A few weeks ago, I bought a loaf of potato-sesame bread from a baker at the local farmers market. It had a nutty flavor, and the crunch of the sesame seeds gave it a unique bite. While waiting in line to pay, I heard the baker tell another customer that the bread was the first he learned to bake when he was in a monastery many years ago.
Later I bought another loaf of the same bread. It had lumps of whole potato – not nearly as good as the first loaf. That made me think that I wanted to bake my own version. I looked in vain for a recipe. There were lots of breads made with potato water, some made with potato sourdough starter, some with instant potatoes, and several with potato flour. There were none with mashed potatoes, which sounded to me like a good beginning.
Then I thought, “monastery – bread”. The only connection I could make was the classic baking book by Edward Espe Brown called The Tassajara Bread Book, Shambhala Publications, 1970. I checked my copy, and sure enough there were recipes for sesame bread and potato bread using mashed potatoes. There was no recipe for potato-sesame bread, though that was alright because I had already begun to work out my own version. The recipe follows. It is an easy bread to make, with a fine crumb and a chewy crust from the enrobement of sesame seeds. Since potatoes contain no gluten, I have added gluten powder to promote rising and good texture.
1 medium-large russet potato, peeled and cubed
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 package (7 grams, ¼ ounce) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon gluten powder
- 4½ cups bread flour, divided
- 1 to 2 cups raw sesame seeds
- In a medium saucepan over high heat, put the cubed potatoes in plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the potatoes until they are done and a sharp fork pierces them easily, about 30 minutes. Do not add salt to the boiling water.
- When the potatoes are done, drain them, reserving 2 cups of the potato water. Pass the drained potatoes through a potato ricer or food mill and set aside. There should be about 2 cups of mashed potatoes. Let the potato water cool enough that it is warm but not hot.
- In a large ceramic bowl, combine 2 cups of potato water with sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Then sprinkle the dry yeast on the surface of the mixture and let stand for 5 minutes. Then stir so that the yeast is dissolved.
- Stir in the salt, melted butter, and gluten until well combined.
- One cup at a time, stir in 3½ cups of flour, combining thoroughly after each addition.
- Knead the dough in the bowl for about one minute. Then turn out onto a flat surface covered with the remaining one cup of flour. Knead for about 10 minutes until the extra flour is incorporated and you have a smooth dough. The dough should be sticky. This will make it difficult to work with, but too much flour will make the finished bread too firm and tough.
- Form the dough into a ball, lightly oil the surface, and place it in a covered clean bowl or bread-proofing box.
- Let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubled, about 2 hours. Punch down the risen dough and let rise a second time until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Shape each into a ball and place in a shallow pan or dish of sesame seeds. Sprinkle additional sesame seeds on the top of each round until completely covered with the seeds, and shape into a rough loaf.
- Place each shaped, sesame-coated loaf in a well-greased 8½ x 4½ inch bread pan. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Bake the loaves in the middle of the preheated oven for 45 minutes. Test for doneness by thumping the bottom for a clear sound.
- Turn the finished loaves onto a cooling rack and cool.