When I started this blog, I wasn't really sure where I wanted it to lead me. It was simply something to while away the time with while my kids are down for a nap or too engrossed in play to have Mum hovering around. It was a bit of me time while being productive by documenting my recipes in a medium a little more of this era (I still have some recipes saved in floppy discs. It's weird realising that my kids will not even know what those are!)
Three months on and blogging has re-defined my relationship with food and cooking. Where there was before a convenient albeit stagnant marriage, there is now an exciting, growing and inspiring love affair. I am finding fun in my daily ventures in the kitchen knowing that I am later able to share the experience with newfound friends. I try and become more attuned to flavours and savour my food a little bit more lovingly so I can honestly describe my creations in words. I have spiced things up a little bit more by bringing in inspirations from other food blogs and taking advice from the more experienced. Now the love affair has just moved up another notch -each month I will be venturing into unchartered territory all in the name of self-improvement so I can further nourish the passion. I have joined the Daring Bakers. Yep, I will be baking more. And more succesfully, I hope.
The Daring Bakers is a group of food bloggers of varying experiences, blogging on the same day each month about a recipe set by a member as a challenge. The bakers follow the recipe to the letter, apart from some allowed modifications.
I nearly fainted when I saw what was to be my very first Daring Baker challenge: Tender Potato Bread as chosen by Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. I have tried to bake bread maybe two or three times before and the results were average at best. My husband has always blamed the non-success on 'atmospherics'. 'Hmm, it's been quite humid today' or 'Maybe the recipe did not take into account altitude' (this when we were living in a city approx 430m above sea level). Yeast is contentious enough a foe but adding mashed potato to bread dough? What complications would that throw in the mix? Great, my first challenge might end up as my last.
Finding the right day to bake the bread was in itself a challenge. Having read posts of fellow DBers, I got the impression that making this bread is a long process, involving boiling, mashing potatoes and letting it cool, then working a very sticky dough. Can't have kids running around or crying in the background while I grab this one by the horns. Knowing that the family will be holidaying around the time we were scheduled to post didn't leave me much choice though. So, out I went to get my potatoes (Pontiac) and crossed my fingers that the baking stars would align for me. And that they did.
The original recipe called for '4 medium potatoes' which can be quite open to interpretation. Luckily, the more experienced bakers gave an approximate weight to try (between 8oz to 16oz). I used close to 400g of potatoes (approx 14oz) and 1kg of unbleached flour. The resulting dough was very tacky. It also had a very flabby feel that unfortunately resembled my upper arms which have not been in any contact with gym equipment for years. Eeek. I oiled my hands and dug in to knead. Whoa! That dough felt good. Sure it was a bit sticky but it was also 'friendly'. It allowed me to just carress it into shape instead of fighting me back as have previous projects.
At this point, I just had the feeling that things were going to turn out ok. True enough, the tempreature in the house just seemed perfect and the dough doubled in size after a couple of hours of proving. I got the confidence to dare myself and eventually divided the dough into three and shaped them into a foccacia and two loaves.
One of the loaves had a parsley pesto swirled through it and then sprinkled with sesame seeds on top.
The foccacia was drizzled with brown butter and then sprinkled with rocksalt and sage leaves prior to baking.
Tanna chose a great recipe. This bread was wonderful. I loved how it was almost 'cakey' but not heavy. The foccacia was cut up into smaller squares and used in miniature salami and rocket sandwiches. The plain loaf tasted great toasted. It toasted nice and crisp outside and moist in the middle. The beautiful holes were perfect for the melting buter. As for the parsley loaf, I intended to have it with soup but we ended up eating the slices on their own.
There, my first challenge done. I am now an official 'Daring Baker'. Hurrah!
I have to say, though, that this bread was really baked by the collective virtual hands of the Daring Bakers. The convivial online exchange of tips and ideas on the DB blog was an inspiration. This group is not only daring but also helpful, fun and friendly. I am already looking forward to the December challenge.
In the meantime, I will be a bit busy checking out everyone else's take on this wonderful recipe.
The official posting date for the November challenge was supposed to be 26th Nov. Though I made the bread in November, I was not able to post about it until now as I was away on a beach holiday with the family.