Potato bread. Mmm… I’m sitting here eating some right now as I type. Soft, pillowy, perfectly sweet and savory with butter. I don’t know whether to tell you first about how this bread is so ingrained in my memory and tastebuds that I am filled with warmth and memories of family and buttery goodness when I think about it, or whether to convince you to make it at the very next opportunity because it is so easy that even my brother-in-law makes it, because it’s just that good.
This is the bread for any time there are leftover mashed potatoes in the fridge. And that’s the mentality I grew up with. My mom would make this every so often, and it was always an exciting treat to look forward to. She always made two loaves, and my four sisters and I would devour a loaf, hot out of the oven, and eat the second one for breakfast. As an adult, I make this once in a while, and it’s just as delicious as always. And Michael loves it too!
Due to the recent influx of potatoes, I’m sharing a couple of my favorite recipes that use potatoes. And for this one, if you don’t have leftover mashed potatoes, you can use instant. I’ve done it, and it still tastes fantastic. Whatever kind of potato you use, be sure to save room for when it’s done, as you might have a hard time stopping from eating half the loaf yourself!
Here’s the Step-by-Step (I promise all the photos are worth it! Once you know the process, it takes about 30 minutes of hands-on work.):
Make some mashed potatoes if you don’t have any leftover. Any potato will work, really, even instant. If using a variety with a thin skin, like gold or red, you don’t even really need to peel them. Sometimes it’s nice to have little flecks of potato skin in the bread, as long as they’re not really big pieces.
A note about leftover mashed potatoes. You’ll want to use ones that are mostly potato. Some people add lots of sour cream and cream cheese, but those ones will change the bread consistency considerably. Stick with simpler mashes. Usually, mine just have a good hunk of butter, some milk, salt, and pepper.
There’s no salt in this bread, unless your potatoes are salted or you use salted butter. So, keep in mind that a pinch of salt will bring out the end flavor.
And one more note.
Using instant yeast will make this so much simpler. This is the one I use, and it comes in a 1 lb. block. I store it in my fridge after I open it. Make sure you store your yeast airtight.
And, yes, on the left is me proofing my instant yeast. I do this, but it’s completely unnecessary with instant yeast. If you have active dry yeast, you’ll want to do this step before adding the rest of the ingredients.
Now that you’ve got your potatoes and yeast sorted out, let’s jump right in!
Get a big bowl and just dump all the ingredients in there. I made just one loaf, but two is a good idea as long as you’re going to the trouble. You can always give a loaf away or freeze it.
Oh, only add in 1 Cup of each of the flours, as you’re just going to blend all these together first with a hand mixer.
It shouldn’t take long at all.
Just go at it until all the chunks of crisco or butter are incorporated. You want a smooth batter. Make sure to scrape the sides!
Then you’ll start adding 1/2 and 1/2 all-purpose and whole wheat flour, about 1/2 Cup of each at a time makes sure you don’t add too much. You could alternate adding 1 Cup of each type of flour, however you can get an even 50/50 mix.
Add and stir until you can’t stir it anymore. It will probably look like this shaggy mass.
Now you can knead it. If your bowl is big enough, go ahead and use that. Otherwise, take it to the counter. Add flour a little at a time to keep it from sticking to everything.
Once it’s not so sticky and more of a tacky texture, stop adding flour or just use the barest dusting. At this stage, it should come away from your hands and your kneading surface fairly readily.
It will take between 5-10 minutes to get the dough to a consistency that is smooth and cohesive yet still soft. Mine looks like this. Yours might be a little stiffer, and that’s fine too, as long as it’s still tacky when you touch it. I like to keep my dough slightly wetter, personally.
You can set this back in the bowl and cover with a towel, or, to help it rise better, roll it into a tight ball with the seam at the bottom.
Put it back in your bowl and cover with a towel. Let it rise until you can poke it and the hole doesn’t fill back in.
Now you can de-gas it. When I was young, it was a privilege to get to punch down the puffy ball. It was so fun! It’s nicer for your dough if you just gently squish it to deflate it though. Squish it and knead it a couple times until all the big bubbles are deflated.
After this, it’s time to split up the dough and roll it into ropes to make braids. Cut the dough into even pieces, and feel free to use a kitchen scale, like me, if you want them super precise. Then roll each piece into a rope just longer than the pan you’re going to use. Use a bit of flour to keep it from sticking, if you need.
