Baking bread requires heart. Baking bread requires muscle. Baking bread teaches you patience. Baking bread teaches you to have faith and surrender to the unknown. And that’s what I learnt by baking bread.
When it comes to baking, I have always lingered around the safer side of cakes and cookies. They never let me down. I did venture out with some advanced patisserie stuff that didn’t go quite right. But the zeal to learn something new still exists and to take it a notch higher in 2015, I wanted to try out breads.
I checked out some recipes I wanted to try from a book that has been resting on my shelf for the last 2 years! *sigh* The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was a birthday present that my friend Manisha had gifted me. Maybe she believed in my baking abilities more than I did. Thank you Manisha 🙂
As a flipped a few pages, again like some unseen universal magnetic force was drawing me towards looking for a simple recipe. Of course the book says ‘Mastering the art of Extraordinary Bread’ and I don’t know why I was even searching for a simple recipe, in the book of extraordinary bread.
So I gave in to a recipe that intrigued me most, because it uses mashed potatoes. Yes, you read that right, potatoes! The book mentions, the potato starch softens the dough giving the bread a pleasing tenderness, and I vouch for it. This was also the first time I used a pre-ferment (Biga).
Throughout the entire process I had my doubts, Was the flour enough? Have I added more water? Will the dough rise? But I took a leap of faith and stuck to the recipe (only reducing the quantity by half) keeping my fingers crossed and hoping everything would turn out just right. And boy did I bake some extraordinary bread! And just like that I started believing that baking a good bread at home is possible.
This bread has a hard crust (more like a kadak paav) and is soft and pillowy on the inside. It is perfect for soups and dishes that have some gravy.
Here I have put down the recipe that I used, which is same as mentioned in the book, the only change being that the quantity has been reduced by half and I skipped adding optional ingredients -rosemary and garlic. The below recipe will provide around 10-12 buns.
Biga/ Preferment (I made this the previous day and used a part of it to bake the bread. You can store the remaining in the freezer for about 3 months)
Flour 1 ¼ cup
Instant yeast ¼ tsp
Water ½ cup
• Stir the flour and yeast and keep adding water till the dough comes together.
• Sprinkle flour on the counter and knead for 4-6 minutes.
• Lightly coat the dough with oil and let it rest in a bowl at room temperature for 2 hours.
• Remove the dough from the bowl, knead it lightly and place it back in the bowl covering with cling film.
• Store it in the fridge if using it the next day or just wrap it in cling and store in the freezer.
Biga 100 gms
Flour 1 ½ cup
Salt ¾ tsp
Black pepper ¼ tsp
Instant Yeast 20 gms
Mashed Potatoes ½ cup
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Water ½ cup
Flour for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top
• Remove the Biga from the fridge (an hour before you start mixing the dough for the bread) and divide it into small pieces. Let it thaw at room temperature.
• Stir together the flour, salt, pepper, and yeast.
• Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil and water and start kneading the dough till it comes together. On kneading the dough might get a bit sticky, and that’s ok unless its very liquidy sticky then add more flour.
• Sprinkle flour on the counter and start kneading. You might have to keep sprinkling flour on the surface as the dough keeps getting sticky on kneading. But just sprinkle enough so that it avoids sticking but do not add too much of flour. You will have to keep kneading the dough for 10-15 minutes.
• Lightly oil a bowl and keep the dough in it. Cover the bowl with cling film. Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours.
• Remove the dough, knock it a bit. Divide the dough into smaller portions and shape them into balls.
• Place them on a lined baking tray and set aside for 2 hours. Mist the dough and lightly cover with a cloth.
• The dough should double in size.
• Preheat oven to 200 degrees C and bake for 35-40 minutes. Rotate the tray after the first 20 minutes for even baking.
• Once done, allow to cool to room temperature (for atleast 20 minutes). The buns should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
• Tastes best when consumed immediately.
• You can use leftover mashed potatoes
• Optional ingredients – add 1 tbsp rosemary and 2 tbsps chopped garlic to the mashed potatoes.
• I stuffed some herbed cheese in a portion of the dough and it tasted just as good. Perfect for a snack in itself.