Bread for Battle (Potato Bread)

*slurp slurp*
*slurp slurp sluuuuurp*
*slurp slurp*

Such were the sounds that emanated from my couch most of this afternoon. I am so refined, I know. In my defence, I am battling what feels suspiciously like an attack from the flu virus that is causing an epidemic in the NL. Slurping hot tea helps. I hope.

Working from under a blanket in my own living room also contributed to the cause, I dare say. No colleagues to strengthen the virus army with foot soldiers of their own, no icy cold wind to walk through. And I baked bread on my lunch break. Silky flour slipping through my fingers, mixing with lukewarm water and potatoes into a sticky dough to squidge through closed fists, a bowl of yeasty-smelling elastic softness to pound at. If that isn’t therapy, I don’t know what is.

The bread in question is Nigella Lawson’s potato bread. Ridiculously, for someone who doesn’t eat them, there was almost a pound of potatoes sitting in my vegetable basket and I needed to do something about them. My man is leaving soon to go and hurtle himself down mountains, depriving me of a handy potato receptacle. I suspect my neighbors would slam the door if I showed up out of the blue to feed them gratin. I could supply them to the pigeons on my balcony, but I want those to leave, not bring over all their buddies for a feast. So I was in a bit of a quandary, slurping my tea, battling viruses and thinking about how to get rid of a pound of potatoes. I considered a potato gun, but when you’re home alone, there’s no one to shoot. Also, I am over ten years old.

Luckily, then I remembered a recipe for potato-bread in How To Be a Domestic Goddess. It is a basic white bread, with potatoes added. You don’t taste them, you just get a great bread. It is substantial, “gives you something to chew on”, as Nigella puts it, but not in that way that makes you tired because there is so much hard work to do before you can swallow.

There are no complicated ingredients, and I suspect the bread will happily go with many flavors. Before baking, I sprinkled it with some flavored salt my parents brought me from Berlin, with additions like cardamom, caraway seeds and cilantro. Worked great. Then I added a thick layer of chevre and thyme to some slices and broiled them. Worked even better. I ate them in bed, propped up against some pillows, alternating bites with more slurps of cranberry green tea. Wonderfully soothing and uplifting.

Virus army, watch out. I have bread, cheese and tea, and am not afraid to use them.

Nigella Lawson’s Potato Bread
From How To Be a Domestic Goddess, slightly adapted

Makes one loaf

300g cold or warm boiled potatoes
700-800g white flour
1tbsp salt
7g instant yeast, or 15g fresh yeast
1tbsp Greek yogurt
300ml lukewarm potato water
1 tsp of olive oil

Mash the potatoes in a bowl, and add 600g of the flour together with the salt and the yeast. Mix, then add the yogurt and then the water slowly. When it starts to look like dough, tip it out onto a floured surface, begin kneading and add more flour as you need it. You may need to kneaded for longer than with a regular bread. When you have a compact, elastic dough, form it into a ball, slick with a little olive oil on all sides and put it back in the bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a cold place over night, or in a warm place for an hour or so.
When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down, knead it for a minute, form it into a loaf and sit it on a baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and leave to proof for thirty more minutes or so, until the volume has doubled again. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220c. Slide the dough into the hot oven and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 190c and bake for another 10 minutes or until it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

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