All the food served at the Inishfood festival in Donegal last month was memorable, from one perfect oyster on the beach to a tasting menu with so many courses I lost count, but one of my favourite things was a small loaf of bread served at lunch, still warm from the oven.
Thibault Peigne is a master artisan baker trained in Germany, now living in Ireland, and he talked that day about the art of bread. He also made a range of breads on site that morning, from fresh baguettes to Italian sourdough, but the one I liked best was his potato, cheddar and rosemary bread, with its nod to Ireland with the inclusion of potatoes. As soon as I had Thibault’s version at Inishfood, I knew I wanted to try making it at home.
Surprisingly, potato bread like this doesn’t seem to be traditional in Ireland — the only recipes I found were for things like boxty and farls. Thibault’s bread was based on a fermented sourdough and poolish, but since I have yet to make my own sourdough starter, I made a more basic loaf instead. The next time you have a few scoops of mashed potato left over — or the next time you’re making mash, make a little extra — give this bread a try.
Potato, Cheddar and Rosemary Bread
adapted from How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
Makes 2 loaves
The recipe calls for 300 g mashed potatoes, which for me was the equivalent of 2 large potatoes that weighed 600 g (1 1/4 lb) before I peeled and cooked them. If grated, the cheddar melts into the bread, but it still imparts flavour and helps to soften the crumb. If you want the cheese to be a bit more upfront in the bread, try cubing it instead. The basic recipe is open to variations — try chives instead of rosemary; potato, bacon and scallion; or potato and caraway seed.
600 g to 800 g (5 to 6 1/2 cups) strong white flour
300 g (11 oz) mashed potatoes
150 g (1 1/2 cups) mature cheddar, grated or cubed
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh rosemary
1 x 7 g sachet fast action yeast
1 tablespoon Greek yoghurt
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) warm water
Place 600 g of the flour, the mashed potatoes, cheddar, salt, rosemary and yeast in a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the yoghurt, then slowly stir in the water until it starts to form a workable dough. Knead on a floured work surface or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment for about 10 minutes, adding more flour if you need it. It should be a slightly damp, sticky, very heavy dough. Form into a ball and place in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Turn the dough to coat it all in the oil, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for about 1 hour, until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 220°C (425°F) and line 2 loaf tins or 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
Punch down the dough and knead for a minute or two and form into a loaf (if using loaf tins) or a round (if using baking trays). Place the dough in the tins or on the trays and cover loosely with a clean tea towel. Allow to rise again for about 3o minutes, until doubled in size again. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190°C (375°F) and cook for 10 minutes more, or until it’s cooked through and the base sounds hollow when it’s tapped. Allow the loaves to cool on a rack before slicing.