Have you ever been in an advanced state of herbal elevation and thought, ‘you know what sounds like a great use of my remaining brain cells, right now? A really hard recipe for Tater Loaf! I mean, I love potato rolls. And potato donuts…’ Yeah, me neither – at least, not in those exact words.
The truth of the matter is, as recipes go it really wasn’t that hard, or time intensive. It just had a few more steps and anytime I’ve achieved the psychotropic level of a smoked ham, I tend to avoid extra steps. However, I had just been gifted a new bread machine by the best in-laws on the planet (Hi Patty!), and I really felt like putting it through its paces.
And what’s the best way to do that? By making fancy bread! (I guess it was the fanciest bread I could think of in the moment, but that turned out to be the best decision ultimately.) The problem was, there wasn’t a recipe for potato bread in the handy, dandy instruction/recipe book provided with the machine. I did remember there being a recipe in the booklet for my last bread machine, which I used regularly until it finally gave out and started producing square hockey pucks, sometime last year.
Luckily – and because, as my husband loves to point out – I don’t throw anything away. So, I dug through the various cook books, old cooking magazines, recipes torn out of newspapers and old cooking magazines, pieces of paper with recipes scrawled on them by people I can’t even remember and other food preparation detritus – which didn’t take that long because contrary to my husband’s questionable estimation, I am VERY organized with my junk. I found it within three minutes. Booyah!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t really a recipe for potato bread, so much as a recipe for making “potato water.” For whatever reason, that really appealed to my sporadically firing brain cells. Potato water is what makes potato bread, potato bread, right? Sounds good to me. Simple concept, easily processed. Perfect. Okay. I would make some potato water and use it instead of regular water in the standard recipe. This just might work! How could it go wrong? I set to work, immediately.
Now, I don’t know if I’ve told you this before, but I don’t really follow recipes that closely. Especially when I’m otherwise elevated. I know, I know, it drives my husband crazy, but in my defense, more often than not, he really likes my version of whatever comfort food he had requested. Hey, when you’re the only person who actually cooks in your household, you get to be the one who makes the decisions about what is cooked and how.
That said, when the first instruction was to cut a medium potato into half inch cubes, I thought, ‘um, then you’re going to end up with mushy lumps… bleh.’ So, instead, I dug out my cheese grater and using the smallest holes, I grated that tater ‘til it was a mushy, starchy mess. Perfect! The idea is to boil the taters down to starch gak, so why not give ‘em as much of a headstart as possible, y’know? Yeah. You know. So I dropped ‘em in one and a half cups of water, in my smallest saucepan, and I brought it to a roiling boil.
Then I remembered the fresh sprigs of rosemary I had cut from my mom’s garden just that morning! (Yes, that actually happened, even if it does sound like a line from Martha Stewart.) I reached into my crisper and pulled said sprigs forth, gave ‘em another rinse, and chopped ‘em to tiny bits. Then I dropped ‘em in the boiling tater water, turned the heat down to a simmer and watched as within 20 minutes, the mush became viscous, frothy fluid. (That sounded either far sexier, or far more disgusting than I wanted it to – depending on your level of perversion.)
So, yeah, after twenty minutes, I turned it off and let it sit a bit, to cool. Then I started gathering all the ingredients for the bread and measuring them out into little bowls. I’m not really that fancy when I’m crispy, it’s just easier not to make a mistake if I can set it all up and check it six or seven times before I actually start assembling. Remember, taking precautions is a home cook’s personal sous-chef. (Shut up, Martha!)
After the tater water had cooled, but wasn’t so cool that the goop had begun to solidify into some kind of horrifying slime jelly – shudder – I poured a cup and a third into the bread machine and the process had begun. A nice bonus is that when I did it, there was exactly a cup and a third of the tater water in the pan. Because, yes, I’m that good. Or lucky.
The rest was just following instructions. Except I did substitute garlic salt for regular salt. And I may have added a half teaspoon of garlic powder. But other than that, I followed the instructions to the letter and, three hours later, I was rewarded with a dense, yet fluffy, loaf of hot, savory tater bread. It was at that precise moment, when the tater loaf had been carefully removed from its trademark mold, that the Hour of Devour officially began. That tater loaf didn’t stand a chance.
It was good. Really good! Easily the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made. Yeah, I know it wouldn’t be everybody’s cuppa gruel, but I like my bread dense and filling. This little experiment in munchie cuisine fit the bill nicely. I ate some with butter. Delicious! I ate some with honey. Outstanding! I made a grilled cheese sammich. Ooey gooey, rich and chew inside. Tender, flakey soft and cakey outside. Each combination was just a little slice of tater loaf heaven.
And that’s how I made what I thought was the hardest and most time intensive bread recipe ever made, only to discover an all-new way of looking at bread. Oh, sure, there are plenty of harder and more complicated recipes, and maybe some day I’ll tackle ‘em, but for now I’m good. This little experience was life changing, even after I returned from the stratosphere. So, you’d better believe I’ll be whipping up a lil ol’ pot of spud spunk every time I wanna pinch out a loaf!