potato bread with roasted garlic, rosemary, and sage

I’ve had an extreme case of melancholy lately, and before you waste an ounce of pity on me: stop.  I have absolutely nothing of any consequence about which to waste my breath complaining.  Really I should be laughing in the face of melancholy because this time next week we will be in Greece!  And truly, I am so looking forward to our trip.

But somehow, and perhaps this is a sign I really need a break, I just can’t seem to rally myself these days.  Do you know the feeling?  When emptying the dishwasher, let alone going to work, just seems asking too much.  In this spirit, I spent the better part of this weekend watching back to back episodes of True Blood and fantasizing about naming my future dogs Sookie (a Golden Retriever) and Bill Compton (a German Sheppard.)

A clear sign I need to leave the house, I vowed that Monday (my Sunday) I would get out and do something productive. 

And I almost did.  But – insert dramatic sigh – it rained.  My desire to leave the house may have been thwarted, but not my desire to be productive, which meant I stayed home and baked some bread.  A little yeast, some flour, mashed potatoes, aromatics and a few hours in the kitchen turned out some of the most satisfying loaves I’ve produced at home.  The recipe here is adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – the garlic, rosemary, and sage are may additions, but the formula is hers.  Like any bread recipe, start to finish you need some time, but overall, this is a simple recipe – no poolish, no overnight rest, it’s the kind of thing you can wake up thinking about and be eating later the same day.

Warm from the oven spread with salted butter or toasted for breakfast with a fried egg, this is some plainly delicious bread – moist and tender crumb scented with caramelized garlic and fresh herbs all wrapped in a crisp golden crust.  I divided the recipe in two – one half was baked into a classic bread loaf, and the other divided into 12 rolls, each uniquely topped.  These would make stunning dinner rolls at any Sunday dinner or holiday supper – I’m thinking I’ll try a sweet-potato version for thanksgiving.

I wish I could say that the bread lifted me completely out of my funk, and no doubt, there’s a certain therapy to mixing, kneading, and waiting.  But, this rainy afternoon did find me back on the couch, albeit better fed and wrapped in the warm comfort that comes from a home that smells like baking bread.

One Year Ago: Peach Blackberry Skillet Cake, Oatmeal Brown Butter Pancakes.

Makes 2 large loaves or 24 rolls.

Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

For the Bread

  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 2 ¼ tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ cups hot tap water
  • 1 ½ cups buttermilk (can substitute 1 cup yogurt + ½ cup milk)
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 generous tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 generous tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 7 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1 egg yolk for glazing

Topping Options

  • Coarse sea salt
  • Chopped rosemary
  • Sage leaves
  • Very thinly sliced potatoes
  • Sesame or poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the top off the garlic so that the cloves are exposed.  Drizzle with olive oil and wrap in tin foil or parchment paper.  Roast 45 minutes to 1 hour until very soft and caramelized.  Remove, cool, and set aside.

Combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl.  Allow to bloom for 10 minutes – they yeast should foam up; this is how you know it is alive!

Meanwhile, prepare your pans for baking.  This recipe makes either 2 loaves or 24 rolls.  I opted for 1 loaf and 12 rolls.  For loaves, butter two 8×4 inch tins; for rolls, butter 2 sheet pans and line with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl or mixer, combine the hot water, buttermilk, butter, salt, mashed potatoes, and herbs.  Squeeze the roasted garlic into the bowl, add the yeast mixture, and stir to combine.  Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, and mix until you have a sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and kneed 10 minutes until springy and elastic – continue flouring your hands and your counter as you work to avoid sticking.  I find this dough takes quite a lot of extra flour.  Shape into a round.

Place the kneaded dough in a large oiled bowl and turn it to cover in oil.  Cover with a clean dish cloth and set aside in a warm place to rise – about 1 hour 15 minutes or until doubled in size.

Once risen, punch the dough down, and dump it out on a well floured surface.  Dive the dough in half.  For bread, shape each half into a log and place each in the prepared pans.  For rolls, divide the dough into 12 even pieces – about 3oz each.  Roll each piece into a round and place on the prepared sheet pans – 3 across and 4 down.

Cover the shaped bread and/or rolls with a clean dish towel and set aside to rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Whisk the egg yolk with a ½ tbsp cold water and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.  Carefully brush the tops of the loaves and/or rolls with the egg wash.  Top with whatever garnish you choose and bake until golden brown – 30 minutes for rolls and 45 minutes for bread loaves.  Fully cooked bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from the oven, cool slightly, and serve!