I felt like a Boy Scout on Sunday, roasting potatoes in the dying coals left after an evening of pizza. Wrapped in foil, along with just a hint of butter to keep their skins moist, those potatoes cooked to perfection in a little over an hour. That nutty aroma took me right back to the campfires of my youth.
Okay, I’ve gotta tell you: I was a Bad Boy Scout. I was more likely to, say, rock out to Robin Trower with my friends than catch the class for first aid. Or to smoke out beneath the trees when the scout leader wasn’t looking. But I did get into the campfire thing, and lord knows I’ve always loved to cook!
Now rather than a dousing of baked beans and a stick-fired hot dog on the side, these most recent potatoes had a different destiny: Potato Bread. Soft and silky, with a texture like no other bread, this bread is perfect for anything from toast to turkey sandwiches.
And as to how to cook the baked potatoes? Sure, any potatoes baked in their skins will work; but for a hot new dimension, you might want to give the Boy Scout method a try. Rock on!
Makes 2 loaves
8 ounces of leftover pizza dough (see note)
18 ounces (3¾ cups) of bread flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1½ teaspoons of dry yeast (see note)
3 Tablespoons of softened butter
14 ounces (1¾ cups) of water at 100°
1 large pre-baked potato (11 to 12 ounces)
Extra flour for bench work and shaping
Leftover dough note: We always seem to have extra pizza dough on hand at Chez Bullhog, so we either add it to bread or freeze it in 8 ounce portions for later use. Adding day-old dough to bread and pizza dough improves its flavor and texture. If you don’t have day-old dough, add an extra 5 ounces of flour, 3 ounces of water, ½ teaspoon of yeast and ¼ teaspoon salt to the portions above.
Make the dough: In a large bowl, mix 8 ounces of leftover pizza dough, 18 ounces (3¾ cups) of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 1½ teaspoons of dry yeast, 3 Tablespoons of softened butter and 14 ounces (1¾ cups) of water at 100° to make a stiff dough. Once you’ve incorporated all bits, turn the dough ball out onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough vigorously for 5 minutes until it’s smooth and stretchy. Clean out the bowl.
1st rise, 2 hours: Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic or a damp dish towel and let rise in a warm place (75°) until doubled in size.
Slice the potato: Using a mandolin (best) or very sharp knife, slice the baked and cooled potato into pieces the thickness of a dime. Slice skin and all.
Add the potato: Once the dough has doubled in bulk, turn it out onto your lightly floured counter and stretch it into a flat oval that’s an inch thick and a foot or so across. Put a layer of potato slices onto the left 2/3 of the dough. Now fold the other third over and over again to seal the potato bits in. Let rest for 5 minutes and then spread the dough out again and repeat with another layer of potato. Do this until you’ve worked in all the potato.
2nd rise, 1 hour: Return the dough to the bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Shaping and final rise: Line 2 bread baskets with cloth napkins sprinkled liberally with flour. Turn the dough out onto the floured counter and cut it into two equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and put one ball rounded side down into each of the bread baskets. Let rise for about 45 minutes until puffy.
Bake your bread: Line a center rack of your oven with quarry tiles or a pizza stone. Preheat the oven for 30 minutes at 450°.
Sprinkle flour onto a wooden peel or the back of a cookie sheet. Flip the risen dough out of the bread baskets and onto the peel or cookie sheet so that the rounded side is up. Slash a design if desired. Slip the loaves directly onto the hot quarry tiles or pizza stone.
Bake for 15 minutes at 450°. Lower the oven temperature to 375° and bake for a further 25 to 30 minutes, until the loaves are moderately browned.
Let cool for an hour before digging in – that is, if you can wait that long!
Making potatoes the Boy Scout way: Scrub baked potatoes and puncture the skins several times with a knife. For each potato, put a thin slice of butter onto the middle of a square of aluminum foil. Set the potato onto the butter, bring the corners of the foil over it and wrap tightly. (Some prefer twisted pigtails on each end for easier grabbing.) Put potatoes butter side down directly into the dying coals of a fire and cover with more coals. Let bake for an hour or more and then fish them out. Yum!
Copyright ©2012 by Don Hogeland