Starting to sprout

The potatoes are starting to sprout. They are Alex's potatoes—he planted them, hilled them, and watered them all summer. He picked off the bugs, hilled them again, and then while I was busy nursing Sally those first few weeks he dug them up, tucked them into a basket with dishcloths and dirt, and brought them into the basement to weather the winter downstairs. Our friend Pete was visiting, and he took this picture: 

I love it. If you squint, you can see the little pile of red potatoes in the foreground there. It got much bigger as the harvest went on—I am not much good with weight estimates, but I think we got at least twenty or thirty pounds. 

We've eaten quite a few, but there are still about ten pounds in the basement. Alex checked on them yesterday, and when he came upstairs he announced that it was time to do something with them NOW. He put too much work into those little red bodies to let them go to waste.

And so work we did. My sister is visiting, and she and I and Sally had a potato bake off. First we made gratin—a light version with thinly sliced potatoes, torn up spinach, layers of grated cheddar and boiling chicken stock poured over top. We made one to eat and one to freeze, and together they put away a good four pounds. (The recipe came from my favorite Darina Allen cookbook.)

Next up was whole wheat potato bread. The recipe didn't use as many potatoes as we'd hoped—a mere quarter pound per loaf—but we doubled it and managed to put away another pound.  We looked through a lot of recipes before we found the one we settled on—most were either part white flour, which we didn't want because I have pounds and pounds of whole wheat to grind into flour from our grain CSA and we must use it up!—or didn't look like they would rise the way we wanted.

I'm glad we were picky. Because the one we chose was dense and nutty and moist and soft and potato-y and also rose just right. We made it exactly according to the recipe, and it came out exactly according to plan. I don't know what your potato situation is, but if you have one that requires action, this loaf is excellent.


adapted from We [Heart] Food

All whole-wheat breads are tricky. Often, they don't rise right and can be overly dense. This one's hearty, but the potatoes give it a soft touch. Be sure to use organic potatoes—conventional ones are one of the worst for pesticides

1/2 pound organic potatoes, whole if small, halved or quartered if larger
5 and 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons pastured butter
1 cup all-purpose flour

Put the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until just soft enough to mash. Measure out two cups of the cooking water and mash the potatoes in this water. (We used an immersion blender, which worked well.) Set this mixture aside to cool to 100 degrees F. This will take about 30 minutes, so be patient.

Meanwhile, whisk together the whole-wheat flour, yeast, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Put the butter on top of the flour, and when the potato mixture comes down to temp, pour this over it. Use the bread hook attachment to begin kneading the dough, adding the all-purpose flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the sides of the bowl. Knead for roughly 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in. Cover the bowl with a damp dishcloth and set it in a warm, draft-free place to rise for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size. Punch the dough down and shape it into two loaves. Grease two loaf pans and put the dough in them. Cover them with damp dishcloths again and leave them to rise another hour, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut two or three slits in the top of each loaf and sprinkle with salt. (I used a coarse sea salt for this, which looked and tasted wonderful.) Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown on top. 


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jan said...

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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.