potato rosemary bread

I killed a biga. I didn’t really want to get into it at the time, as I’m not exactly proud of my actions. It’s not like I didn’t know how not to destroy a pre-ferment, it’s not like I don’t like, no love ciabatta bread, yet I made it at the start of one of those weeks that seem easy-peasy from the outset but when the pace picked up, I let it linger, carelessly convinced it would wait patiently for me. It was my neglect that took its life. And yet in hindsight, now that I’m ready to own up to it, it may have also been some passive-aggressiveness on my part.

You see, we were watching Everyday Italian on the Food Network a few Sundays ago, and upon eyeing Giada slicing into large ciabatta loaf in a low-cut blouse, Alex said, “You know what you should make next time? Ciabatta bread.” Except he said in sort of a lingering, elongated fashion, like the tone I might use to say “Baileys on the rocks” or “salted butter caramel.” I know that tone, and I didn’t like it but of course, I didn’t say this. I actually said, “Great idea! I’ll start the dough!” And four days later, the biga had been left for dead. Curious, eh?

to the moon!

I know it’s the not bread’s fault that it got between a low-cut blouse and my narrowed eyes, but I’ve made up for it, paying my debt to the yeast-raised faeries with something entirely different, although still Italian. Panmarino is potato rosemary bread, but if you’re fancy you can also include roasted garlic. I followed Reinhart’s instructions, let my new, great love do all of the work and was rewarded with the most tender, moist and flavorful Italian bread I’ve made in a while. The potatoes keep everything soft and pliable–this is not a boule for those of you who fiend for an assertive crust. The rosemary, something I find inedibly pine needle-like in anything but bread, works somehow, grounding the other flavors and the garlic, well, it’s something for your love to remember you by as you kiss him goodnight.

not so much ear

Oddly, every reference to panmarino that I’ve found online describes the rosemary but never the mashed potatoes and I’ve yet to figure out why Reinhart alone includes them. Other recipes also suggest a coarse sea salt-sprinkled crust, something I think would be a delicious addition, keeping in mind the moisture-depleting qualities of salt-topped breads. But, I see no reason to otherwise change a recipe that works perfectly and may go a long way toward addressing your petty karma and biga-butchering past.

This bread is delicious when dipped in olive oil, or served aside spicy soprasetta, almond-stuffed olives, a bright white wine and the season premiere of the Sopranos. Low-cut blouses are, of course, optional but you might want to keep your admiration limited to those which are on your side of the television screen, if you’d ever like to see that ciabatta. I’ll get to that, though, I promise, one of these days when I am a better and less bitter person. But seeing as I wouldn’t hold my breath on that, I urge to revel in some rosemary bread instead.

slashy, slashy

Potato Rosemary Bread
Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

1 1/2 cups (7 oz.) biga (this recipe makes a 16 ounce biga; I halved it and deemed it close enough)
3 cups plus 2 tablespoons (14 oz.) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 oz) salt
1/4 teaspoon (.03 oz) black pepper, coarsely ground (optional)
1 1/4 teaspoons (.14 oz) instant yeast
1 cup (6 oz.) mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon (.5 oz.) olive oil
2 tablespoons (.25 oz.) coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons to 1 cup (7 to 8 oz.) water, at room temperature (or warm if the potatoes are cold)
4 tablespoons (1 oz.) coarsely chopped roasted garlic (optional)
Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
Olive oil for brushing on top

  1. Remove the biga from the refrigerator 1 hour before you plan to make the bread. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.
  2. Stir together the flour, salt, black pepper, and yeast into a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the biga pieces, mashed potatoes, oil, rosemary, and 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water. Stir with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) for 1 minute, or until the ingredients form a ball. Add more water, if necessary, or more flour, if the dough is too sticky.
  3. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin to knead (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Knead for approximately 10 minutes (or 6 minutes by machine), adding more flour if needed, until the dough is soft and supple, tacky but not sticky. It should pass the windowpane test and register 77° to 81°F. Flatten the dough and spread the roasted garlic over the top. Gather the dough into a ball and knead it by hand for 1 minute (you will probably have to dust it with flour first to absorb the moisture from the garlic.) Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  4. Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces for loaves, or 18 equal pieces (about 2 oz. each) for dinner rolls. Shape each of the larger pieces into a boule, or shape the smaller pieces into rolls. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment (use 2 pans for rolls) and dust lightly with semolina flour or cornmeal. Place the dough on the parchment, separating the pieces so that they will not touch, even after they rise. Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  6. Proof at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours (depending on the size of the pieces), or until the dough doubles in size.
  7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Remove the plastic from the dough and lightly brush the breads or rolls with olive oil you do not need to score these breads, but you can if you prefer.
  8. Place the pan(s) in the oven. Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180° for even baking. The loaves will take 35 to 45 minutes total to bake. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, rotate the pans, and then bake for 10 minutes longer. The loaves and rolls will be a rich golden brown all around, and the internal temperature should register at least 195°F. The loaves should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. if the loaves or rolls are fully colored but seem to soft, turn off the oven and let them bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.
  9. Remove the finished loaves or rolls from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour for loaves and 20 minutes for rolls before serving.

