Farmhouse White Bread

I learned a lot in my early cooking days from watching the Food Network. Now I try and shy away from featuring recipes by stars on the Food Network. If I am going to borrow someone’s recipe, it should be a fellow blogger. I picked up this book, The New Midwestern Table
, while visiting a friend with no clue that it was a Food Network personality. This book is nothing like what you see on TV, it is eclectic and a truly fabulous read. The stories about each recipe are fascinating and inspirational. I love that the food turns out so well because this collection of recipes is a fabulous tribute to regional American cuisine from the Midwest. We have not had a bread recipe on the blog in some time, despite our anti-storebought-bread persuasion, so I think we are due.

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I do have a confession. My white bread recipe sucks. All the trial and error to perfect that white bread, and I can’t stand it now. I loathe the day that I ate the bread from a Mennonite bakery nearby. My bread does not hold a card to the fluffy, rich, perfect loaves. I actually never bake white bread anymore, I am only baking the honey oat bread. So I am back to the drawing board. I really don’t know how they do it, maybe I could ask the mennonites to take me under their wing and teach me the ways of their bread baking. I found this recipe in the book, The New Midwestern Table. I figured an old family recipe may be just the jumping off point for my new white bread. This bread is incredible!

A note on the potato water… I know it sounds weird. But there is something to this! When you mix the yeast with the sugar and the potato water, it just starts raging with foam. There are a million ways to use the potatoes when you are done. You can easily make mashed potatoes or potato salad, but I recommend starting with finely chopped potatoes and making Chicken Pot Hand Pies (recipe coming soon!). If you have read the Potato and Onion Buns post then you are probably starting to understand my obsession with recipes within recipes and doubling anything and everything. I think it is my day (and night? and all the freaking time) job as an ER doc that encourages this behavior in the kitchen. At work I am looking for any possible shortcut so that I can just save 30 seconds of time. A large amount of my free time is spent in my kitchen. I love cooking and baking and the process is my stress reliever. I work insane hours and so I understand the time crunch that working home chefs face. I try to intertwine these recipes so that you can read 3 blog posts and have inspired meals for an entire week. This bread is worth making and the step of boiling potatoes may seem too time consuming. But these potatoes are a side for dinner tonight or an ingredient in a more complex recipe tomorrow.

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Farmhouse White Bread
Makes two loaves

1 large russet potato, approximately 2 lb, cubed
2 1/2 tsp yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, melted
2 tsp salt
7 cups bread flour
Canola oil to oil the bowl

Place the potato cubes in a saucepan with 4 cups of salted water. Bring to a boil, cover, simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked. Drain, reserve 3 cups of the cooking water.
Place 1/4 cup of the potato water, a pinch of sugar, and the yeast in a small bowl. The yeast should foam up (like crazy in my case) in about 5 minutes. Allow the rest of the potato water to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining 2 3/4 cups potato water, the melted shortening, 3 tbsp sugar, the salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Whisk until smooth. Add the proofed yeast mixture and 2 1/2 cups of the flour, and whisk again until smooth. Place the bowl under the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead with dough hook for 8 minutes. Add the remaining 3 1/2 cups flour, cup by cup. The dough will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until the dough springs back when touched.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl and allow to rise until doubled for 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and leave it to rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Grease two 10x5x3 inch metal pans with shortening. Stretch out and roll up each piece of dough to fit the pans. Coat the top with some melted shortening. Allow to rise for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until the loaves are dark golden brown and sound hollow, 45-50 minutes.

Recipe adapted from The New Midwestern Table.

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