Moravian Loaf

This loaf, adapted from a traditional Czechoslovakian recipe, contains mashed potatoes. The bread is very light and may be served, slightly warm, with butter.

½ oz. fresh yeast

6 oz. plus

½ teaspoon sugar

4 fl. oz. lukewarm water

1 ½ lb. flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 oz. plus

1 teaspoon butter

8 oz. potatoes, cooked and mashed

3 tablespoons sugar mixed with

1 teaspoons grated nutmeg and

½ teaspoon ground mace

Crumble the yeast into a small bowl and mash in the ½ teaspoon of sugar, with a kitchen fork. Add 2 fluid ounces of the water and cream the water and yeast together. Set the bowl aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes or until the yeast mixture is puffed up and frothy.

Sift the flour, salt, cinnamon and remaining sugar into a warmed, large mixing bowl. Add 3 ounces of the butter. With a table knife, cut the butter into small pieces. Then, with your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add the potatoes to the flour mixture. Make a well in the centre of the flour and potato mixture and pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining water. Using your fingers or a spatula, gradually draw the flour mixture into the liquids. Con tinue mixing until all the flour is incor-porated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured board or marble slab and knead it for 8 minutes, reflouring the surface if the dough becomes sticky. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

Rinse, thoroughly dry and lightly grease the large mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a clean damp cloth and set it in a warm, draught-free place. Leave it for 2 hours or until the dough has risen and almost doubled in bulk.

Lightly grease a 2-pound loaf tin with the 1 teaspoon of butter. Set aside.

Turn the risen dough out of the bowl on to a floured surface and knead it for about 4 minutes. Shape the dough into an oblong shape and put it into the prepared tin.

In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. Remove the pan from the heat. With a pastry brush. brush the top of the dough with a little of the melted butter. Return the tin to a warm place for 30 minutes or until the dough has risen almost to the top of the tin. Brush the dough again with a little of the remaining melted butter during the rising time.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 375 °F (Gas Mark 5, 190°C).

Using a sharp knife, make three deep cuts in the top of the dough. Sprinkle the sugar and spice mixture into the cuts and pour in the remaining melted butter.

Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake for 1 hour. If the loaf begins to look too brown, cover the top of the tin with aluminium foil.

Remove the tin from the oven, tip the loaf out of the tin and rap the underside with your knuckles. If the bread sounds hollow, like a drum, it is cooked. If it does not sound hollow, reduce the oven temperature to warm 325°F (Gas Mark 3, 170°C), return the loaf, upside-down, to the oven and bake for a further 4 minutes.

Remove the loaf from the oven and turn out on to a wire rack to cool.