Reinhart’s commentary: You can attractively garnish this bread by embossing a sprig of fresh rosemary in the top of the loaf. Mist the dough just after the final shaping with water and lay the spring flat so that it adheres fully. Don’t leave any of the needles hanging in the air, as they will burn during the baking stage without the protection of the dough.

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46 comments on potato rosemary bread

  1. First, you have turned out another beautiful bread! I like to have lunch at Fig and Olive, and they do an olive oil tasting, and they serve this parmesan-rosemary scented bread that I love. Your bread and story reminded me.

    Second, I am seriously indebted to you for getting David to share that cbs ice cream recipe with the public. Really, I’m already giddy at the thought of it, and it is the first thing ‘m making as soon as I get a second to get back into the kitchen!

  2. Amy

    I just have a general question for you.
    You’ve got me hooked on the romance of bread baking. I have feared the yeast for quite some time after several disastrous attempts at the kneading and the rising. I acquired a bread machine and thought, gee, if a tiny appliance can make some super tasty whole wheat bread, well, so can I. I started with a sweet Cinnamon Swirl bread from Cook’s Country. I have had wonderful results (even when I substituted two whole eggs for the three egg yolks in the last attempt with out a noticeable difference). I do have to admit they have been “Monster Breads” rising high and proud 5 to 6 inches out of the loaf pan. But riding *high* off these success, I am emboldened to attempt other breads. Next up will be your dill bread, and then, *gasp* I shall try a “free form” bread and leave the world of loaf pans behind. So finally, to my question… On a recent kitchen gadget shopping adventure, I spied a pizza baking stone and desperately wanted it (I passed because of the weight carrying it around for the day). My question is, how do you store it? Can I just leave it in the bottom self of the oven when I’m not baking on it even if I use the oven for other purposes? What to do with an idle baking stone!!

  3. RA

    Ah, at last, Giada’s cleavage hath wrought something productive and yummy! Instead of, you know, steely looks from yours truly and charming nicknames like “porn girl” from my husband. If only her toothy grin could do as much…

    It looks fabulous!

  4. Amazing looking bread. I love rosemary in bread and a little salt on the crust would make my husband swoon (Giada doesn’t do it for him). But now that you’ve dangled that cleavage in front of us, how could you not give us the recipe? You are a tease. If I may add my two cents in regarding Amy’s question – I leave my pizza stone in my oven (I use it on the oven floor for pizza and on a rack for bread) and have never had a problem.

  5. Monika


    I had drooled all over my keyboard reading the story behind this bread, and when my eyes caught (Reciepe to come) at the end, I died a little inside. Patience is a virtue but not on an empty stomach…

    You’re such a tease!

  6. oh this looks delicious! being me, i would include some bacon (dont you think one should put bacon into every dish there is???). yum. yum. i was laughing about your remark that you probably couldnt do it without a team of food- and hairstylists. dont tell me your hairstylist isnt with you in the kitchen at all times? eh? ;-) bread-women, maybe you like the oregano bread i did today. it’s just wonderful with ham or cheese. and dead easy to make. no killing the biga any more.

  7. You make such great looking breads!

    I wanted to mention that I tried the pretzel recipe (the Martha one) but boiled them in the pretzel bun mixture, and they turned out perfectly! Brown and crusty and with that chewy coating… Thanks so much for the recipe.

