Jersey Royal Potato Bread
Jersey Royal potato season is finally here! The potatoes were planted on the island of Jersey in January (continuing until April) and the harvest began in March and will continue until July. The peak of the season is in May when up to 1,500 tonnes of Jersey Royals can be exported daily. The soil on Jersey is light and well-drained and seaweed deposited by the strong tidal flows (Vraic) is still used as a natural fertilizer, and has been since the 12th Century. Many of the planting fields are so steep that they have to be worked and harvested by hand. Jersey Royal potatoes are subject to EU Protected Designation of Origin status, so only the Jersey-grown Jersey Royals are the genuine article. Here’s a slightly different way to enjoy this year’s Jersey Royal potato harvest…
This is a deliciously moist, almost sweet bread packed full of Jersey Royal potatoes. Fresh from the oven it goes very well with salty olives, or once it’s a couple of days old it’s delicious toasted and topped with asparagus, a poached egg and a couple of rashers of crispy bacon.
I used an organic white stone-ground flour from the versatile Paragon variety produced by my local windmill: Swaffham Prior’s Foster’s Mill. The extraction rate is 65% which leaves more of the wheat germ and bran in the final flour, which is a much lower percentage than steel-milled white flours. This flour produces a lovely buff-coloured loaf which has the finesse of a white flour but the character of a wholemeal, which keeps the bread light and airy but full of flavour. If you don’t have access to white stoneground flour, use 125g plain flour and 75g wholemeal in your sponge.
This recipe does have more than the average ratio of potatoes to flour, making it a bit sticky to handle: be fearless, the wetter the better! The easiest way to develop the gluten is to knead in short bursts of about 20 seconds with a minimum rest of 10 minutes inbetween for you and the dough. The rest periods can be extended up to an hour on several occasions if it is more convenient. For ease, keep 25mls of the oil back when you mix the dough and use it to lubricate your hands and the work surface. Although there appears to be a lot of salt going into the dough, the volume of potato requires it otherwise you will end-up with a very bland loaf.
500g Jersey Royal Potatoes
4g Fresh Yeast (or 1/2 tsp Dried Yeast)
200g Tepid Water
200g Stoneground White Bread Flour
45g Extra Virgin Olive Oil
300g Stoneground White Bread Flour
The Day Before You Want The Bread or 2 Days Beforehand (if the bulk fermentation will be done overnight):
Scrub the potatoes clean and boil them in lightly salted water until they are soft. Drain the potatoes and smashthem with the back of a fork- skins and a few lumps are fine. Leave the potatoes to cool at room temperature (do not refrigerate).
Dissolve the yeast in the tepid water in a medium-sized bowl. Stir in the 200g flour to make a thick sponge. Leave it to ferment at room temperature overnight (about 10-12 hours) by which time it will be ripe, full of air and looking frisky: ready for making the dough.
The Day You Want The Bread:
Add the potatoes, 30g olive oil, salt, and the remaining flour to the sponge and mix together until you have a stiff ball ball of dough. Knead for 30 seconds to fully incorporate the ingredients. Rest the dough for 30 minutes.
When you first start mixing and kneading the dough it may be quite dry and stiff but as you continue the potato will release some of it’s moisture and the dough will become sticky; when this happens use the remaining olive oil to lubricate your hands and the work surface each time you start to knead.
Knead the dough for 20 seconds and rest it for 10 minutes. Repeat this 8 times.
After the 8th repetition, rest the dough for 15minutes and check the gluten development.
Put the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dap cloth. Put the bowl in a cool place (6-17C) to bulk ferment (double in size). This can be done in the fridge overnight. The slower the dough ferments the more superior quality bread you will produce.
This is a very rustic loaf, so shaping it into the perfect boule isn’t necessary. Lightly oil the work surface and your hands and tip the dough out of the bowl. Gently pull the dough into a rectangle roughly the size of an A4 piece of paper. Fold the upper third down and the lower third up. Then fold the left third into the centre and the right third into the centre to produce a squarish ball. Transfer the dough to a flat baking tray which is covered in a piece of parchment paper. Cover the dough and the baking tray with a large piece of oiled cling flim and leave at room temperature until it has increased in volume by about 80%.
Preheat the oven to 225C.
Remove the cling film and bake the dough for 10 minutes, then turn the oven temperature down to 180-200C and contiue to bake for 25-30 minutes. If the loaf starts to brown too quickly (because of the high volume of starch in the potatoes this is likely to happen), either loosely cover the loaf with a piece of tin foil or turn the oven down slightly. It does take a while to cook the loaf thoroughly and it should end-up a really deep brown.
Don’t be shy in embellishing this loaf: black olives, chopped spring onions, a pinch of smokey paprika, sauted mushrooms with lashings of black pepper and just about any cheese all work beautifully.