Monthly Archives: January 2010

#28. Potato Rosemary Bread (for Mark)


Forgive me, Cousin Mark, for I have lapsed.  It’s been 24 days since my last post!  I came home from our winter holiday with a renewed sense of vim and vigour, determined to get back to the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge and my once a week baking and blogging schedule. I baked the Potato Rosemary Bread within 3 days of getting home never quite got around to blogging about it.   Life just got in the way.  My daughter was home from school visiting for a week and I began January, spending lots of time doing things for and with her.  Then I went to New York City with friends to celebrate our respective wedding anniversaries.  When I got home from that trip, the last thing I wanted to do was bake, blog or eat bread!  Then it was onto another trip, this time to Israel to visit my daughter, who is studying here for a year, and watch my husband participate in an ice hockey tournament.  Yes, ice hockey in Israel!!  But that’s a story for another time.

I’m writing this post from my hotel room in Jerusalem.  My cousin Mark has shamed me into it.  Thanks Mark!  It’s just the push I needed.

As I read through the ingredient list in Peter Reinhart’s recipe I noticed a few unusual ingredients.  Roasted garlic and mashed potatoes?

Let’s just say, as Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise, in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello.”,   Peter Reinhart, you had me at mashed potatoes!  Mashed potatoes are my go to comfort food.  When I was pregnant with my first child, it was all I craved.  I was working in a gourmet take-out food shop, and our chef, Karen Barnaby, would make staff lunch every day.   Usually it was some version of Pad Thai.  But for me, she made mashed potatoes with butter, cream and cheddar cheese.  Every day!  No wonder I gained 40 pounds with that pregnancy.  You might think that I would never want to look at mashed potatoes again after eating it every day for lunch for 6 months, but the exact opposite is true.  I still love mashed potatoes.  The recipe called for 1 cup of mashed potatoes.  It was unclear as to whether it should just be plain potatoes, mashed up or actual leftover mashed potatoes, made with salt and butter and cream.  I opted for the latter and made a big batch, saving a cup for the recipe.  The starch in the potatoes adds a tenderness to the bread .  It was a happy day in my house as I inhaled the aroma of an entire head of roasted garlic while eating a big bowl of mashed potatoes. 

The dough begins with a biga (a starter dough, prepared the day before).  The biga is incorporated with flour, salt, pepper, yeast, mashed potatoes, olive oil, rosemary and water to prepare the dough.  Then the dough is flattened out into a rectangle and the roasted garlic is spread on in an even layer.

The dough is then gathered up into a ball and kneaded by hand for an additional minute until the roasted garlic is evenly distributed.  It smells like heaven!  Then the dough is placed in a large container to double in size.  It takes about 2 hours.


Then the dough is divided in half, and formed into round loaves, called “boules”.  It is given a second rise, about 2 more hours, and then a sprig of rosemary is “glued” to the top with water as decoration.

 The loaves go into a hot oven for about 35 minutes.  These were gorgeous loaves, all burnished brown with a very heady aroma of garlic and rosemary. 

Of course we had to wait an hour before slicing into them.  I decided to invite some friends over for drinks and bread.  I prepared a pitcher of lemonade mojitos.  I put out some roasted almonds, dried cherries, dried apricots and a few different cheeses.  The girls came over and we ripped into the bread and mojitos.  Although I have no photos of the sliced bread, I can assure you that it was a tender crumb and the flavour of this bread was intense.  After 2 mojitos, my hand was not really steady enough to hold the camera.  We’ll leave it at that.

#27. No need to dread Portugese Sweet Bread!

Okay, so I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have been obsessing about this bread for over 3 weeks now.  I baked my last BBA bread (poolish baguette) on December 14 and turned the page to see what was up next.  After I read through the ingredient list I was pretty sure this was not the bread for me.  I have this thing about using lemon and orange extract.  When I open that little bottle I am almost knocked out by the aroma.  To me it smells like furniture polish.

Plus, it was another white sweet bread.  We have already baked so many variations of these.  I was craving something with whole grains and a hefty chew.  However, the rules of our challenge are that we have to bake every bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice book,  so I was determined to follow through.  (I know, it’s not like the Bread Police would come and arrest me if I skipped one or went out of order, but I am a stickler for rules!)  I just couldn’t seem to muster up the excitement for this bread.  So I just thought about it every day for 23 days.  I’d wake up in the morning vowing this would be the day I’d tackle it and then go to sleep that night promising myself I’d do it tomorrow.  (Clearly I need to get a life, but that’s a subject for a whole other post!)   I’m not normally a procrastinator, so I’m not quite sure what my problem was and why this weighed so heavily on my mind.  Finally, yesterday morning I decided to get my act in gear and bake this bread.

The process begins with mixing up a sponge of  bread flour, sugar, water and yeast.

This is left on the counter until bubbly and “seeming on the verge of collapse”.  (I love this phrase!)

Next,  sugar, salt, powdered milk, butter and shortening are creamed together until smooth.  When I went to the cupboard to find my powdered skim milk, a big bag caught my eye.  I had purchased some coconut milk powder, several months ago, for coconut cupcakes.  I  decided to substitute the coconut powder for the regular milk powder.  I think when it comes to coconut there is no middle ground. You either love it or hate it.  It’s sort of like that with cilantro.   I am of the belief  that the addition of coconut will improve almost anything.  There!  Just adding coconut milk powder was making me feel better about Portugese Sweet Bread already!

I just couldn’t bring myself to use the extract, so I decided to add orange and lemon zest, instead.


 The smell of fresh lemon and orange zest makes me very happy.  I was feeling really good about this bread now.  My mood turned positively euphoric when I remembered that I had just bought a giant (32 ounce) bottle of vanilla bean paste.  I was excited to crack it open and use it.

I mixed the dough in the machine.  Total mixing time was over 20 minutes.  I still could not get it to register 77º.  I gave up at 22 minutes and 75º.  Close enough!!

Look at those gorgeous vanilla bean flecks and bits of orange and lemon zest.

Next the dough is set aside to double in size.  Then it’s divided into 2 pieces and each if formed into a boule and placed into a greased pie plate for the final rise.  We are instructed to let the dough fully fill the pan.  Mine took almost 4 hours, but it finally almost filled the pan.


It’s given an egg wash and baked for about 40 minutes and it comes out all golden brown.  We waited about 45 minutes and then cut into it.

So after all that agonizing I am happy to report that I did not hate this bread. I can’t say it was my favourite either, but there is definately a time and place for this bread with it’s heady citrus aroma and pillowy softness.  (In case you’re curious,  the coconut milk powder imparted a very faint hint of coconut.)   The second loaf was sliced and put into the freezer to be used for french toast.

P.S.  I’ve had several people ask me how they can be noitified by e-mail every time I post a new entry.  If you go to my home page (, just above the little monthly calendar is a small line that says, “Subscribe to SaltandSerenity’s blog by e-mail”.  Just click on that and you can enter your e-mail address and be notified that way.