Tuesday 22 June 2010

Nigella’s potato bread

I have recently raved about Dan Lepard’s and Jim Lahey’s slower methods for baking bread. However, there is one more traditional bread recipe that I have made a few times now which makes excellent soft but substantial white bread. It is Nigella Lawson’s Potato Bread.

Growing up on a meat and three veg diet, I ate a lot of mashed potato. Some days I wish I made it more just so I could have leftover mashed potato for baking. Sometimes I make it just for baking because it makes baked goods taste better. I love baking with mashed potato. It binds and moistens.

Our foremothers knew this and would use potatoes in bread. I found a great blog summary of Elizabeth David’s writing on the history of potatoes in bread the 19th Century. Apparently potaotes were used to bulk up bread during a grain shortage and to help ferment the yeast. Nigella knows its importance and recommends using potato water in any loaf of bread in place of plain water but she goes further and includes a recipe for bread made with mashed potato.

I found a photo of this potato bread that I made just before I started blogging (above). It was obviously taken before I discovered the close up button on my camera and learned how to take photos with food in focus. It tasted good. My more recent photos of this potato bread reflect the taste far more successfully.

Since making my first loaf of potato bread quite a few years ago, I have learned a lot about baking with yeast. I credit some of this to Dan Leapard and Jim Lahey, some to experience and some to a recent Masterchef Masterclass. I have learned that salt retards growth as well as give flavour, slow rising gives better flavour and the water doesn’t have to be lukewarm.

What amazed me was the advice in the Masterchef masterclass saying that the dough should be treated gently. It seems some people treat it to delicate folding rather than treating it like a punching bag. I was glad to see Nigella recommend that you give the dough a good thwack with your fist after the first rise to let the air out of the dough and any frustrations out of your system..

My one problem with the recipe when I made it earlier this year was that I found it very salty. The next time I made it, I reduced the salt from a tablespoon to 2 teaspoons and preferred it less salty. Less salt didn’t seem to make it rise quicker. Mine took 2 hours till it seemed risen enough, rather than the hour that Nigella suggested.

I found that when I used leftover mashed potatoes that didn’t quite make up the 300g specified in the recipe, I needed less flour but the recipe worked fine. I also used potatoes mashed with their skins on and again there was no problem if you don’t mind seeing the grey flecks of skin in the finished loaf (see in above photo). I also used buttermilk instead of yoghurt and it was a fine substitute.

I love baking this bread in a traditional loaf tin. It feels like an insight into the reason that white bread was popular. This is light but satisfying with a wonderful chewy crust. None of your supermarket sawdust that often passes for white bread. It feels like the sort of loaf that would come in a paper bag and be delivered by a baker in a horse drawn cart

The last time I made this bread was the day before E left for Scotland in May. It felt good to give him some substantial food before stepping onto a plane to eat food out of little plastic boxes. When he arrived it was about 12 C in Scotland and 20 C in Melbourne despite it being late autumn here and late spring there. Before it got warmer there the rain turned to sleet.

Though I have lived in Edinburgh a few years, I still get amazed at how cold it is. No wonder E thinks a home should have central heating on all year round. But when it comes to bread baking, it raises the question of what is meant when a recipe calls for bread to rise at room temperature. Whatever your climate, I high recommend you try this bread. It is proof that the simple things in life are often the best. I am sending this to Susan for YeastSpotting, her weekly round up of yeasty baking around the blogosphere.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year: Novice Nutella cupcakes accompanied by guitar
This time two years ago: The solstice fruitcake offensive
This time three years ago: The Green Grocer – friendly and fresh

Potato Bread
from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess
makes 1 loaf
  • 300g boiled potatoes (cold or warm)*
  • 700-800g white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 7g (I sachet) easy blend yeast
  • 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt (or buttermilk)
  • 300ml lukewarm water
*See notes above about potatoes

Mash the potatoes and mix in about 600g flour, salt and yeast. Add yoghurt and water slowly. Tip out the shaggy dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 12 minutes, adding in flour as kneaded. As much as 200g extra might be needed, according to Nigella. She also notes that the dough is damper and heavier than regular white bread but I found it will become nice and smooth.

Place dough in large greased mixing bowl, cover with cling wrap and set aside for about an hour to double in size. Nigella also says it can be set aside overnight in a cold place – I guess this means in the fridge or on the windowsill in winter! NB: It took me 2 hours at room temperature in autumn.

When the dough is risen, punch it down and knead for about a minute. Form into a loaf in your preferred shape – I have shaped this into a round loaf on a baking tray and into a regular squared bread loaf in a bread tin – both lightly greased. Lightly cover with a teatowel and leave to rise for about 30 minutes until almost doubled in size. NB: It took me 40 minutes.

While bread is rising, preheat oven to 220 C. Place risen loaf (no glaze required) in oven for about 20 minutes and then turn temperature down to 190 C and bake another 10 minutes. I have found that when baking in a bread tin, I tip it out towards the end of cooking, place it back in the tin upside down to make sure the bottom is a nice golden brown, even if the top looks slightly squished.

On the Stereo:
Mojo presents Island Folk - an acoustic led celebration (freebie) - Various Artists


  1. Fabulous Johanna! I am going to try this one.

  2. I still can't help being too scared of yeast to try this! My housemate bakes bread every week, but she uses a breadmaker... that might be the first step for me :D

    I'm a bad blogger, I know. Just as well your awesomeness balances me out!

  3. You've reminded me that it's high time I went and made some more potato bread!

  4. i have to say when i saw this in my reader, I thought it was nigella potato bread--i.e. with nigella seeds. this looks like a perfect loaf.

