After the puzzles of earthnuts and Adam’s Apples last week I feel the need for a little rest. The puzzles take more time than I can comfortably manage at times, so rather than fall from my resolution to post five times a week, I think I might take the easy option today, and give you something requiring a little less research.
Serendipitously, as I was pondering on saving time, I came across a fine idea in Wartime Breads and Cakes, (Boston & New York, 1918) Amy L. Handy – an interesting book which I am sure I will use again. Ms. Handy gives instructions for ‘Four Varieties of Bread from one Potato Sponge,’ which seems like a fine principle to follow.
First, the author’s general comments on ‘sponges’:
All foreign bakers use the sponge method for their best breads and rolls and refer to that made from the straight dough as ‘off-hand bread.’ They reasonably claim that it has many advantages; that the bread made from a sponge has a better flavor, requires less shortening and less yeast, keeps moist longer, and is more velvety in texture.
It is a more convenient method, for although the sponge will rise in four hours it can stand longer than the straight dough without deterioration, and many kinds of bread, coffee cake, and rolls can be made from one sponge.
All dark breads have a more attractive color if one tablespoonful of dark molasses is added to the sponge, but this hastens the rising; so, if the sponge is to stand overnight, do not add it till morning when the bread is mixed.
Salt retards the rising, so it is better in cold weather to add that when the bread is made up.
The author then gives specific instructions for sponges made from wholewheat flour, potatoes, cornmeal, oat flour, and rolled oats. She demonstrates her point that ‘many kinds of bread can be made with one sponge’, using potato sponge as her example.
To start your four-from-one recipe, you must first make your sponge:
Mash or put through a ricer enough hot boiled potatoes to make two cupfuls. Add two cups of whole wheat flour and mix well. Pour over this two cups of the water in which the potatoes were boiled; this should be hot enough to thoroughly scald the mixture. Add one tablespoonful of molasses and two teaspoonfuls of salt. Stir till it is a smooth batter. If this is to be made into a sponge at once, add one cup of cold water, and when the batter is lukewarm add one yeast cake that has been dissolved in one cup of lukewarm water. Set it to rise four hours.
The potato and flour mixture may be made and scalded at any time that it is convenient to cook the potatoes and can stand until it is wanted for the sponge. If it has become cold, add one cup of water hot enough to make the mixture lukewarm and proceed as directed with the yeast.
Four Varieties of Bread from one Potato Sponge.
When the potato sponge is light and foamy, put one third of it aside. To the other two thirds add enough whole wheat flour to make a soft dough, but one that can be handled. Knead till it is smooth and velvety. Set it to rise. When it has doubled its bulk knead a little and divide it in two. Make a loaf of one party and when it has half doubled its bulk bake in a moderate oven for an hour. Roll the remaining dough into a strip half an inch thick. Spread with brown or white sugar, using a half cupful. Sprinkle one teaspoonful of cinnamon over the sugar and lay on a few raisins. Roll up carefully and put into a bread pan to rise till it has half doubled its bulk. Bake in a moderate oven. If the sheet of dough is kept as wide as the bread pan is long, this will fit in and when it is cut the spiral of sugar and cinnamon will show to perfection.
To the remaining sponge add rye flour till it is stiff enough to handle, rather a stiff dough. Set it to rise, and when doubled its bulk make all but one and one half cups of the dough into a small loaf and let it rise till it has half doubled its bulk. Bake an hour in a moderate oven.
To make coffee cake from the remaining doughy first cream together one tablespoonful of shortening with two tablespoonfuls of sugar. Cut this into the dough with a knife and beat till it is smooth. Add one well-beaten egg and beat to a smooth batter. Spread in a cake pan and let it stand twenty minutes. Pour over it a mixture of two tablespoonfuls of sugar, one teaspoonful of cinnamon and two tablespoonfuls of cream. Sprinkle a little flour or cake crumbs over it and bake in a hotter oven than for bread.
Maple sugar pounded till fine can be used and makes a delicious cake.
Look out for a future post on this concept of many dishes from one mix!