“Any human being possessed of sufficient gumption to track down a source of fresh yeast – it isn’t all that rare – and collected enough to remember to buy at the same time a pound or two of plain flour, get it home, taking a mixing bowl and a measuring jug from the cupboard, and read a few simple instructions can make a decent loaf of bread.”
So wrote Elizabeth David in Queen magazine in 1968, railing against the dearth of ‘decent bread’ then available for sale in England. For the most part, I agree with her about breadmaking being simple and enjoyable – which was why I was so disappointed when her Potato Bread didn’t turn out so well.
Elizabeth David’s potato bread
Bread is the theme for this month’s Random Recipes challenge and after a few off-piste experiments of my own lately (honestly, beetroot bread IS really good), I was thrilled to land on ‘At Elizabeth David’s Table’ when randomly selecting the recipe. This is a really beautiful book, compiled by Jill Norman (David’s long-time editor), a kind of Technicolour dreamcoat version of the original humble paperbacks.
However, I think the recipe for potato bread needs a little tweaking because it’s almost inedibly salty. (I’m sorry, Mrs David, but it is!) Being an obedient follower of both Elizabeth David and Dom of Belleau Kitchen, I stuck to the recipe very faithfully, but next time I’d halve the salt.
I won’t try to ape Elizabeth David’s inimitable recipe-writing style here, but here are the basics. She uses “a minimum of 20g salt” – I suggest 2 tsp is ample. Saltiness aside, it’s lovely bread.
125g mashed potato (about 1 medium potato), warm and dry
500g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
150ml warm water (use the potato cooking water, if you remember)
150ml warm milk
Put the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl (or the bowl of a freestanding mixer). Add the potato, rubbing it in as if it were butter. Alternatively, use the paddle attachment on your mixer. Add the warm milk and water and mix well, then, knead until soft and springy (or use the dough hook). Grease the bowl with a little oil, then return the dough to it. Cover with a teatowel and leave in a warm place to prove until nearly doubled (David says this will take ‘rather longer’ than usual, possibly because the salt is doing its best to slow down the yeast).
Knock the dough back and knead lightly, then shape and put into a well-greased 1.5 litre loaf tin. Cover again with a damp cloth and let rise until the dough reaches the top of the tin (about 30-40 minutes).
Bake at 220C for about 40 minutes, ‘taking care not to let the crust get too browned or hard’.
Are you an Elizabeth David fan? Which is your favourite of her books?