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Lichtenberg Mountain Potato Bread | Sortachef

Lichtenberg Mountain Potato Bread

Sunlight dances among soft treetops of alpine fir, lifting a light morning mist to reveal Lichtenberg Mountain in all its glory. Even in August a smattering of snow still clings to its craggy crevices. In a final standoff with the clouds, the sun retreats to shade the mountain for a moment, and then bursts out to intensify new greenness in the high meadow. I watch fascinated for a while as the sun creeps onto the great gray outcropping of rock that crowns the mountain. When I look again the whole sleepy giant, now swathed in yellow light, stands there boldly.

Falls along Nason Creek, flowing down from Lake Valhalla

The cabin filled with the heady smell of yeast tinged with woodsmoke and pine as I watched the play of sunlight on the mountain. There was a low fire in our old woodstove, just enough to shake the chill night air that lingered, and on the funky orange counter a big batch of dough sat rising. Potato dough. I was in my element here, totally happy to sit among the trees and watch the hummingbirds divebomb the feeders. But the whole great mountain outside illuminated the possibilities of the day: there were meadows to wander, rocks to explore, lakes to visit.

And a waterfall to check out.

The steady rush of Nason Creek had been curiously loud for early August. I headed down into the forest to see it, clawing my way through dense undergrowth along a feeble trail. Beside a wide spot that once held a railroad bunkhouse and has now become a marshy meadow, I took a little trail to the left. Well hidden in the vegetation, a white plume of water spilled furiously over pale rocks beside our fishing hole. The sound of its tumble was like a freight train. All I could do was to close my mouth as I gazed.

Back at the cabin, I sent the bread into the oven and settled in with a good book while it baked. Beyond the window, the great panoply of nature played out. The tall trees stretched new growth to the warm sun. A pair of jealous hummingbirds retook the small feeder with a daring dash. A Stellar’s jay checked for new food on the corner of the deck, calling raucously. The smell of fresh bread wafted. And above it all reigned the hulk of Lichtenberg Mountain, stately as ever against the clear summer sky.

Oh, yeah. It’s all good here.

Lichtenberg Mountain Potato Bread 

Makes 2 loaves

2½ cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

7 ounces of 105° water (see potato note)

1½ teaspoons of active dry yeast

2 teaspoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1½ cups of mashed potatoes (see note)

1 cup of flour for bench work

6 quarry tiles or a pizza stone (for best results)

 

Potato note: Because not all mashed potatoes are alike, results may vary. The mashed potatoes I used were moderately mushy, made with Yukon Gold potatoes mixed with butter, salt and 2% milk. If your potatoes are stiff, add another ounce of water to the mix to achieve a soft dough.

Preliminary dough: Using the handle of a wooden spoon, mix 2½ cups flour, the water, yeast and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Scrape down bowl and mix thoroughly to create a stiff dough ball. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until slightly risen.

Potato addition: Now comes the fun part. Sprinkle a counter generously with flour. Mix the potatoes into the dough in the bowl using first the spoon handle and then your hands. Have a dough scraper or spatula handy to scrape the bowl and your fingers (this dough is messy but easy to roll off of your hands.) After a few minutes, scoop the ball onto the floured counter and knead for 5 minutes. As the dough is so soft, you can add back any bits of dough scraped from your hands.

Once the flour from the counter has been incorporated, put the dough ball back into the bowl and let rise, covered, for 1½ to 2 hours until doubled in size.

Shaping and final rise: Clean off the counter and lightly flour it for shaping. Line two baskets with cloth and generously sprinkle the cloth with flour. Tip the dough out onto the counter and split it into two portions, quickly rolling each piece into a rough loaf. Put the loaves into the baskets, cover lightly and let rise for a further hour.

Baking: Put quarry tiles or a pizza stone on the center rack of your oven. Preheat oven to 425° for at least 20 minutes. Turn the loaves out onto a floured peel or the back of a cookie sheet and slash each with a serrated knife. Slip them directly onto the quarry tiles in the oven.

After the first 5 minutes lower the heat to 375°. Cooking time for these loaves is about 25 minutes total or until the crust is medium brown.

Relax and enjoy: This bread is soft and a bit sweet with a lovely chewy texture. It’s great with eggs or cheese and works well as a dipping bread for hummus. Try it with a picnic lunch and, if possible, find a nice creek, a pleasant meadow, and a mountain to crown your experience. Enjoy!

View from the Bullhog's cabin: Lichtenberg Mountain reigns supreme!

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At Woodfiredkitchen.com, Sortachef takes you on adventures in the kitchen and beyond, with tales to suit. Many of his offerings are woodfired - a flaming good recipe for pizza, bread, or something different. All recipes are original and tasty. Enjoy!
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