Tomato and potato bread

With these flavorful recipes for bread, there is no more settling for regular old 'white or wheat.'

Potato bread 521 (photo credit: MCT)
Potato bread 521
(photo credit: MCT)
The first time I visited Rome I discovered tramezzini, dainty sandwiches of fresh bread spread with mayonnaise and topped with savory fillings like hard-boiled eggs with tuna, thin slices of cured meat or mozzarella cheese with tomato. Most were made with white bread but some were made with two unusual breads – bright green spinach bread and orange-red tomato bread. Spinach and tomato were familiar to me in pasta but not in bread.
Until then the only breads I had ever tasted that had vegetables in them were onion rolls from the Jewish bakery where my mother shopped. The delicious, round, onion-topped rolls were called onion pletsl. Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg, authors of Inside the Jewish Bakery, use onions in several breads, including two kinds of pletsl. In addition to the kind I knew, which they make with an onion-and-poppy-seed topping on a slightly sweetened dough enriched with eggs and oil, there is a type of pletsl that they describe as “a crispy onion-and-poppy-seed flatbread – sort of a Jewish focaccia.” Ginsberg and Berg make three kinds of onion toppings, ranging from a simple mixture of grated onions, salt and bread crumbs, to a “honey-colored jam” made of chopped onions sauteed or roasted in oil until deeply caramelized. I use sauteed onions as the filling for my onion sesame bread; the recipe is below.
As an adult I became familiar with another vegetable bread – potato bread, which is easy to find in American supermarkets. It’s tender and more satisfying to me than regular white bread.
It turns out that potato bread has a Jewish connection too. According to Ginsberg and Berg, it was made by the Jews of Europe when there wasn’t enough wheat. “Wheat, the highest-ranking of the Torah’s five grains, was most desirable, and when there was no rye, they made do with buckwheat, barley and potatoes. In America, where wheat and rye were plentiful, Jews could eat white bread every day... potato breads morphed into specialty products that used potato flour as an additive, rather than the primary ingredient... these are the sandwich breads we grew up with.”
Ginsberg and Berg make their Polish potato bread with cooked mashed baking potatoes and potato cooking water incorporated into a simple yeast dough. The only enrichment is the oil used to grease the pans.
Potato bread is part of several cultures. Beatrice Ojakangas, author of Great Whole Grain Breads, bakes Hungarian potato caraway bread, made with riced boiled potatoes, rye flour and wheat flour, which rises in a basket to give it a distinct design. For her Finnish rye bread she uses potato water, which she saves from cooking potatoes; in another bread she uses dried potato flakes.
Ojakangas makes bread from all sorts of vegetables, which, she writes, “add a special quality to whole grain breads.” Carrots, beans, squash, tomatoes and pumpkin “add color and delicate textures to breads as well as flavors and aromas.”
“Over the years I have incorporated almost every vegetable you can think of into a bread,” wrote Ojakangas. “If I have leftover cooked vegetables or vegetable soup, I simply puree it, then incorporate it into a bread dough, adding it as a liquid ingredient. Almost always, I have found that adding a vegetable to a whole grain bread gives the bread a lovely and moist texture.”
To make bean-pot bread, which Ojakangas bakes in a pottery dish, she adds pureed canned beans to a dough sweetened slightly with molasses. When she wants a bun in which to serve spicy barbecued sausages, she adds carrots, celery, parsley and even chopped cabbage to the dough. For cheese and vegetable sandwiches she likes spiced tomato rye bread flavored with tomato juice, brown sugar, ginger, caraway seeds and celery seeds. Her golden pumpkin bread is sweetened with brown sugar and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.
When making breads with vegetables, Ojakangas recommends using whole grain flour, and not just because of nutrition. With white flour breads, mixing vegetables into the dough turns the bread grayish, “whereas a whole grain bread is only enriched in color.”
This savory bread has a delicate sauteed onion filling with sesame seeds and a touch of oregano. It is made with halla dough that has just a touch of sugar.
Makes 1 medium loaf
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (41º to 46ºC or 105º to 115ºF) 7 gr. (1⁄4 ounce or 21⁄2 tsp.) yeast 2 tsp. sugar
About 23⁄4 to 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 1⁄2 tsp. salt 1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil 3 large eggs 350 gr. (3⁄4 pound) onions, minced (2 cups minced) 2 tsp. dried leaf oregano, crumbled 5 tsp. sesame seeds
Pour 1⁄4 cup of water into small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar over yeast. Let stand about 10 minutes or until foamy. Stir if not smooth. Oil a large bowl.