  5. That's a good looking bread! You know, when I first started making bread, I couldn't figure out why my doughs weren't rising and it was the temperature indeed! I need double or triple the time of most recipes.
    Hope you're well. Sorry I haven't been commenting much recently - so busy! Reading always though. x

  6. A proper old fashioned loaf indeed. I loved reading this post. Was gladdened to hear you used the potato skins too. We always make mash with our potato skins - such a shame to throw lovely home grown organic veg away! I think I tried mashed potato once or twice as a teenager in baked goods, but had completely forgotten about it until now.

    When we went to Melbourne (many years ago now) it was 0 degrees when we left London and 40 degrees when we arrived - it was a big shock!

  7. Thankyou so much for posting this! It looks wonderful and I am going to have to make some for Mr BBB!

  8. Johanna, fab loaf of bread.

    About punching back the dough or not - most artisanal bread recipes will tell you to handle the loaf gently to preserve the bubbles. I *think* it's because of the slow rise? I tend to handle my dough very gently anyway :)

  9. I've made this bread too and it is fabulous indeed. Who knew that the humble potato could have such a lovely effect on bread? :)

  10. Mmm potato in bread sounds delicious, I don't think I have ever had it.

  11. What gorgeous bread! I have never used mashed potato in bread making, so I should give this a go.

  12. That is one fine looking loaf of bread! I have dreams of being on the receiving end as soon as it came out of the oven, lathered in butter.. *drool* Sadly bread falls under my "too hard or too daunting to try" list... Maybe one of these days!

  13. That looks amazing Johanna.

    I must practise making my bread - after the initial successes with my sourdough it has all gone a little wrong and I have slightly given up with it all. You have nudged me to have another go.

  14. I love potato bread so I am going to try this - looks great!

  15. I just loved this post, Johanna. I'm not a bread maker myself, yeastaphobia I'm afraid, however, I shared a recipe for potato bread with a friend of mine many, many years ago from The Natural Foods Cookbook by Breatrice Trum Hunter and this many years later she is still baking it for her family. The only difference I can see, although I'm not sure what I'm looking for, is the sort of flour used in each recipe. Hunter's recipes uses rye flour where this recipe uses white bread flour. If you'd like to compare recipes, I'd be happy to email you it. (for a tiny piece of your potato bread:) Only kidding, you really might like the recipe:)

    As for the Picnic Game, I'm delighted you're going to join us. The letter N is YOURS!!! "See" ya there:)

  16. Thanks Jacqueline - let me know how it goes

    Thanks Hannah - bread is scary but the more you see others do it and see loaves you like the more inspiration to propel you towards that first loaf - and it just gets easier the more you read and the more you do (though I still find it hard to motivate myself to bake bread)

    thanks Daily spud - happy to send a reminder your way

    thanks Maybelle's mom - am sure some nigella seeds would be an interesting addition - never thought of using them in bread before

    Thanks Wendy - nice to know you are still about even if you don't have time to comment much (and I understand that) - and interesting to hear that bread does rise slower in Scotland

    Thanks Choclette - I hate throwing out potato peel too - wish I could claim it was organic and home grown but alas! I once made a chocolate potato cake as a teenager and my siblings were horrified at the very thought - I loved it

    Thanks Lisa - I am sure Mr BBB will be most grateful

    thanks anh - sounds like i need to read more about artisanal bread baking - fascinating!

    Thanks Lorraine - the potato is good for so many things (that must be my irish ancestry)

    thanks Niki - highly recommend you try it

    thanks Cakelaw - am sure you would love it

    Thanks Christine - I confess I have tried it coming straight out of the oven and learnt that it is better to let it cool a bit as the fresh bits looked half baked - have read somewhere that it is because bread continues to bake when it comes out of the oven - but I agree that fresh warm buttered bread is a slice of heaven - surely that is enough to convince you to try your hand at baking it :-)

    Thanks Helen - I still haven't made sourdough - that is my too hard basket - but am finding other fantastic breads worth trying if your sourdough mojo has deserted you

    thanks vicki - hope you enjoy

    Thanks Louise - I admire your friend for her consistency - I go in and out of making so many dishes - but hope I will continue to bake this bread on and off for some time - don't have rye flour about too often (as I never need it til I don't have any in the house) but your recipe sounds intriguing

  17. LOVE potato in any form in bread. I always save my potato water when I boil them for anything. Freeze the potato water in ice cube trays and use when needed. Makes bread so lovely.

    Gorgeous loaf.

  18. Thanks Tanna - I usually don't use much water to cook potatoes and never think to save it - but you and Nigella are wise women so i should learn to keep it

  19. This looks great. I've tried bread containing raw potato before but never one with mashed. The texture looks lovely, will give this a go.

  20. Gorgeous, gorgeous bread. I first ate potato rolls as a kid at my aunt's house. She was the bread baker in the family (my mum didn't have the touch) and I used to wait for the weekend when we'd go visit her. Thanks for prompting this memory! Now I'd love to try it again.

  21. I love simple breads like this. It looks so soft!

  22. it looks so fluffy. Potatoes are the one thing that won't be in short supply on my plot this year. Perhaps I'll try this with my Peruvian Purples - how lush would that be?

  23. I have made this bread a number of times since first seeing it on your blog. It'd fallen off my radar but on the weekend had some potato/sweet potato mash leftover and remembered this recipe. As delicious as ever (the sweet potato and potato combo worked fine). Thanks Johanna!


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