I’ve gotten into bread-making lately — delicious, nutritious, whole grain loaves are far too hard to come by, and good god that heady yeasty sent makes me swoon. I don’t make bread nearly as often as I’d like; I’m still somewhat intimidated by all that kneading and “punching down” and lapsed periods of time required. Bread recipes seem so damn hard. I usually retreat in defeat without getting to the bottom of the page.
Enter Nigella Lawson. Aside from Heidi Swanson, who is my go-to favorite for all things wholesome and healthy, Nigella is my go-to favorite for all things decadent and baked and impossibly delicious. Need to impress an in-law? Perhaps a baked good for a housewarming? Something sweet for your cranky boss? Get thee to a bookstore. How to Be a Domestic Goddess is amazing. AMAZING. And, along with Super Natural Cooking, is my favorite cookbook. You have no idea what you’re missing. Seriously.
So I’m paging through, trying to sort out which bread I’m going to make. The last one was pretty fucking spectacular and would be hard to beat. [Maple pistachio (although I subbed some other nut for the pistachios), which didn’t taste maple-y at all, yet was soft and light and crusty and loaded with whole grains (my substitutions) and oh man so good.] And I was leaning toward another loaf, but the potato bread caught my eye and kept bringing me back; we had a leftover potato in the fridge just begging to be used to its fullest potential. So potato bread it was.
I subbed Nigella’s self-rising bread flour for half amaranth flour and half whole wheat. I’d never used amaranth before, and hence wasn’t aware that the flavor is so pronounced. You know (or at least I did; the rest of my family claimed not to taste it) you’re eating amaranth. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes you want bread to taste like bread, and not like flavored bread. Dig? So next time I incorporate amaranth into anything, I’ll probably do so in a 1:2 ratio, not a 1:1 ratio. Anyhoo.
One cooked and mashed potato (would’ve used two had I had another on hand), mixed with a generous pinch (or three) of salt, a big ol’ dollop of yogurt, a packet of yeast, a cup and a third of warm potato water, two cups amaranth flour, two cups whole wheat flour, and a fistful of all-purpose flour while kneading. I used less salt than suggested, and probably less flour with the kneading than I could have. Also, I added two healthy fistfuls of pumpkin seeds just for the hell of it. All of the above yields some seriously sticky dough. Roll into a ball, place into a well-greased bowl, cover with saran wrap, leave in a warm place (i.e., outside on the porch — Miami ain’t foolin’), come back, punch down, form into a loaf, cover with tea towel, admire pretty risen loaf, throw into oven.
The whole thing was easy and fun, even if the “damper and stickier than ordinary dough” comment was understated and then some. It looked and smelled heavenly, and I was super excited.
And then it collapsed. The bread that rose so enormously outside, and then again into such a promising looking loaf (and so rapidly, I might add), collapsed. It imploded. I was so eager and excited I kept pressing my face to the glass of the oven to peek at it. And it was goooooorgeous. Until around the fifteen minute mark. And then — sunk.
Nigella discribes the bread as chewy, not airy. It’s not dense, per say, but it’s not light or fluffy or sandwich bread-like. It’s soup or breakfast bread-like. Nor is it particularly crusty, but that is probably my fault, as since it imploded on itself I watched it like a hawk and pulled it out a full five minutes early, convinced I was overbaking it. All in all though, it is good. Particularly when dunked in chili-laced olive oil and paired with hearty soup. Disheartened as I was that it collapsed into this midget loaf, it was still pretty tasty stuff.
Next time: two potatoes, less amaranth, full bake time. And I’ll be ready for the collapse.