Fit food processor with dough blade. Combine 23⁄4 cups of flour, remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt in food processor. Process briefly to mix them. Add yeast mixture, 1⁄4 cup oil and 2 of the eggs. With blade of processor turning, pour in remaining 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Process until ingredients come together to a soft dough. It will not form a ball. Process for about 30 seconds to knead dough. Pinch dough quickly; if it sticks to your fingers, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is no longer very sticky. Knead again by processing about 30 seconds or until smooth.
Remove dough from processor and shape it into a rough ball in your hands. Put dough in oiled bowl and turn dough over to oil all surfaces. Cover with warm, slightly damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 11⁄4 hours.
Remove dough with rubber spatula to work surface. Knead dough lightly again to knock out air. Clean bowl if necessary. Return dough to bowl, cover and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
Pat minced onions dry with several changes of paper towels. Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add onion and oregano and cook over medium- low heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes or until soft but not brown. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until mixture is dry. Add 2 teaspoons sesame seeds and cook 2 more minutes. Transfer mixture to a shallow bowl and cool.
Lightly oil a baking sheet. Knead dough lightly on work surface, adding flour 1 tablespoon at a time, only if necessary so that dough can be rolled out; it should still be soft and slightly sticky so it can be easily pinched around the onions.
Roll dough into a 33- x 23-cm. (13- x 9- inch) rectangle. Cut dough into three 33- x 7.5-cm. (13- x 3-inch) strips. Spoon onion mixture evenly down center of each strip. Spread onion mixture over strip, leaving a 1-cm. (1⁄2-inch) border of dough free of onion on each side. Join long sides of strips by pinching together borders of dough to form a rope enclosing the onions. Pinch ends and edges to seal very well. Turn over so that seams face down. Roll lightly on surface to smooth seams.
To braid dough, put ropes side by side, with one end of each closer to you. Join ends far from you, covering end of rope on your right side with end of center rope, then end of left rope. Press to join. Bring left rope over center one. Continue bringing outer ropes alternately over center one, braiding tightly. Pinch each end and tuck them underneath. Set braided bread carefully on prepared baking sheet.
Cover with warm, slightly damp cloth and let rise about 1 hour or until nearly doubled in size. Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF).
Beat remaining egg with a pinch of salt. Brush risen loaf gently with beaten egg and sprinkle with remaining 3 teaspoons of sesame seeds. Bake about 40 minutes or until top and bottom of bread are firm and bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom. Cool on a rack.
This bread, flavored with prunes, honey and whole-wheat flour, is from Great Whole Grain Breads. Author Ojakangas shapes it into standard loaves so that she can slice and toast it for breakfast.
Makes 3 large loaves
1 1⁄2 cups warm water, (41º to 46ºC or 105º to 115ºF) 1 tsp. sugar 1⁄4 tsp. ground ginger 14 gr. (1⁄2 ounce or 5 tsp.) dry yeast 1⁄2 cup honey 2 cups whole-wheat flour 1⁄2 cup nonfat dry milk 2 cups chopped cooked prunes2 cups shredded raw carrots 2 tsp. salt 55 gr. (1⁄4 cup or 2 ounces) butter or margarine, softened or melted 4 to 41⁄2 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
In large bowl, combine 1⁄2 cup warm water, sugar, ginger and yeast; stir and let stand 5 minutes until yeast foams. Add the remaining warm water, honey, wholewheat flour, dry milk, prunes, carrots, salt and butter; beat well. Add bread flour gradually, beating after each addition, until a stiff dough is formed. Let rest 15 minutes.
Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Wash bowl, grease it and add dough to bowl. Turn over. Cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 to 1 1⁄2 hours.
Punch down dough. Divide into 3 parts. Shape each into a loaf. Grease three 22- x 11-cm. (81⁄2 x 4 1⁄2-inch) loaf pans. Place loaves into pans. Let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 190ºC (375ºF). Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans and let cool on wire racks.
Faye Levy is the author of 1,000 Jewish Recipes.