  8. I can’t wait for this recipe! I was just given an a HUGE bunch of fresh rosemary that I had no idea what I was going to do with. Part of it when in an adaption of your pan seared brussell sprouts last night, and now you’ve provided an answer to at least some of the rest of it! :)

    Sorry to hear about your ciabatta. I’ve borked loaves of bread myself, and it never sits well with me. I’ve never killed one passively or aggressively due to my significant other eyeing a low cut blouse, though. Then again, I usually cook without pants on. Maybe that’s the key? Heh. ;)

  9. It look delicious, Deb, though of course, any combination of Italian flavors works for me every time.
    As for the cleavage situation and the poor viga that suffered the revenge, don´t worry, you can try again some other time, just make sure you are watching Tyler Florence instead!

  10. Ashley

    Deb – As always, this looks de-LISH. Dying to try my hand at the pavlova, and you are so wonderful to let us learn from your mistakes. Makes me feel a little better when something I “KNOW” will turn out mind-blowingly awesome completely flops! My hubs and I have enjoyed every recipe of Giada’s we’ve tried, but I want to know her manicurist’s secret for getting out red-pepper stains…they make my fingernails orange for days.

    Amy – I have a baking stone and it is fantastic. I used to have a very old decrepit oven and left the stone in there 24-7, to help with even heating no matter what I was baking. I put it on the rack one notch below the one I was actually baking on. Between that usage and baking everything you can imagine on it, it has a non-stick finish that makes Teflon look like velcro! Kind of like a perfectly seasoned cast-iron skillet. Haven’t used a metal cookie sheet in years.

  11. Deb – Delurkinig after months of drooling over your food-porn pictures. : ) Your bread looks great! Thought I would offer this advice. I’ve been working with some others testing recipes for Reinhart’s new book on whole grain breads. But anyway, one tester found that if you have to leave the dough due to unexpected circumstances, try this, from Reinhart’s notes,

    “Due to time contraints, she was unable to finish her dough as instructed for the Day Two, final dough steps, so she combined her soaker and biga and put them in the refrigerator. The next day she pulled out the combined dough, added the final ingredients (she was making a multi grain enriched “sandwich” bread), completed the mixing, and otherwise carried on as described in the instructions. She reported that there was a significant improvement in size and structure of the loaf over her “regular” test loaf. This is, or could be, a significant discovery if it proves to work for others who are testing. So, for those who wish to add yet another task to the burdens I have heaped on you, feel free to try this technique. ”

    I hope this helps next time!

    P.S. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice changed my life, too. Oh yeah, and your Pretzel Bagels were do good my DH asks for them every week!

  12. Amy

    Ashley, Mary, thanks for the comments on baking stones. I have been resisting the urge to buy more bread related kitchen gadgets for fear of becoming totally obsessed. And Smitten Kitchen is not helping by splashing these sexy bread images all over the place… another question.
    I’m considering a very expensive one-day-long artisan bread making course at CIA. What’s peoples’ opinions on that? Is a course ($170) worth it? Or is it better just to jump in and learn from experience?

  13. deb

    Ari (Baking and Books) — You know, when people start calling “first!” I feel like I’ve truly arrived. ;) My husband urges you not to feed my ego.

    Mercedes — Huh. I had never heard of Fig and Olive, but there’s one not far from here. I’ll have to check it out. I be parmesan would be an excellent addition. In fact, if I had any gripe with this bread whatsoever–which I don’t, really–it would be that it’s not as busy as I’d hoped it would be. But that was my expectation, and not the way that panmarino is usually made. And salted butter caramel?! Gah. Do let me know if you try it. I’ve finally admitted that there is simply NO WAY I’m getting to it this week. I have only two days to ran a gazillion errands before vacation. Cooking, even to-die-for ice cream is way down on the agenda.

    Amy — As others answered, you may absolutely leave it in your oven on the bottom shelf or even on the oven floor. In fact, it’s actually great at evenly distributing the oven’s heat. I never take mine out. As for the second question, I took a three day bread-making class last summer and loved it. I learned a ton and I’m 10xs as confident in the process than I was before. But one-day sounds intense. It was nice–for me at least–to revisit things with some days in-between. I’d definitely recommend that you jump in on your own first, and not make your first bread in the class. Even if you’ve only tried one or three before you start it, you’ll have a more solid footing and know exactly what you need to ask/learn.

    David — You torture! As soon as I get back from Mexico, I’m all over it. And yes, I will call Luisa over and take lots of pictures.

    Merry — Thank you!

    myriam — Fear not, there’s another bread in his book that involves both salami and cheese. Alex has already requested it. But I won’t tell anyone if you add bacon to your panmarino, but only if you share. Oregano bread sounds delicious!

