Why would you add mashed potato to bread?
Now, there is a question and it has its roots in the time when wheat was an expensive upstart, not widely grown or only imported, and potatoes were the cheaper option. Used as filler, potatoes were one of a proud list of fillers: local, cheap ingredients that bulked out the bread, making it go farther. Look to the Caribbean and you see yam, cassava, or plantain used in bread. Look to asia and you see rice (both black and white) used in bread. Look to Ireland (and the east coast of Canada) and you see potato used in bread. Look to the North East coast of North America and you see corn meal used in bread. Look to that lovely London baker, Baker and Spice and you see potato and rosemary bread being sold at over£3.00 per loaf! I don’t begrudge them that at all, by the way, real bread should be properly priced and is competitive (yawn, I hear you thinking, here she goes) with a large Starbucks but gets you just that little bit farther, nutritionally speaking.
Adding stuff to bread gives it interesting flavour and texture. If you are not sure, simply add 100 g of something odd (cook it first if it is meant to be cooked – like potato or rice – and soften it first by soaking it in hot or cold water if you don’t want dry hard pokey bread – like millet or corn meal) to a loaf of bread following a basic recipe with about 600 g of flour. The texture will be completely different and don’t worry about that. It will be very sticky and you will need wet hands and a scraper to get it out of the bowl and into a shape. Worse comes to worse just kind of spoon it into a greased tin where it will be contained and do its second rise. Because of the density of this kind of bread I will bake it at 200 C/400 F for 45 minutes to make sure it cooks through. Don’t expect it to sound hollow – there is just too much going on in there! If you want to make buns you can simply spoon them onto a baking tray that you have lined with baking parchment, and you can bake these at 220/425 because they only need 15-20 minutes in the oven.
Today we can get everything at the supermarket and it seems like everything is going up in price. Adding a “filler” like potato or rice does not seem to be a big money saver (and it probably is not) but is does add variety and challenge to your baking repertoire.
Without further ado, a recipe for sweet buns made with maple syrup and mashed potato, from the East Coast of Canada:
Makes 4 dozen buns
250 ml warm milk
6 grams of dry yeast (3 grams instant yeast or 12 grams of fresh yeast)
500 grams plain flour
2 tablespoons of maple sugar (or brown sugar if you cannot get the maple sugar)
2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons of lard or butter
2 medium potatoes, skinned and mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
125 mls of maple syrup
1. Make a pre dough
Dissolve the yeast and maple sugar into the milk and add this to 200 g of flour, whisking to make a paste. Let it sit for one hour. It will foam up during this time and may fall back down again. Don’t worry about that. Foamy or collapsed – both are fine.
2. Make the final dough
Add the rest of flour and everything else and knead well for 10-15 minutes. It will be sticky but don’t be tempted to add more flour.
Let it rest in the bowl for 2-4 hours (or overnight in the fridge).
Gently pull the dough out of the bowl and on a floured counter. Flour a rolling pin and gently roll the dough out into a rectangle so that it is about 2 cm thick. Cut it into diamonds or use a scone cutter (dip it in flour each time before cutting) to cut rounds about 5 cm in diameter. Place these on a baking tray that is either lined with baking parchment or well-greased. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and bake the buns until they are golden brown – about 15 minutes. Take them out and place them on a cooling rack underneath which you have put a sheet of greaseproof paper.
Pour the maple syrup into a saucepan and boil it until it reaches the thread stage (or 115 degrees C). Drizzle it onto the buns while they are still hot. If maple syrup is way way too expensive where you live (and it is expensive enough in Canada) you can use golden syrup or honey or date syrup instead. Just a sticky goo to make a lovely sweet glaze. But maple syrup is the best….spoil yourself!