Daring to Bake with the Daring Bakers

At the end of every month, like clockwork, there would be one single recipe that seemed to flood the blogosphere, appearing on every last blog until there could scarcely be a single person online who hadn’t tried it or at least heard about it. Challenging feats of pastry involving complicated techniques and precise measurements, baked goods that looked worthy for 5-star bakeries- It was a curious but drool-inducing phenomenon indeed. The masterminds who orchestrated these incredible creations called themselves the Daring Bakers, and once I knew their name, I felt as though it were only a matter of time before I joined them, even if my skills weren’t quite up to par. Sadly, there was one major issue standing in my way: Eggs and dairy. Of course I could easily circumvent their common ingredients as always, but with the Daring Bakers comes rules, and no substitutions are ever allowed. Disappointed, I sat quietly for many months, watching new challenges come and pass with envious eyes.

My silent voyeurism may have easily continued for yet another year had I not had a brief exchange with Helen, in which I let my jealousy of the other Daring Bakers slip. Much to my surprise, she informed me that the cult of bakers were changing their ways after having grown so substantially to almost 300 members, and now dietary restrictions could merit substitutions. Celiacs and vegans, rejoice! Pouncing on the opportunity and holding on tight, I immediately signed up, and here I am, ready to present the results of my very first challenge… Tender Potato Bread.

Chosen by Tanna, this recipe seemed like the perfect way to start in this talented group- A simple substitution of margarine instead of butter erased any morality issues, and the instructions seemed fairly straightforward. Having worked with yeast before and successfully producing tasty loaves with no difficulty, I thought that this one was in the bag. And then I got to work.

Where I ran into to trouble was the amount of potatoes- The recipe called for 4 medium potatoes, 8-16 ounces total, and after coming up with exactly 8 ounces from 2 potatoes, I thought, Oh, this is perfect! Exactly 16 ounces! But of course, I am no master bread maker, so perhaps I bit off more than I could chew. When it came time to incorporate flour into the watery mashed potatoes, I was astounded at how cup after cup of the strong wheat was soaked up as if it had never been added in the first place. After adding in 8 full cups of flour, I turned my dough out on to the counter… And oh my, did it want to rest on the flour instead! Elbow deep in dough, I had to call for my mom to toss in additional scoops of flour, kneeding (or at least squishing) furiously to continue mixing the ingredients. Growing larger by the minute but staying just as stubbornly sticky, my mom commented in a slightly fearful voice about how much dough I would end up with if this kept on eating up flour at such a rate! And so, unsatisfied with the texture but not looking to cause trouble, I started thinking about a final resting place for my blob. Dinner rolls were out of the question since they would keep on spreading and end up flat, and this seemed like a whole lot more than one loaf’s worth of material, so I had some help in pulling out the giant jelly roll pan (since I had dough all over my hands, arms, and torso by now) and went ahead with a focaccia.

Of course, it was so wet that none of my indentations stayed for long, but by now it was all about making it through the challenge alive, so pretended all was well and sprinkled the top with sea salt, garlic powder, and rosemary. Into the oven it went, and into the shower I went. Soon enough, a fragrant, savory aroma was wafting out from the oven…

And after all that, it actually turned out, a lovely, tasty slab of focaccia! Well okay, maybe not focaccia exactly, but a very nice flat bread indeed. Had a actually put my brain into use and went with 2 potatoes instead of the full 4, I’m betting that my textural issues would have all been forgotten. As you can see, it does have a fairly even crumb, but it’s far denser than what a traditional focaccia would sport.

Still, I think I would call this challenge successful- The bread ended up being cut into chunks and going into our Thanksgiving stuffing!

Here’s to the daring bakers and all of their beautiful breads; You should really check them out as well. I know I will… but I can’t wait for the next challenge!

35 thoughts on “Daring to Bake with the Daring Bakers

  1. I’ve made potato bread before and I think that the type of potato you use has a lot to do with the consistency you end up with / how much flour you need to add. You might have been able to drain more water from the potatoes too. The end result looks pretty tasty though :)

  2. ahhh how fun that you joined the Daring Bakers!! I’ve been asked to join before, but I’ve declined since a lot of the challenges would be hard for a new baker like me to veganize :0( kudos to you on this potato bread challenge!! if you ask me, it turned out PERFECTLY!! so don’t worry about it :0) can’t wait to see what you make next as a Daring Baker!!

  3. It looks wonderful and I bet your place smelled terrific with the garlic powder baking into the top.

    I’ll defintely be following your blog in future as I’m very curious about vegan baking.

  4. Welcome to the Daring Bakers! I’m glad you’ve joined us as I always enjoy reading how those with dietary restrictions adapt our recipes (thus helping me when a customer requests a special bread/treat). Great job on your first challenge!!

  5. That’s some good looking’ focaccia you’ve got there! Congratulations on a successful DB challenge! You did it and with flying colors (and flying flour and bits of dough and…). I love how your mom sounded fearful. I too was a little fearful as the monster grew and grew (and continued to stick and stick). Welcome to the Daring Bakers :)

  6. that’s exciting! and hilarious — “aah, bread-blob, nuuuu!”
    congrats on joining the daring bakers, and the foccacia looks absolutely yum.

  7. That’s a really funny story about being rescued while kneading. Your focaccia/flat bread looks great. Congratulations on completing the challenge.

  8. Hey Hannah! I am so happy you are part of the Daring Bakers! You did a fabulous job and I am sure you will find a way to work around other non-vegan (per se) challenges. I am looking forward to your adaptations, call it my school of veganism!

  9. Congratulations on your first DB challenge. Such a visual picture…your mom tossing in flour and you covered in dough! I am glad you got some great foccacia out of the deal! Looks oh so tasty!

  10. Congrats on your first challenge! I think your focaccia looks tasty! I’m glad you’re able to participate now! I’m glad the dough didn’t eat you!

  11. One of the most educational aspects of my Daring Baker experience has been learning how the sugar/gluten/fat free and vegan folks attack the challenge recipes. I’m glad you decided to toss your hat in our ring.

  12. Congrats on your maiden challenge. Your foccacia looks so professional :)

    Unlike pastries and cookies, baking is more of an art than a science. I guess it’s part of the fun and frustration with baking bread.

  13. Awesome foccacia! I’m so glad I made my dough when my mom was there too…the dough would have eaten me alive if she weren’t! Great first challenge!

  14. My first attempt resulted in an unbelievably sticky dough, so I just became fed up and plopped it into a pan for focaccia-like bread. I dipped my hands in flour to form the indents… FAILURE! What a sticky dough!

    Great job, your focaccia looks wonderful and it came out really well!

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