Light and fluffy, full of flavor, and the secret is the potato boiling water!
When I was a kid, my mom made bread most weekends. The rest of the week, we survived on the grocery store loaves. But her breads were always delightful, the stuff of memories, and the smell of loaves baking always takes me back to her kitchen. One of her secrets, whether she was making potato bread or not, was using the cooking liquid from a batch of boiled potatoes saved from a meal during the week. She’d set this aside and used it as the water in her breads, and told me it was a good snack for the yeast. Mom was right!
A classic potato bread
She loved making rolls, and her “featherbeds,” a New England classic potato roll, were among our favorites. He recipe was simple and used white flour and white sugar, an egg, yeast, potato water, and a cup of saved mashed potatoes. I’m not sure how she managed to hide the mash from my brother Michael, since he could live on them and always finished off whatever was left in the bowl!
Let’s revisit these tender morsels
It had been a long time since I thought about these, but while making mashed potatoes for a shepherd’s pie, I decided to save the water and a cup of the mash, and dig out the old recipe. I’m glad I did!
You know by now I can’t leave anything alone. I wanted to give this recipe a little update and use mostly whole grain, so King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour to the rescue yet again! I also swapped out honey for the white sugar.
A long rest
This bread is best left to ferment overnight in the refrigerator so the flavor will be more developed. It is worth this step, and a little patience. Mom would make the potatoes for supper, set aside the cooking liquid and the potatoes she needed for the bread, and make her bread the next morning so we’d have plenty for dinner.
Keep it even
Even though predominantly whole grain, these still came out light and fluffy with a beautiful texture; I did add a bit more water. I made mine much bigger than mom’s, but you can make them any size you like, just try to keep them even. You can eyeball this, or weigh the dough on a scale, and divide. Using a calculator, that’s not too much math, and not too much time. This is what I do because I want them even, but mother never did! She just guesstimated, and she was usually pretty close.
Next time, I’m trying 100% whole grain. I’ll let you know how they turn out!
New England Potato Featherbeds Updated
- 2 packets active dry yeast dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
- 2 tbsp. native honey
- 1/2 cup warm water (90-100 degrees or so)
- 1 cup of mashed potatoes
- 2 ¼ cups potato boiling water
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 4 cups white whole wheat flour
- 2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached white flour
Dissolve the yeast with the honey in about a quarter cup of warm water and set aside to bloom and bubble.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large bowl, combine the potatoes, potato water, egg, sea salt and white whole wheat flour. With dough hook, blend until mixed,
Add the yeast mixture, and the white flour one cup at a time on low. Once you get to the second cup of flour, go slowly, letting the dough absorb the flour. At first it will look dry, but then sticky. Once the dough looks smooth, but still a bit tacky, turn the speed up one notch and let knead for four or five minutes. Remove from the bowl, and finish kneading. You’ll want it to be smooth, but still a bit sticky.
If mixing by hand, add the flour slowly, and once it is hard to mix in the bowl, turn out to a floured board and finish blending and adding the flour and kneading. I often choose to do it by hand because it is a nice experience. Even with so much whole-grain flour, this is a nice soft dough.
Place in an oiled bowl, twirl around so the top is oiled too, cover, and let rise for at least four hours, but overnight in the refrigerator is a much better plan as the rolls will develop the most flavor.
The next day, let the dough come to room temperature, then turn it out gently, and divide into 30 to 48 large or little balls, using any method you like, but they should almost touch each other in the tin; once they finish rising the last time, they will indeed touch each other which helps them to rise high. To form them, I weigh them out, then stretch the outside of the balls around and into the bottom, then using the palm of my cupped hand, I roll them in a tight circle on an ungreased surface. This forms a nice tight ball.
Cover and let them rise in a greased baking pan until more than doubled in bulk. Brush with melted butter, a little flaked sea salt, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until browned and aromatic.
Let cool, then enjoy with butter or whatever you love on a potato roll. They freeze nicely, and love to be given away to others as well.
400 degrees 20 minutes
- 2 yeast cakes
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup warm water
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
- 2 ¼ cups potato water
- 1 egg
- Tsp. salt
- 7 cups flour
Dissolve yeast and sugar in water.
Mix together the mashed potatoes, potato water, egg, salt, and four cups of flour. Add the yeast mixture, and flour to make a dough. Turn onto the board and knead until smooth, adding flour to keep from sticking. Rise to double, shape into rolls, let rise again, then brush with butter and bake.
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