Low-Yeast Potato Starter Focaccia
Down to your last packet of yeast? What if I told you you can make 11 loaves of bread with that one packet? It’s true!
The secret is Idaho® potatoes. Yeast loves all the starch in potatoes and will happily eat and multiply rapidly so you don’t need to use a lot to make a great focaccia. Focaccia is perfect for sopping up stew and gravy, and you can even cut it into squares to use for sandwiches. Enjoy!
Jenni did a Facebook live for us on this recipe. Watch it here!
- 8 oz peeled Idaho® russet potato, peeled and diced
- 2 cups cold water
- 5 cups all-purpose flour (higher protein such as King Arthur), divided
- ¼ teaspoon instant or active dry yeast
- 2½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Place the potatoes in a pot with the water.
- Bring to a boil and keep at a low boil, covered, until potatoes are falling apart, about 20 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are done, turn off the heat. Leave the potatoes in the pot with the lid on and cool to just warm, an hour or so, depending on the temperature in your kitchen.
- Mash the potatoes thoroughly in the cooking water. Pour into a large bowl.
- Add 1½ cups flour and the yeast and stir thoroughly.
- Cover and let sit in a warm place until very light and bubbly and about doubled in size. This could take from 3-5 hours, again depending on the temperature.
- Once well risen and light and bubbly, add the remaining 3½ cups of flour and the salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Line a rimmed cookie sheet or half sheet pan with parchment. Top with ¼ cup olive oil and spread out with your hand or a brush. Set aside.
- Plop the dough out onto a clean work surface and with oiled hands pat out into a rectangle.
- Using a bench scraper or spatula, fold ⅓ of the rectangle into the center. Fold the opposite third into the center like you’re folding a letter.
- Fold the top third down and the bottom third up to make a “packet.” Use your bench knife to help you flip it over so the bottom side is now the top.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.
- Repeat this patting out and folding two more times.
- After the third patting and folding, flip the dough over onto the prepared pan so the bottom is on top.
- Use your fingertips to dimple the dough while stretching it gently to fit in the pan. When the dough starts springing back and “fighting,” cover and let it rest for 20 minutes.
- Continue dimpling and pressing the dough to fit into the pan. It may take 3-4 rounds with rests in between.
- Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until puffy. It does not need to double, but it should look visibly risen. This could take 2-3 hours, again depending on the temperature and how active your yeast is.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Before baking, drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup of oil. You can top the focaccia with coarse salt or some chopped herbs, or leave it plain.
- Bake in the center of your preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
- When done, remove the focaccia from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Carefully slide the focaccia off the parchment-lined sheet pan and let cool completely on a rack.
Tips: Once you pan your focaccia, you can cover it and let it rest overnight in the fridge. It will develop even more flavor. In the morning, remove from the fridge and let rise until puffy before drizzling with oil and baking.
Sandwich Bread Option
If you have a stand mixer, you can make sandwich loaves. Instead of stirring in 3½ cups of flour, use your mixer and mix in 5 cups of all-purpose flour along with the salt and then knead with the dough hooks for 8-10 minutes until shiny and smooth.
Cut the dough into two pieces, press each piece out into a rectangle and then roll up into a cylinder. Place each cylinder into a 1½ pound loaf pan (usually 4¼” x 8½”), spray with cooking oil, cover, and let rise until the dough peeks over the top of the pan by about an inch. This could take quite a long time, but it will happen!
Then bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a lovely medium golden brown. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then turn out to cool on racks until completely cool.
Yield: 1 half sheet pan of focaccia