Old Country Potato Dill Bread

FullSizeRenderTo keep homemade bread tasting just-from-the-oven-fresh, do what your great-grandmother did, and add leftover mashed potatoes to the batch of dough. I’ve been making this recipe since 1990-something, after running across it in a Country Home magazine (read while waiting for my son at the orthodontist, if I remember right…), but I rarely have mashed taters leftover from a meal. So I follow the instructions below for boiling up potatoes to make the dough.

(Disclaimer: No, I did not steal a magazine from the orthodontist’s office. I politely asked the receptionist if she’d make a copy of the recipe for me, rather than tearing it out and ruining some other mother’s day by leaving behind a mutilated magazine. The receptionist looked at me like I had two heads, but copied it off anyway. Apparently not a lot of people request copies of recipes while at the orthodontist, huh!)

FullSizeRender-1Now to confess the REAL reason I write this blog. I’m selfish. I want all my recipes in one, handy, organized place, so I don’t have to search through a gazillion cookbooks, and dig in piles of old newspaper and magazine clippings to unearth my tried-and-true favorites. Since I’ve been posting for over a year, I was shocked and surprised when I couldn’t find the potato bread recipe after searching for tags like “potato” and “dill.” How could I not have posted this treasure yet!?! This is far and away my three son’s fave bread. They loved it as an after school snack when they were kids, slathered in peanut butter. They love it with meals as adults, with butter, or without. It’s so moist, it doesn’t even need butter to be the best bread ever.

And what goes perfect with this bread? Sweet-tart Strawberry Rhubarb jam, recipe to come later this week when I make my annual batch.

Makes 3 loaves

Sponge (another name for “starter”):
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup all-purpose flour *
½ cup warm water (at least 100° Fahrenheit)

2 medium red potatoes, peeled
3¼ cups all-purpose flour *
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

To make starter: Combine yeast and water in medium bowl, and stir in water until all ingredients are combined and no dry patches of flour remain. Set starter in a sink filled with 2 inches of hot water. Let rise 20 minutes. (Or overnight—the recipe suggests that it makes for a more flavorful bread as it gathers more mold spores that way. I’ve never done this, so I can’t vouch for an enhanced flavor for your efforts!)

To make bread: Fill a small saucepan with enough water to cover the potatoes. Cover pan and bring water to a full boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook potatoes until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove potatoes with slotted spoon, and place in bowl of mixer. Reserve 1 cup of potato water and let cool to room temperature. Mash the potatoes in the mixer bowl, and stir in potato water.

Fit mixer with dough hook. To bowl of potatoes and potato water, add flour, dill weed, salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and bread starter. Stir on 1st or 2nd mixer setting until dough forms into soft ball, riding around on dough hook, and no dough remains on sides of bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and sprinkle top of ball with more flour. Knead dough by hand, adding more flour as dough gets sticky. Continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium-sized bowl, and rotate bowl to coat bottom and sides with oil. Drop dough ball into bowl, then turn dough to coat all sides with oil. Cover bowl with a clean, damp cotton kitchen towel and let rise in sink filled with 2-3 inches of hot water for 1 hour, or until dough is doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Drizzle baking sheet or 3 pie tins with additional olive oil, then use paper towel to spread oil evenly across pan(s). Sprinkle baking sheet or pie tins with a light dusting of corn meal (which acts as ball bearings for your bread as it rises and bakes on pan). Punch dough down, and turn onto lightly floured board. Cut into 3 equal pieces. Sprinkle pieces with flour. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, bring outsides of dough into center and punch down, and continue doing that until nice ball of dough has been formed. Place 3 balls of prepared dough onto baking sheet or 1 on each pie tin. Cover dough with dry kitchen towel, and let rise in warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until dough is almost doubled in size.

Once dough has risen sufficiently, slice across top of each loaf 3 times with a sharp, serrated knife, going about 1/4″ or 1/2″ into top of dough. Place dough in preheated oven, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top and sides of bread is golden brown. Bread should sound hollow when tapped when it’s done. Remove to wire rack to cool immediately out of oven. Cool bread for at least 30 minutes before cutting into a loaf. Cool bread for 2-3 hours before placing in Ziplock bag to store. Do not refrigerate.

*NOTE: Original recipe called for using bread flour, but I’ve never found much difference in taste or texture when I’ve used bread flour over all-purpose flour to make bread.

Carrot Cake Cookies

FullSizeRenderI love carrot cake, but it seems like a special-occasion dessert, not a make-any-old-day deal. So when I ran across this recipe for carrot cake cookies that promised the same moist deliciousness without the cake fuss, I thought I’d give them a spin in the old KitchenAid. The recipe from the December 2014 issue of Real Simple said it made only 16 cookies, which is a snack for two at our house, so I doubled it. But then I ended up with 32 frosted cookies, which can’t be stacked in a container. So I brought them to my friend (and fellow blogger) Kathy’s house when she invited us for dinner, asking them to consume a few so I didn’t have to get creative with storage. No hardship on their part! We were barely home before she was texting to ask for the recipe, saying her husband was craving more of the tasty muffin-like morsels. Since you may have similar trouble with storage, the recipe here is for a single batch. Oh, and I added cloves to the spices, and used more confectioners sugar in the frosting than there was in the Real Simple version. They had also suggested these be made as sandwich cookies—two cookies with frosting between thembut my taste-testers decided that wasn’t nearly enough frosting-to-cookie ratio. And you gotta give the people what they want! And they want these perfect autumn spice cookies.

Makes 16 cookies

Ease rating: medium

1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1-2 large eggs (1 makes them more cookie-like in texture, 2 makes them more cake-like. If doubling recipe, 3 eggs is perfect amount.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups coarsely grated carrots (2-3 medium)
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup raisins


8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons milk—whatever is needed to get frosting to spreading consistency

Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cloves in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high. Add sugar and cream again until light and fluffy. Beat in egg (or eggs—one at a time if using two), then vanilla. Scrape down bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add in flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Fold in the carrots, pecans, and raisins. Cover and chill for 1 hour or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet, 12 per sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown around edges. Let cool on baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For frosting: Whip cream cheese in mixing bowl. Slowly add confectioners sugar until it’s all incorporated. Add vanilla, and milk, if necessary, to get frosting to spreading consistency. (You do not want this too runny, as this is not intended to be icing.) Frost cooled cookies. Store frosted cookies in airtight container. As this frosting recipe will frost a double batch of cookies, store any remaining frosting in frig for next time you make these cookies.