Make sure each dough rope is about the same length and width from end to end.
You can start your braid from the middle or an end. Usually starting in the middle helps it stay more uniform. As you braid your ropes, try not to stretch them out any more. Just lift and place.
If starting from the middle, the left side is trippy because you have to braid under instead of the usual over. This threw me off for a moment.
Now you need to fold in the ends. Just tuck them together and under so they don’t split open while baking.
Grease a baking sheet with butter and transfer your braid to it. If yours doesn’t fit, like mine, don’t worry! Just compensate next time. I always forget how small my German oven is. I would usually take a braid like this and place it diagonally on a baking sheet. Still delicious, even in a different shape!
Cover this with a towel and let rise while your oven preheats. Since this has egg and yeast, it will pouf up extra in the oven, so you don’t need to let it rise long. Twenty or thirty minutes is usually all I leave it, but you could leave it even up to forty-five if you’d like. Just until it starts to look a bit puffy. If you leave it a shorter time, it will split between the ropes of the braid, as mine did in the photo at the top of the post. If you leave it longer, it won’t do that. However you’d like it.
This bread has a tendency to burn on the bottom because of the high sugar content. I’ve put a note about this in the printable recipe, but make sure to use a light pan like this one, parchment paper, or an air-bake pan. If you have none of those, turn the oven temp down 50 degrees and bake it a little longer.
It’s fine to put two pans in the oven, just make sure to flip-flop them about halfway through. They should be golden brown on top and bottom when done. To check, you can gently pry apart two of the ropes in a middle spot and check for doughiness.
Brush the whole surface with butter right after you take it out. That’s how it gets a lovely glossy look.
And last but not least, devour while still hot! You won’t regret it, unless you just can’t stop yourself, which is a distinct possibility with this bread.
Here’s the printable!
Yield 2 loaves
This braided bread for every occasion is both beautiful and superbly delicious. It's soft, sweet, and perfectly savory when spread with butter.
- 1 1/2 Cup warm water
- 2 1/4 tsp (or 1 packet) instant yeast, or active dry (just make sure to proof it first)
- 2 Eggs
- 2/3 Cup sugar
- 2/3 Cup Crisco or softened butter
- 1 Cup mashed potatoes, warm
- 3+ Cups all-purpose flour
- 3+ Cups whole wheat flour
- In a large mixing bowl, add water, instant yeast, eggs, sugar, Crisco or butter, mashed potatoes, and 1 Cup each of all-purpose and whole wheat flour. Mix with an electric hand mixer until everything is well combined. This is a pretty fool-proof step. Don't overthink it. If it looks cohesive, you can stop mixing.
- Now, continue stirring by hand, adding flour 1/2 Cup at a time, alternating between all-purpose and whole wheat until it becomes to stiff to stir. Turn out onto floured surface and knead 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and cohesive. Only add flour as needed to keep it from getting sticky. It should be soft when finished and might stick a little to your hands or your kneading surface, but it should pull away easily.
- Form the dough into a ball and place back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise until about doubled in size. This might take between 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how warm the room is. You'll know it's ready when you poke your finger into it and it the indent stays.
- Gently decompress the dough by kneading it a few more times. Then cut and shape your dough. If making two braided loaves, split the dough in half and split each half into three pieces. Roll the pieces into logs just longer than your baking pan. Start your braid either from one end or from the middle. Starting from the middle can make a more even braid. Tuck the ends under.
- Place each loaf onto baking pans greased with butter. Cover with towels and let rise while you preheat your oven to 400 F.
- Once the loaves look a little puffy, place the pans in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or so, until golden brown. It will be easy to tell if they are done by taking out a loaf and gently pulling apart two of the strands, somewhere in the middle, just enough to see if it is still doughy or not. Remember to rotate your pans top to bottom, about 2/3 of the way through so that they are evenly baked.
- Once out of the oven, immediately brush with butter.
- Once cooled, if there is any left, wrap in plastic wrap or another airtight method to keep them soft.
- A note on baking sheets: Because of the high sugar content of this bread, it is easy to burn the bottom. It's just as easy to avoid this problem by using a light-colored pan, parchment paper, or an air-bake pan. If you have none of those, turn the oven temp down to 350 F.