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History of Potato Bread

Potato Bread

Who made the first potato bread, when and where? Excellent question! Breads containing mashed potatoes first surface in mid-18th century and proliferate a century later. Mashed (sieved) potatoes add color, texture, and a variety of nutrients to baked goods. The resulting product is lighter is than standard wheat bread. Cakes, biscuits and doughnuts were also made with potatoes. Norwegian lefse is a classic Northern European example. Early 19th century potato experiments isolated and extracted starch, flour and yeast.

"It did not take potato growers long to find a way to make flour from potatoes, and the next step was to add this to wheat or rye flour to make bread. Beginning in the early eighteenth century, references to potato bread were published. Initially potato flour was probably used becasue it was cheaper than wheat or rye flour, especially in times of famine or scarcity; but later some bakers concluded that adding potato flour--or mashed potatoes--produced a better-tasting bread. At an rate, potato flour will not make a satsifactory bread because it does not develop gluten, which is necesssary to give the bread substance and shape. A 1744 recipe for potato bread is very simple: 'This Root has often been employed, like the Turnep, towards making Loaves of Bread in the scarce Times of Corn. Take as much boiled Pulp of Potatoes, as Wheaten Four, Weight for Weight, and knead them together as common Dough is done for bread.' In Germany potato bread may contain spelt and rye flour. In Ireland pratie oaten is made with mashed potatoes and rolled oats. In Scotalnd tattie scones are made form mashed potatoes and just enough flour to make a dough that can be rolled and cut, and in England recipes for potato cakes frequently appeared in the nineteenth century."

"Potato bread. Usually associated with times of grain shortage, or with a need for strict economy in the kitchen, potato bread is also advocated by some nineteenth-century writers as being the best bread for toast. This is because a proportion of potato mixed with ordinary white flour makes a loaf which retains its moisture and is also very light. Dr. A. Hunter writing in a book called Receipts in Modern Cookery; with a Medical Commentary, first published in 1805, provided both a recipe, and in case it were needed yet more evidence of the English addition to toast: lovers of toast and butter will be much pleased with this kind of bread. The potato is not here added with a view of economy, but to increase the lightness of the bread, in which state it will imbibe the butter with more freedom...'" 

A survey of historic recipes

[1664]

"How to Make Bread with Potatoes

... If you will bake a Bushel, you shall take half a Bushel of these Roots, and putting them into two little Nets, which is a Peck into each Net, boyl them in a Kettle of water till they break between your fingers, but tlet them not break in the boyling; when they have boyled a quarter of an hour, in which time they will be boyled enough, take out the Nets, with the Roots, and hang them up a while, that the water may drain from the; then put them out into a wier Sieve, made for the purpose, being almost as thick as a course hair Sieve, and strengthened with three or four strong Wiers, or small Iron Rods, over-thwart the bottom; and with an Iron Truel let them be all broken, and rubbed through the bottom of the Sieve, into a Vessel underneath; by which means the Skins of the Roots will remain behind, and the Meal will pass through, being much like unto boyled Rice. Before you put the Roots into the Nets, you must cut the great ones into halves or quarters, otherwise the small ones will be boyled to pieces, before the great ones are boyled enough. The Roots being thus prepared, you may make Bread of them after this manner. You must take as much Wheat or Barley Flower as your half Bushel of Potato Meal weights, and mix them well together with your hands; then put to it as much warm water, mix'd with a little Barme, as you think will make it into very stiffe Dough, and as much Salt as is convenient; which being done, knead it well, until it be exactly mingled, which will quickly be, by reason of the dryness and mealiness of the Roots; afterwards make Loaves of it, and ?ee that it be well baked."
---Englands Happiness Increased or A Sure Easie Remedy against all succeeding Dear Years by A Plantation of the Roots called Potatoes, John Forster [A Seile:London] 1664 (p5-7)

[1820]

 To make Artificial or Potatoe Bread.

Put a pound of potatoes in a net, into a skillet with cold water, and (lest the skin break, and let in the water) hang it at a distance (so as not to boil) over the fire till they become soft; then skin, mash, and rub them so as to be well mixed with a pound of flour, a very large spoonful of salt, and two large spoonfuls of yeast; but less of the yeast is better. Then add a little warm water, and knead it up as other dough; lay it a little while before the fire to ferment or rise, then bake it in a very hot oven. Bread made in this matter has been frequently tried, and found to be well-tasted, wholesome and of good consistence."
---New Family Receipt-Book, John Murray, facsimile 1820 new edition, corrected [Applwood Books:Bedford MA] (p. 140-141)

[1844] 

"Potato Bread. 

Boil thoroughly, and mash fine, mealy potatoes; add salt and a very little butter; rub them with twice their quantity of flour; stir in your yeast, and wet up with lukewarm milk or water, till stiff enough to mould up. It will rise quicker than common wheat bread; and it should be baked as soon as risen, for it soon sours." 
---The Improved Housewife or Book of Receipts, By A Married Lady (Mrs. A.L. Webster) Fifth edition, revised [Richard H. Hobbs: Hartford CT] 1844 (p. 128)

[1847] 

Potato and Rice Bread. 

One quart of rice flour, one table-spoonful of mashed sweet potato, one table-spoonful of butter, mixed with half a pint of yeast and a pint of milk. Bake in a pan, and in a moderate oven." 
---Carolina Housewife, Sarah Rutledge, facsimile reprint of 1847 edition with an introduction by Anna Wells Rutledge [University of South Carolina Press:Columbia] 1979 (p. 13) 
[NOTE: This recipe calls for sweet potatoes, readily available in the southern American states.]

[1857] 

"Potato Bread. 

This is one of the best varieties of mixed or cheap bread when it is made with care, as its flavour is excellent, and it remains moist longer than any other except rice bread; but the potatoes used for it should be good, thoroughly boiled, well dried afterwards by having the water poured from them, and then standing by the side of the fire to steam; and be reduced to a perfect paste by mashing, or be rubbed quickly through a cullender or other coarse strainer. They should be perfectly mixed with the flour or meal while they are still warm; and after the addition of rather more salt than for common bread, the dough, which will require less liquid than wheaten-dough, should be made up smoothly and firmly, and be managed afterwards like other bread, but be baked in a more gently oven. Seven pounds of potatoes, weighed after they are cooked and peeled, may be added to each gallon of meal or flour. Should it be necessary, from circumstances that cannot be controlled, to use such as are watery, the moisture may be partly wrung from them, in a warm thick cloth, before they are mixed with the other ingredients." 
---The English Bread Book, Eliza Acton, facsimile 1857 edition [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1990 
 

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