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Pane di Patate
(Potato Bread)
450g/1 lb unpeeled baking potatoes
1 tablespoon fine sea salt, plus extra for cooking potatoes
900g/2 lb (about 7 cups) plain (all purpose) flour, plus extra for sprinkling
3½ teaspoons (about 2 sachets) fast-action dried yeast

Cook the potatoes in a pan of sea-salted boiling water until tender. Drain, reserving 500ml/18fl oz (2 cups) of the cooking water. Allow the water and potatoes to cool down, then peel and thoroughly mash the potatoes.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, potatoes and salt. Add enough of the reserved tepid potato water, stirring to form a dough.

Turn the dough out into a lighly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough has a soft, satiny, elastic texture. If the dough seems too wet, add more flour sparingly, no more than 40g/1½oz (one third cup). Place the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and leave to rise until doubled in size. Cut the dough in half and use one piece to make prugne addormentate and bake the others as follows.

Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Gently punch down the dough, and shape into a round, somewhat flat loaf. Place on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise again for about 30-60 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is very brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Be careful to lower the oven temperature slighly if the loaf is browning too quickly. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Makes 2 loaves or enough dough for 2 cakes. You can freeze any portion of the already risen dough, but it must be defrosted thoroughly and allowed to rise again before proceeding with either recipe.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Marlena di Blasi from her book, A Thousand Days in Venice: An Unexpected Romance, published by Virago Press
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