According to Wikipedia, plantains have a similar taste to potatoes. I am not sure that is true (in fact I am sure it’s NOT true) but what is true is that they are eaten, in the tropics, the same was we northeners eat potatoes: fried, as crisps or chips, mashed, roasted…they are the starch of choice. They have to be cooked before they are eaten and they are a wonderful source of vitamins A and C.
The other day I bought some plantains to make tostones, something my mother used to make for us when I was a child. On her journey from Germany (where she was born) to Canada (where she still lives) she stopped in a couple of places to live, one of which was Puerto Rico. That explains why she knew what they were and how to make them. They are delicious, if you are wondering.
However, I did not get around to making the tostones so I decided to cook the plantains and put them into bread. Plantains, either fresh or dried and ground into flour (sometimes called fufu), have been baked into bread for years to help pad out wheat flour that was (and still is) expensive and hard to get in the places where plantains are grown. This strategy has been shared by people all over the world. Bakers putting, for example, cooked oats, rice or potatoes into their dough, have the same strategy: eek out the wheat flour with the locally grown, cheaper, starchy alternatives to make delicious, nutritious bread. For those of you trying to cut down on grains but finding yourselves unable to give up bread (that’s understandable) this strategy is also very helpful! More bread for less grain. And wonderful bread to boot!
3 large plantains (green or yellow)
50 g butter
2 large handfuls of flax seeds
couple of pinches of salt
750 grams of flour (I used 50% white and 50% whole meal wheat flour)
325 grams of water
14 grams of salt
14 grams fresh yeast OR 7 grams dry active yeast OR 3.5 grams instant yeast)
Keep the plantains in their skins. Poke them a few times with a fork and put them into a large saucepan of water. If you can cover the plantains with water, great, if not, just make sure they are as immersed as possible given the size of your saucepan. Bring the water to the boil and then simmer the plantains for 15-20 minutes until they are soft when you poke them with a little knife. They may burst their skins – don’t worry about it.
Let them cool just so you can handle them and then take them out of their skins and mash them with the butter and a few pinches of salt. Add the flax seeds, stir, cover the bowl and let cool completely.
Measure the flour into a big mixing bowl. If you are using dry yeast, make a well in the flour and measure in the yeast. Pour over some of the water (enough to fill the well) and let stand for 15 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add any remaining water, the salt and the plantain mix and knead for a good 10 minutes. The dough is soft and sticky. Don’t add more flour. If you are using fresh or instant yeast, measure the yeast, salt and water into the bowl. Add the plantain mix and knead for a good 10 minutes. The dough is soft and sticky. Don’t add more flour.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 2 hours.
Flour the counter liberally. Flour two bannetons (each with a capacity of at least 750 g) if you are using them, and line two baking trays with non stick parchment. Once you shape the dough into balls you can put it into bannetons to rise or simply let it rise on the baking trays. If you do the latter, the resulting loaves will be larger and flatter.
Scrape the dough on to the floured counter and divide it into two halves (just use your eye, don’t try to weigh it). Flour your hands and the scraper and use the scraper to stretch and fold the dough, into a ball. To see a video on how to do this, see here. Your dough will be much sticker and looser than the dough in the video, but the principle is the same. If you stick to the dough, just flour your hands and the scraper and keep going. Be patient, it’s not obvious how to work with soft, sticky dough and many people are not used to it. Flour the top of the dough and pop it floury side DOWN in the banneton or floury side UP on the baking tray. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Cover the bannetons or the dough on the trays with a tea towel and let them rest for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees.
If you have used bannetons, gently turn the dough out on to baking trays. Put the baking trays in the oven and reduce the temperature to 200 degrees. Bake the dough for 40 minutes and then check it. When you tap the bottom of the loaves they should sound hollow. If they do not, put them in for another 5 minutes or so.
Let cool on wire racks and then dig in. Truly, you will be amazed at the wonderful moist texture and gentle flavour of this bread. If you like the idea of bread with cooked rice, oats, or potato, you can find recipes for all three in my first book, All You Knead Is Bread and for buns with sweet potato, there is a sensational recipe in my second book, The Book of Buns.
If you would like to learn more about baking bread in general, we will love to welcome you at one of our baking courses soon. Click here to read more and book.