No doubt, one of the most distinguishing features of any culture is its cuisine. Developing appropriate cooking methods and dishes with the most down-to-earth ingredients is an important component of developing a sustainable local diet and culture. This is one often overlooked dimension of "living close to the land".
I used to work in restaurants, and have a great love of cooking. This is something I am grateful for, as many people do not know how to take whole-foods and transform them into balanced and nourishing meals. Learning to prepare food is one fun and rewarding aspect of internships, apprenticeships and membership here at Windward.
We are lucky to be able to use food that has been lovingly grown in our gardens, or locally produced in Klickitat county in an ecologically sustainable way. This allows us an uncommon degree of self-reliance, and aso a way to support our neighbor's farms and families.
It is important to me to develop recipes and cooking methods which use only local ingredients; only the kinds of food our land or the surrounding farmlands can produce sustainably. Such as local white wheat, goat and sheep tallow, and potatoes. The development process involves researching traditional styles of cooking and experimenting and tweaking old recipes.
Praises to the Potato
Potato bread is a staple of many cultures in colder temperate regions where potatoes are a more reliable form of carbohydrate energy than grain crops. Because of our northern latitude, and sloping forested land-base, the large scale growing of grain is not a viable option for us. Hence Potatoes and other root/tuber crops are a good option.
We know our land can produce a lot of potatoes, with very little work from us. Over the past few years as our gardens expand and become more productive, we have produced more potatoes than we ate before they begin to sprout and rot in the early spring Developing a staple potato bread that people enjoy eating will hopefully allow us to use more of the potatoes we produce.
Cutting decreases cook time.
Most of the recipes that I work with do not have simple measurements, but are based on relative principles and an intuitition about the ingredients. For example with this bread, the volume of bread you want to make is the determining factor for how many potatoes to cook. The potatoe is the basic building block which the rest of the bread comes out of.
hay box cookerI generaly use a hay-box whenever a need to cook something at a high temp for an extended period of time. The hay-box is just an insulated box where a pot that has been brought to temperature can be placed. The insuation help retain the heat so you do not have to use as much fuel. Hay boxes are nifty devices and I think they should be a staple in every kitchen.
The bread begins as mashed potatoes. Cut potatoes into 1/2 inch cubed pieces, add to salted boiling water. Cook until the potato pieces are soft all the way through. Strain the water (if you have pigs, you can give the starchy water to them.) Add a small amount of milk and fat (I use goat tallow) and beat the mixture until it has a soft whipped consistency. These mashed potatos are the base of the bread.
A pot in the haybox.
Next, start to add wheat flour to the mashed potatoes. Add about a cup at a time, encorpoating it well into the potatos. Add flour until the whole mixture starts to resemble dough. Generally it will begin to move together and become increasingly less mushy.
Once the dough is able to be worked by hand, take it out of the bowl and onto a well floured counter top. Keep adding flour to the surface as the dough picks it up.
Eventually the dough will no longer be sticky. It will resemble other kinds of bread dough. At that point it is ready to be formed into loaves.
There are several different options for cooking. It depends on what you want you want to outcome to be.
This dough works well as a flat bread, roled out into 1/4 inch slabs and cooked at a high temperature for a short duration. Either baked in an oven or fried in a pan. If you want to bake it, try 450 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Since the potatoes are already cooked what you are looking for the outside to dry and harden, forming a shell. The interior of the flat bread can still be rather moist. Or, you can bake it for longer with the result being a less pliable flat bread.
This dough can also be formed into small loaves (slightly wider and longer than you fist) and baked. The smaller sized loaves seem to work better. I believe this is because of the heat can more easily penetrate the dough and cook the interior. Large loaves generally have a softer middle portion. Either way, the bread is safe to eat since the potatoes are fully cooked before the dough is even made, and consuming raw grain flour is not dangerous but is perhaps less palateable or slightly harder to digest for some people.
I prefer to bake the small loaves low and slow. 350 degrees for ~45 minutes. depending on the size of the loaves and the desired consistency of the bread, you can add more bake time. A higher temperature and shorter cook time also yields a nice bread, but the crust will be harder and the middle more moist. The low temperatures and longer cook times seem to yield a more uniform consistency.
The bread is very dense and sturdy. In my experience is more chewy than other forms of bread since there is no levening agent. This is the kind of staple food that travels well and fills you up.