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The first loaf we've chosen is a potato bread based on a recipe of Elizabeth David's. As Elizabeth says, 'Usually associated with times of grain shortage, or with a need for strict economy in the kitchen, potato bread is also advocated by some nineteenth-century writers as being the best bread for toast.' She notes that a Doctor A. Hunter, writing in a book called Receipts in Modern Cookery; with a Medical Commentary, first published in 1805, provided both a recipe and, in case it were needed, yet more evidence of the English addiction to toast: '...lovers of toast and butter will be much pleased with this kind of bread. The potato is not here added with a view to economy, but to increase the lightness of the bread, in which state it will imbibe the butter with more freedom...'
This recipe makes enough dough for two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaves, or one 4 x 13-inch pain de mie loaf (or Pain d'Anglais, as the French actually developed this recipe to make the kind of bread that the English make their tea sandwiches with.)
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 ounces mashed potato*
4 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
*You can certainly used mashed potato flakes, but it's very easy to put a large, thoroughly pricked baking potato (such as an Idaho) in your microwave oven, microwave for 3 minutes, then turn over and microwave for a further 3 minutes. Let the potato cool, peel it, and mash it. This is pretty simple, and the flavor is significantly better.
This amount of dough is easily prepared in a 1 1/2-pound bread machine set on the dough cycle. In the absence of this most able assistant, or using a mixer of another sort, measure the water into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in the dry milk, salt, yeast and oil. Blend in the potato and the flour. When it's mixed together well enough so the dough begins to come away from the side of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured kneading surface and knead for 3 to 4 minutes. (If you don't have a mixer to help with this slack dough, a bench knife helps to lift and turn the dough.) Don't add more flour to make it more manageable; it's the slackness that creates the texture in the finished bread that allows it to imbibe the butter with more freedom.
Let the dough relax while you wash out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead for a further 3 or 4 minutes, put the dough into the bowl and then turn it over so the top of the dough has a thin film of grease on it. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Knock the dough down and turn it out onto a floured surface. If you're going to use two bread pans, cut it in half and pat each half into a pan; the dough is wet enough to resist shaping. If you're using a pain de mie pan, place the dough in the bottom and press it into each end. Cover the dough and let it rise for 45 minutes to an hour.
About 15 minutes before you want to bake your bread, preheat your oven to 350°F. Bake the two separate loaves for 35 minutes, the pain de mie for 45 minutes, removing the cover of the pan for the final 10 minutes of baking. Turn the loaf (or loaves) out and let them cool on a rack. Yield: About 30 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 36g): 69 cal, 1g fat, 2g protein, 13g complex carbohydrates, 1g dietary fiber, 160mg sodium, 62mg potassium, 5RE vitamin A, 1mg vitamin C, 1mg iron, 40mg calcium, 28mg phosphorus.