I was feeling a bit disheartened after the last few breads. I enjoyed the Pizza Napoletana, but it had been since Pane Siciliana and Pain a l’Ancienne that I had made a bread we really adored and I was beginning to wonder if I’d make a transcendent loaf again.
Thank goodness for Potato Rosemary Bread!
This is an easy-to-make, two-day bread that you will adore. It has the light airy crumb of a bread like the Portuguese Sweet Bread, a crispy and crackly olive oil crust like Focaccia, and the fragrant addition of chopped rosemary. The mashed potatoes give it moisture and tenderness. The biga gives the flavor depth a boost. What’s not to like?
Like the previous two-day breads, this recipe starts out with mixing up a biga pre-ferment the night before baking day. I won’t go into details about that here, because I’ve written about it before, but it’s a simple process of mixing a small amount of dough, allowing it to ferment for a few hours, and then refrigerating it. 15 minutes of work. Also the night before, I whipped up a batch of mashed potatoes. I needed 1 cup for this recipe, so I made enough for dinner and set aside a cup for the next day. The recipe doesn’t indicate how or if you should doctor the mashed potatoes, so I just made my usual version, with yukon gold potatoes, some butter, milk, and coarse salt.
The next day, I chopped some fresh rosemary, and then mixed the dough by combining flour, salt, coarsely ground black pepper, yeast, mashed potatoes, olive oil, chopped rosemary, and water. I then transferred the dough to a floured counter and kneaded it for about 10 minutes. The resulting dough was smooth and quite workable, with flecks of rosemary scattered evenly throughout. Then, into an oiled bowl for a two-hour fermentation before shaping into two boules, proofing until doubled, brushing with olive oil, and then baking.
See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.
Oh! The aromas that came out of the oven that afternoon! We couldn’t wait to taste it. When it came out of the oven, the crust was so crisp we could hear it crackle as it cooled, fine lined cracks appearing all over the crust’s surface. When we finally cut into it, the crust was crispy and light in exactly the same was as the Focaccia’s crust (due to the olive oil, I assume), and the interior was light, spongy, and tender, with an even, open crumb.
The recipe optionally calls for the inclusion of roasted garlic in the dough. Instead, I roasted a head of our own garlic in the oven, and we crushed whole roasted cloves on each thick slice. These loaves didn’t last long. I’m having a hard time even writing about this bread without longing for a slice. I have a feeling I know what bread I’m making in my spare time very soon.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, a big bag of flour, and plunge in!