Friday, February 22, 2013

Potatonik (Potato Pudding-Bread)


Potatonik is related to kugel, except that it contains yeast, making it a hybrid between a potato kugel and a potato/onion bread. It used to be available in Jewish bakeries in Brooklyn and the Lower East Side (I would imagine in the Bronx as well, but we rarely went to the Bronx). It's a runner up to latkes in my opinion, and better than kugel, which tends to get hard and heavy if you don't eat it immediately.

When we lived in Stuart, Florida (not a mecca for Jews at the time we lived there), there was a retired Jewish baker who worked for the Jensen Beach Publix. The way I was introduced to him was noticing one Friday afternoon that there was fresh potatonik at the bakery counter. I asked one of the bakery ladies how in the world they came to carry this product and they introduced me to the baker, who had retired to Port St. Lucie and didn't like being retired. He brought some of his New York style Jewish (Ashkenazi) recipes to the little Publix where the few Jews living there were always amazed to find these kinds of food items. The bakery ladies were very kind - they made sure to save 2 challahs on Friday and always had a hard roll for Eli.

The recipe is simple and straightforward, it's much easier if you have a food processor to grate the potatoes and onions. The dough is mixed by hand.

The dough requires a sponge.  This recipe is adapted from Secrets of a Jewish Baker, by George Greenstein (I never got the recipe from the baker at Publix).

Ingredients:
8 oz warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp active dry yeast
7.5 oz all purpose flour (for the sponge)
3/4 lb potatoes - washed, unpeeled (I use Yukon Gold or Red Bliss)
6-7 oz yellow onion
1/2 c bread crumbs (make it from left over stale bread if you have any)
2.5 oz all purpose- or bread- flour (for the dough)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 c neutral vegetable oil
2 ex large eggs
spray oil for greasing 2 loaf pans, bread crumbs to sprinkle in the pans


Make the sponge:

  • 8 oz warm water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yeast (I haven't tried this with instant yeast)
  • 7.5 oz all purpose flour 
In a large non-reactive bowl, mix the ingredients well, you'll have a gluey mass. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in a draft free place for about 30 minutes. 


Prep for making the dough: 
  • In the bowl of a food-processor, grate the potatoes and the onion together 
  • Grate 2 thick slices of left over bread (to make bread crumbs) or measure out 1/2c breadcrumbs to add to the potato/onion mixture when you assemble the dough 
  • Stir 2.5 oz all purpose flour with 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, pepper and heaping 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Mix together 4 oz oil with the eggs in a large measuring cup or a small bowl 
  • Grease 2 loaf pans, sprinkle with breadcrumbs 
  • Boil 2 c water (which will be used for the steam bath in the oven) 

Dough Assembly: 
1. Stir down the sponge
2. Add the potato/onion mixture, mix well. Add the breadcrumbs (which will absorb the liquid from the potatoes and onions). 
3. Add the oil/eggs and flour/baking powder/salt/pepper. The dough will be very sticky, thick and lumpy. Mix well in the bowl (don't try to turn out of the bowl- you don't knead the mixture). 



4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pans. The potatonik will rise, so make sure that you do not fill the pans beyond 1/2 of the way up the sides. 


5. Pre-heat the oven, 360-370 degrees. Place an empty metal pan on the floor of the oven. When the oven reaches temperature, pour the boiling water into the empty pan. Be careful- you will be generating steam. 

6. Place the prepared pans with the potatonik into the oven and bake for approximately an hour. The top will be brown and crusty.  

7. Cool completely before removing.  Potatonik is best when eaten warm. You can serve it with applesauce, like a latke, but you'll find that it's richer and almost bread-like, making the applesauce almost unnecessary. 

You can wrap it in foil and store in the fridge for a day or two, but make sure to warm it before eating.  It can also be double wrapped and frozen for several weeks.