About Me

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Potato Rosemary Bread

I was looking for a change from Laurel Robertson's recipes and it came to me when I picked up some fresh rosemary from my in-laws' garden: Reinhart's Potato Rosemary bread. I had made this recipe in the past for a family dinner and it was liked by all.

Starter and biga
Like a typical Reinhart whole-grain recipe, this one also has a biga and starter made a day (or upto 3 days) before baking day. The liquid from boiling the potatoes is used to soak the whole wheat flour for the biga and the starter.

Ingredients for starter and biga

Final dough
On baking day mashed potatoes (boiled the previous day) and fresh rosemary are added to the starter and biga along with more yeast and salt and some olive oil. Optional ingredients are roasted garlic and black pepper and I do plan to make this recipe with garlic at some point.

The usual ingredients + mashed potato and chopped fresh rosemary.

The recipe makes two boules or about 20 dinner rolls. I thought I would try to make one half into a loaf for sandwiches, but the dough was soft enough that it wouldn't have been easy to shape it into a loaf. I believe the potatoes were a tad over boiled and had a higher water content. I should have added more flour but I didn't.

A very soft dough

Ready for the first rise

Well risen after the first (and only) rise

Shaping and proofing
I decided to make a boule with half the dough and shape the rest into dinner rolls. I placed the dinner rolls close enough that they would proof into each other. I kept two of them apart to see if there would be a difference between the ones that stuck to each other and the ones that didn't.

Some dinner rolls and a boule

Proofed with some serious gas bubbles in the boule.

Scored dough. The rolls got four snips each with the tips of the kitchen scissors.

The bread

Out of the oven

Tight moist crumb

The boule sliced well.

Thin crust with some air pockets. Crumb with visible bits of potato.

I used a pan with hot water to generate steam. The rolls were done a little before the boule as expected. They were done in about 35 minutes and the boule took about 50 mins. The two rolls that were not attached to the others didn't get any more oven spring than the ones that were attached. We had some warm rolls with Laughing Cow cheese spread and soup. The combination tasted good. The boule has been frozen for a later time.

Date: Mar 27, 2011
Recipe: Potato Rosemary Bread from Peter Reinhart's book 'Whole Grain Breads'

Flours: Whole wheat
Bread specific ingredients: Potato, fresh rosemary
Sweetener used: None
Liquid for soaker: Potato water

First rise time: 75 minutes
Proofing time: 45 minutes
Comments: There was too much water in the boiled potatoes, I should have added more flour to make up for it. I should also try the recipe with roasted garlic.



  1. I'm really interested in the smooth crust, and wonder how you achieved it. Was it still a bit squishy? Wonder if it could have been the starchy water from boiling the potatoes that gave you that texture? Or just the type of flour used?

    Those huge air bubbles during proofing: did they go away by themselves during the scoring? They don't seem to have made any blemish in the final crust. Very curious. I like the way you have proofed it under an upturned container, so you can see what is going on, like a garden cloche. Great idea.

    I'll have to revisit this recipe, or at the very least use potato water in my next bread to see what it does to the crust. As you pointed out, the potatoes will change the hydration slightly, and one has to make minor adjustments with the flour and water to get the right feel.

    I think when I last made Reinhart's potato rosemary bread, I used the wrong potatoes entirely. I wonder if one could say as a rule 'the starchier the better' for baking bread with potatoes? But for eating alone, our household tends to prefer the less starchy potatoes.

    I love it when you bake bread and share it with me (in your blog)!

  2. Hey,
    Why would the crust not be smooth? If the dough does not have grits/cracked grains, other things that tear the gluten, I would expect the crust to be smooth. The potato water does help soften the crumb. There was a slight give when I sliced the boule. I used King Arthur whole wheat for this bread.
    I poked at the holes before I scored the boule. I wonder if I got those bubbles because I kneaded the dough more than I would a PR recipe. The upturned container contains the dough well but it sticks to the sides towards the end of proofing and then loses shape a bit when I take the container off. For loaf pans I sometime use an upturned empty 1 lb baby spinach container (from Costco). I also often cover the whole thing with a light kitchen towel (not that ambient warmth is a problem in Arizona).
    I had read your Potato Rosemary blog post long ago and then looked at it again before I baked this one. The purple potatoes were interesting. I just used regular Yukon Gold.
    Looking forward to your blog post that will study the difference that potato water makes in a formula, after the sourdough experiments maybe?


  3. Good question -- why would the crust of a whole wheat bread *not* be smooth?

    Maybe it is the whole wheat flour I use (either the stuff I buy or the stuff I grind myself) that often will leave my crusts sort of 'furry'; I'm guessing that the bran in whole wheat bread is milled to different sizes -- yours might be finer milled than mine. Or else the bran in my wheat is huskier (if that is a word that described what I mean better than 'brannier') to begin with -- bran being in itself one of those 'things that tear the gluten'.

    Or it might have nothing to do with the bran shape or content, but rather something to do with the temperature I bake my loaves at, or how long I leave them in the oven, or the ratio of starch that gelatinizes in mixing and baking (which is why I wondered about potato water). So many variables, my head spins. All I know is, you achieved something that I have trouble with.

    I should try a different flour once -- maybe import some of your 'King Arthur Flour' and see what happens. Try to limit the variables.

    Arggh. So many experiments to try. They multiply.

    Example: When I first saw your picture of the proofing of the boule under that upturned container, and then the size of those blebs forming on the surface, my first thought was, "Wow, she is proofing in a vacuum-tube". All sorts of lightbulbs going on around that idea, experiments starting to form in my head, wondering how I could make a vacuum tube to proof my breads, how I could inject something to give such a vacuum-raised bread more structure so it wouldn't collapse when it hit air-pressure again (a recent article I read suggested citrus fiber and I twigged on that)... you get the idea of the way my brain works...

    ...and then I just looked at your picture again and realized it wasn't a vacuum tube at all. Oh my crazy brain.