Potato bread was always one of my favorite types of bread. Even way back in elementary school, when I always hoped to find it on my PB&J sandwiches, I knew the taste and texture of the bread if not the name.
Potato bread is just what is sounds like: bread that is made with potato in it. Now, we’re not talking about shredded potatoes here, but about cooked and mashed potato that is incorporated seamlessly into a regular dough. Potato breads are known for their light, delicate crumb, mild sweetness and a softness that few other breads share. It’s almost surprising, given that potatoes are generally considered to be heavy and filling. The fact is that yeast loves potato starch, and when mashed potatoes are added to a yeast bread dough, the yeast starts to work overtime and lifts the bread even higher – making a lighter, fluffier loaf – than it would on its own.
This bread starts with a single boiled, mashed potato and is later enhanced with a generous amount of parmesan cheese. You can substitute 1 cup of plain, mashed potato if you happen to have some (like instant potato flakes) on hand. The potato gives the fluffy tenderness and mild sweetness that it always contributes, while the cheese adds a slightly salty and very addictive flavor. It is excellent plain or with a bit of butter, and will really complement many main dishes. With a bowl of soup, this loaf could easily finish a meal. It would also make a great base for an amazing garlic bread.
I shaped mine in a simple, oblong loaf and, thanks to the boost in rising power supplied by the potato starch, it was a very large loaf at that. You can break your dough down into two smaller loaves, if you prefer, by cutting back on the baking time by about 10 minutes, as long as you check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer (should be about 200F) to ensure that your loaves are completely baked.
Parmesan Potato Bread
1 medium baking/russet potato (approx 8-oz)
2 tbsp butter
1 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water
4-5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg + 2 tbsp water (for egg wash)
Peel potato and cut into 8 even chunks. Boil potato pieces in a small saucepan until tender. Drain cooking liquid and completely mash potato (a ricer works well here) until smooth. Transfer potato to a large mixing bowl and stir in butter and milk, mixing until well combined.
Stir active dry yeast and sugar into the potato mixture. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, until mixture is slightly foamy. Add in salt, water and 3 cups of flour. Mix until smooth, either stirring with a wooden spoon or using the dough hook attachment on an electric stand mixer. Stir in parmesan cheese and gradually add in additional flour in 1/4 cup increments until dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl. If using an electric mixer, continue to knead at medium speed for about 5 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. If mixing by hand, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate. Shape into a long, oval loaf and place on a parchment-lined (or generously sprinkled with cornmeal) baking sheet. Cover with a clean dish towel, and let rise for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F.
Stir together egg and water with a fork and lightly brush mixture over the risen loaf.
Bake loaf for about 40 minutes, until bread is a dark golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. An internal read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will read 195-200F.
Transfer loaf to a wire rack to cool.
Cool completely before slicing.
Makes 1 large loaf.