken and braised brussels sprouts.

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Baking bread is a lot more about feel, quality ingredients, and the weather than it is precise measurement. Making good bread is a true joy, and while many people feel intimidated by the prospect of hard labor in kneading, I find it to be very therapeutic. Success comes from experience, and experience never comes unless you give it a try.

Potato Rosemary Bread

On bread baking day, mix up a pre-ferment of:

  • 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine the water and yeast. Let it sit for five or so minutes until you can smell the yeast waking up (this will look tan, bubbly, and smell like beer - yum!)

Add your flour and with a wooden spoon, mix up the pre-ferment until it is fully incorporated. Cover it with plastic and pop it in the fridge for the day.

In the evening, when you're ready to do the real work, collect the following:

  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose (or bread) flour
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (fine if they are flavored with cream, cheese, garlic, etc)
  • 4 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup water (warm, 105-115 degrees)
  • 1 cup + of the pre-ferment, room temperature

In a small bowl, combine the water and yeast and let sit until bubbly. In a large bowl, combine flour, room temperature pre-ferment, salt, potatoes, and olive oil. Add the yeast water mixture. Mix and squeeze with your hands until the dough forms a ball. Add the chopped rosemary and knead for 10 minutes (about 300 times,) until the rosemary is evenly distributed and the dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball and place in a clean oiled bowl. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm place until double in size.

When it has doubled, butter two cake pans and set them aside. Then punch down the dough (more about deflating than practicing your right hook) and take it out of the bowl. Knead it a few more times to limber it up, and then you are ready to start forming the rolls.

The rolls will be most successful if they have good tension on the top, and a pinch on the bottom. Pinch off a piece of dough slightly larger than a golf ball. On a non-smooth surface, such as a wooden cutting board or table, roll the dough between the sides of your hands, pinky to pinky (palms up) all the while pulling towards the bottom of the ball. Place the roll pinched-side-down in the buttered dish. Arrange them about 1/2 inch apart to fill the cake pan. When you have used all your dough, cover the pans with plastic and let them rise an additional 1/2 hour, until the sides of all the rolls are touching.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. Carefully peel the plastic off the rolls and pop the dishes in the hot oven. Mist with water to create a better crust.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and the interior temperature is 200 degrees.

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