    Morgan — Fantastic. I was hoping someone would try that combo. Tell me, was the color darker? Because I loved the deep, dark brown of the bretzels, and missed it on the pretzels…

    Jenn — Borked! I must start using that term. Hee.

    Marce — Sadly, Tyler doesn’t do it for me. In fact, what’s up with them not having better-looking guys on the channel? Guys get Nigella, Giada, we get… Chiarello? Meh.

    Jill — That’s great advice. Thank you so much for sharing!

  14. Nicole

    My husband SWEARS he does not find Giada attractive…”Her forehead is too big.” I’m certain he isn’t looking at her forehead. Is it strange that I find Duff from Ace of Cakes attractive? He just looks like so much fun to be around!

  15. I’m with Nicole’s hubbster, I don’t find Giada attractive either. It’s not that her forehead is too big, it’s that there’s just not “enough” Giada. Way too skinny. I’ll say the same for Sandra lee, and add that I find her obnoxious and discustingly shallow (Not to mention perpetually soused).

    Unfortunately, I must admit I find Ray-Ray (Rachael Ray) attractive, but WAY too bubbly for me ;)

    Honestly though, I’d sooner be seen with Paula Deen than Giada (She’d be more fun!)

  16. I can almost smell this! I am totally with you- I love ciabatta bread. Your loaves look so perfect, yet real like something I can’t wait to dip in olive oil sprinkled with parmesan and freshly ground pepper! This bread is clear competition for Giada’s cleavage!

  17. Deb – Borked is a great term! I use it as much as possible, as well as grody. Haven’t heard that one since about 4th grade, eh?

    I do have a question about your bread. Do you think it’s possible to use a sour dough starter in place of the biga your recipe calls for? The only thing I foresee, is my Russian sour dough starter is a thick liquid instead of a dough like the biga would be. Hmm.. Perhaps I could feed it, get it active, then make it into a dough and that would work the same? What does the bread master think?

  18. deb

    Nicole — Duff? Duff?! Well, to each their own. ;)

    Jocelyn — Nope, sadly. Well, kinda not sadly for me. We’re leaving at the crack of dawn Saturday for vacay, from NJ no less, so no bday parties that start at 10 p.m. for me. Hopefully when I get back this weather will have fixed itself and we can start skybar season already! Also, Dave and I have serious Santiago partying envy, we’ve decided. Why don’t our clubs look like that?

    Jenn — So, since I haven’t tried a sourdough starter yet, I can’t say with any authority that it would or would not work, though I’m flattered you asked. But I bet you can work it out, just like you said. I’m sure it will be delicious.

  19. Peter’s breads are amazing, he’s a great teacher. If you want another great bread, his foccacia( from an Aug 2004 issue of Fine Cooking) is fabulous. There is very little hands on time( its in the fridge for 24hrs)to this bread. Its the best foccacia I’ve made.

  20. Christine B

    I made this over the weekend. Things I’m afraid to make but would like to make – bread. I’ve made it twice, once was a total disaster and once was just ok. Both were quick and supposedly easy recipes. I decided I wanted to eat this – So I started the biga on Friday and by 3 o’clock on Saturday, I had a ton of beautiful bread. And even better, it actually tasted like I had bought it from a nice bakery! The recipe was intense, but easy to follow. The only thing – How do you shape a boule and the rolls? Mine came out a tad lop-sided.

  21. Jasmine

    Hi Deb. I am fairly new to your website and LOVE IT!!! I haven’t commented before, but I have a question that I am surprised wasn’t asked in any of the previous comments. I know you made this 3 years ago, hopefully you may remember. The recipe calls for 1 cup of mashed potatoes. Is that supposed to mean just boiled potatoes that have been mashed or actual mashed potatoes that have butter, milk, and salt already in them?

  22. i’m in the middle of making this right now – just set it aside for the first rise…. my dough was way too sticky! i ended up adding nearly a cup of flour and kneading and kneading and kneading – just about double the time in the kitchenaid (thank god, not my arms). any ideas as to why it was so moist? i’m baking in phoenix, where it’s 107 degrees and dry outside. my suspect is the mashed potato – all i had on hand was a large russet, which may have held more moisture after the boil and mashing? although i checked some mashed potato recipes which said russets were fine to use. i’ve had fabulous luck with all the recipes on your site so far…hopefully it will turn out okay! it sure smells good.. :-)

  23. Sarah McWeschler

    I made this for Easter dinner and it was amazing! The compliments are still rolling in! I did want to say that it was an unusually hot day and my bread rose a TON, the when I deflated it and divided it into two rolls for the second rising the two loaves pretty much became puddles on my baking sheets and rose not at all. I put them in the refrigerator when it looked like they might actually become liquid (for 20 minutes-ish). I decided to bake them any way and see what happened, figuring even if it wasn’t ideal, it should still be tasty and they perked right up in the oven– awesome!

