A little over a year ago, for a gift, Ryan signed me up for a bread making class at Le Pain Quotidien – and it was awesome! I think they only have classes in New York City and in California, but if you live nearby, you should totally do it. I learned a lot, and I came home with about a dozen loaves of bread (4 different kinds!). Anyway, Ryan loves bread, and I think he was hoping the class would encourage me to make bread for him.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Fresh bread needs to be eaten quickly, which means if I’m going to make a loaf I need people to feed. Living in New York, and him living in Virginia, meant that we weren’t often together to make my baking efforts worth it. But, now we live together, and I bought a bread cookbook, so no more excuses!!!
I decided to make Potato Focaccia from Paul Hollywood’s book 100 Great Breads. The picture in the book looked beautiful and I just had to try it! He does things a little differently than what I had learned at LPQ, so I mixed some of my methods with some of his. He uses compressed fresh yeast, but what all I could find in the store was active dry yeast. Hollywood recommends using a little less than the recipe calls for if you use active dry yeast. He also doesn’t cover his dough while he lets it rise. I had never done it before, but I tried it this time, and it seemed to work out well. Anyway, if you try this recipe and have different alterations I’d be happy to hear about it. From everything I’ve learned about baking bread, I feel like it’s both a science and an art. A baker can tweak things until she finds the perfect balance!
scant 4 cups white bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
slightly less than 1 package active dry yeast
1/4 +1 cup of water
~3 new/fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
rock salt to sprinkle
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, destemmed
1. Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water (read the pack of the yeast package for more detailed instructions).
2. Put the flour, salt, dissolved yeast, and rest of the water into a bowl. Mix to form a dough. I recommend using your hands to mix. It allows for better control and then you won’t beat up the dough too much.
3. Let the dough stand in the bowl for at least one hour to let it double in size. Note: I transferred the dough to a separate clean bowl, and I let the dough sit for 1.5 hours
4. Line a baking sheet. (Hollywood is not clear here. I used aluminum foil because it’s all I had, but really you should use parchment paper). Remove the dough from the bowl and put it on the baking sheet. Flatten the dough with your hands. (Be gentle, use your finger tips or knuckles to gently spread the dough). The dough is probably flat enough when it’s about 1″ thick.
5. Brush dough with olive oil
6. Using your fingers, poke indentations over the surface of the dough. Then layers the potatoes over top (in between the indentations). Then sprinkle with rock salt, to taste, and then insert little sprigs of rosemary throughout. Let rise on baking sheet for 1 hour.
7. Preheat oven to 450°. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get over cooked. Remove from oven and brush with more olive oil. Serve when cooled.
I was disappointed that the bread wasn’t beautiful because the picture in the book was GORGEOUS. But, even though it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, it did taste good. Also, I barely ever make bread so I’ll call it a win that it tasted correct.
Next time, I would put less salt in the dough. I felt the bread was a bit salty. However, Ryan liked it and said he wanted to dip it in olive oil. I would also flatten the dough more evenly, put more indentations, and squish the potato slices in deeper. While cutting the bread the potato slices would sometimes fly off. Overall, a success but I have miles to go before I’m a true baker. Enjoy the recipe, and I’d love to hear more suggestions on how to make better bread!