Overnight breads are wonderfully convenient things – you do the lion’s share of the work the night before by mixing and kneading the dough, and then throw it in the fridge overnight. Then, the following day, all that’s needed is to remove the bread from the oven a few hours in advance, shape and promptly forget about it while it rises in a cozy, draft-free corner.
Which is what makes it so wonderful… In theory, you can prepare a fantastic gourmet meal while the bread is rising and then pop the loaf into the oven shortly before the guests arrive, filling the house with the smell of baking bread. People will be amazed at your kitchen mojo, and you’ll look fresh as a daisy because you haven’t had to stress one bit about your bread. Proposals (both decent and indecent), promotions, mad love and utter slavish devotion are guaranteed to follow.
Even better, you get double the bread therapy, since you space out the kneading over two days. What could be better than that?
(OK, maybe a warm, crusty loaf of potato bread, fresh from the oven… but conveniently enough, you’ll end up with one of those too)
Overnight Potato-Herb Bread
Adapted from Bread on Bread by James Beard
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tsp salt
1 tbsp dried herbs (ie. rosemary, thyme, herbes de provence)
1 cup mashed potatoes
6-7 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tbsp sugar in warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes to proof.
Once yeast mixture is foamy, stir in warm milk, olive oil, salt, eggs, herbs and mashed potatoes. Stir until mixture is blended and smooth.
Add flour, 1 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms, mixing well between each addition. Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface and begin kneading, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Knead for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough feels soft and elastic.
Coat the inside of a large mixing bowl with a little oil; place dough in the bowl, turning to grease top. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator overnight or until needed (James says the dough can stay refrigerated for up to 18 hours, if necessary).
The following morning, remove dough from refrigerator and punch down. Let stand for 5 minutes, and then knead vigorously for 4-5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a lightly-oiled 9″ pie tin. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside to rise until doubled, or around 3 hours (the second rise takes longer than usual because the dough is still cold from its stay in the fridge, which slows down the growth of the yeast).
Preheat oven to 375F and bake the loaf for 40-45 minutes or until the bread is crusted and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. Remove from pan and return to oven for 5-10 minutes to crisp up the crust.