Pretty is as pretty does
I like good bread. This is not good bread. This is seriously good bread! And I like it a lot.
This is Hamelman's Potato Bread with Roasted Onions. It's a rustic bread featuring a preferment, roasted potatoes, and roasted onions. While the photography isn't anything to write home about, the bread is.
Hamelman starts off with a pate fermentee that works overnight; a new chunk of old dough, if you will. He also has you oven-roast some potatoes with absolutely no seasonings. They show up in the bread as a slight variation in texture and flavor. The onions are lightly coated with olive oil and then also oven-roasted to a deep brown, almost black, thoroughly caramelized state. They don't need any seasoning! I roasted the potatoes and onions after putting the pate fermentee together, so that they could be cooled and ready to go into the bread the next morning.
Since I was mixing by hand, instead of by machine, I mixed all of the final dough ingredients together and then kneaded in the pate fermentee until everything was uniformly distributed. Then the chopped up potatoes were folded in and kneaded to distribute, followed at last by the onions. Since I stopped short of working the onions to an absolute pulp, they left streaky traces throughout the dough.
Fermentation, shaping and baking were by the book.
All of this happened last weekend and it was this Thursday before I stirred myself to grab a camera. Here's what's left of the loaf:
And here's how the crumb looked:
The flavor is absolutely delightful. There is the gentle aroma and flavor of the onions, more sweet than pungent. The potatoes are very much in the background, unless you happen to bite into a chunk. Then you get the roasted notes of both starch and skin. The bread itself is surprisingly rich in flavor for being a lean dough; the deeply browned crust is very enjoyable. It's been a fabulous base for sandwiches all week long. No doubt it would make an excellent savory French toast.
Although the hydration is a nominal 61%, the crumb feels moister in the mouth. No doubt the moisture from the potatoes and onions contributes to that. It is a firm bread but not tough. Given the hydration level and the amount of kneading, the crumb is fairly close-textured, rather than open.
This is a definite two thumbs up bread.