    So, not sure if I had too much liquid/not enough flour, or if the incredibly hot and humid day did it, but the bread still turned out perfectly and was just fantastic!

  24. Rachel

    I see that in comment 30 you already addressed this issue….but I would recommend not using leftover mashed potatoes that have a lot of butter and milk in them. I made this recipe two days in a row (I just couldn’t stand to see the rest of the biga go to waste!). The first day, I boiled up a potato and just mashed it as is and then the next day we had actual buttery, delicious mashed potatoes with dinner so I saved a cup of those. The dough was a lot wetter and wasn’t as easy to work with (the first dough just felt better). The final product was still good but the first ones with the boiled potato turned out much better for me.

  25. Harriet

    I’m thinking of making this bread as a gift for my mother-in -law, but I’ll probably need to make it a day in advance. Do you know if it will keep well? Or do you have any other suggestions for savory gift-breads? Thanks!

  26. wenders

    Glad to know that I’m not the only one seeing the cleavage issue. I checked out some of Giada’s cookbooks from the library and there were just pages with the low cut blouse! Give me a break! As for bread — my family dined out at a restaurant called Matt’s last night and they served this bread that was delicious and soft. We asked what kind of bread it was and they said it was the Potato bread from Macrina’s! I happen to have the cookbook, but haven’t yet tried it yet. But of course, this morning, I wanted to see if you had a potato bread recipe – and sure enough, you did! I love the look of the bread you made. Now, I need to get some potatoes so I can make the bread! And I had gotten a rosemary bush/plant last week too, so this is awesome! Thank you!

  27. Sally

    For those with problems in lifting a pizza baking stone (me, for one) try getting enough quarry tiles to line your oven rack, leaving an inch or so of space on all sides of the rack. If you have to remove them from the oven they are much easier to store than a pizza stone. I don’t want the ghost of roast-chicken-past flavoring the next bread so I stack them in a cupboard and only bring them out for breads. Mine are about 6″ square and came from Home Depot at less than $1 each. You can see that the inevitable breakage will cost a lot less than a whole pizza stone. We had no luck at all in trying to cut one to fill out a smaller space, but I think the right equipment can do it.

  28. Francoise

    “Step 3. … Window pane test.”

    I find it hard to believe that it passed the window pane test given that you’ve added the mash in step 2. Can you please confirm? A picture of a bread slice would be nice. Would allow me to see if it’s dense inside. Thank you.

  29. Jill Fontes

    This bread is perfect. I’ve been making the two loaves, letting one complete the last rise in the fridge until I need the second loaf a couple days later. I make this every week for sandwiches. I seriously cannot get over how good this is. Thanks Deb!! Hope you and the new little one are doing well!!

  30. madelinetaussig

    I’ve made this bread before and it was delicious. I was thinking of adapting them into rolls for christmas dinner in a few days. I’m not sure if this is a question you’d be able to answer…but do you think there would be an issue in the bake if I made them into knotted dinner rolls? I may just have to experiment pray they don’t turn into hockey pucks!

    1. deb

      I haven’t practiced with knotted rolls at all but I think it could work. Maybe brush them with a little butter for extra richness? And I think they’ll bake very quickly.

      1. madelinetaussig

        I 100% forgot to reply to your comment, but thanks for getting back to me! The rolls turned out great….If not slightly malformed. I need to work on my knotting technique. The butter worked perfectly. I doubled the recipe and my family happily ate rosemary roll sandwiches for weeks. Thanks again!

  31. Nitya

    Hi Deb,
    Thank you for an amazing bread recipe! I know this recipe is pretty old now, but I just stumbled upon your site and am excited to try more of your recipes. A quick question, after the first rise, my dough was stickier than it was before the rise, and I wasn’t able to pinch it apart to form rolls. Is it safe to re-knead with added flour, or should I just aim for a drier dough before the first rise next time? It felt about the right consistency compared to other bread doughs that I have baked, but I’m not sure if the potato adds additional moisture that affects it during the first prove.