“There is more food in a pennyworth of bread than in a gallon of ale.” Joseph Livesey
In the “good old days” on the farm where my ancestors grew up, all the bread was made at home for two reasons: firstly, everything was on hand within reach, it was obviously cheaper. Secondly, rural people did not have stores on every corner for a fresh supply. Today, people can add a third motive for baking homemade bread: commercial loaves tends to be unhealthy with many additives, and quickly become monotonous. A hearty homemade loaf can be baked as a special treat every day.
Baking with modern yeast is a relatively easy process, but before its invention housewives, bakers used alternative methods to make their loaves rise. Starchy boiled potatoes were often used to leaven, flavor, tenderise and preserve the bread. Family recipes of potato bread, like my mother-in-law’s standard loaf, were handed down through the generations. Potato breads were and are extremely popular in Eastern Europe, and although potato flour, starch, and instant flakes are easily accessible for baking, using fresh mashed potatoes and the water in which they cooked adds a different dimension to the finished bread’s flavour and texture.
450 g strong white bread flour
100 g sourdough starter – refreshed as a soft dough
1-2 medium potatoes (enough to yield about 120g of cooked, mashed potato)
50 g goose fat
50 g soured cream
140-180 ml potato cooking water
2 tsp fine-grained salt
25 g fresh yeast
Cook the potatoes. Combine the flour, salt and yeast in a large, warm mixing bowl. Add the still-warm cooked, mashed potato to the flour and rub the potatoes into the flour, so that they are thoroughly mixed. Make a warm mixture of soured cream, lard and water. Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in the water and milk mixture. Mix to form a soft dough w If it feels too wet and sticky, sprinkle with some more flour.Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
In the past, mothers taught their daughters the desirable consistency for bread dough. Although much has been said about the importance of kneading for long periods, farm-women made very good bread without timing the process. The goal was to mix the ingredients well and to coax the dough into a soft, smooth ball, when air in the mass begins to be felt.
Shape the dough as desired and place on a warmed, greased baking tray. Cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise until about doubled in bulk (this will take longer than for ordinary yeast bread, up to 3 hours).
Bake in a hot oven, 220 degrees C for about 35-45 minutes. The bread should make a hollow sound when tapped.
“A slice of bread eaten is a million times more nourishing than a loaf of bread imagined.” Mokokoma Mokhonoana