Bread Lasts Longer with This Old-Time Technique | Potato Sponge Bread
Banish moldy bread! You can make bread that lasts longer: a week, 10 days, even longer! Use the old-time sponge technique to improve fermentation of your bread dough so that your bread stores longer without molding.
And take advantage of a precious ingredient you are probably pouring down the drain to improve your bread even further: potato water! That’s right, making a bread sponge and using water leftover from boiling potatoes will make soft, fluffy bread with complex flavors that lasts much longer in a cool cupboard.
It’s easy! If you’ve sworn off sourdough, you should try this! There’s no commitment to keeping a starter alive.
What is a sponge?
A sponge is simply a mixture of the liquid + yeast + half the flour called for in a bread recipe.
This is done the night before. The liquid (we use potato water in this recipe), the yeast, and the whole wheat flour are mixed together in the mixing bowl, covered, and left to ferment overnight on the kitchen counter.
I used freshly ground whole wheat flour made in my grain mill.
The next day
This is what the sponge looks like the next day.
You can see by the marks on the sides of the bowl that the sponge rose up and then receded. It is bubbly and smells rich and yeasty. You can let it sit, covered, up to 24 hours. This makes is easier to work bread baking into your schedule.
Proceed with mixing
The sponge has done the work of pre-digesting some of the starches in the flour and potato water. The sharp edges of bran have softened. Now it’s time to mix the dough. Follow the directions in the printable recipe below for best results.
Mix the dough on low speed, 1 on the KitchenAid mixer. Once the bulk of the flour has been added, add only a small spoonful at at time during kneading. This will keep you from adding too much flour, which makes dry bread rather than soft bread.
Considering purchasing a heavy duty stand mixer? See my comparison: KitchenAid vs. Bosch vs. Ankarsrum to help you make the best decision for your kitchen.
Rise and shape
You will notice that rise times for the dough are shortened. This is because the sponge is active, similar to a sourdough starter, and it immediately begins working in the dough.
A newly shaped loaf has a smooth top; the seam is on the bottom. It fills the pan about 2/3 to 3/4 full, leaving room to expand as it rises.
Look how they grew! The loaf pans are filled and dough curves generously over the sides.
Use the “touch test” to determine when your loaves are ready to bake. Instead of pressing your finger into the dough, gently touch it. If a fingerprint remains, it is ready to bake.
Baking your loaves
Now that they are well risen, it’s time to bake. Be sure to preheat your oven fully in advance!
The loaves will expand in the oven; this is called ovenspring.Print
Your Homemade Bread Will Last Longer with This Old-Time Technique | Potato Sponge Bread
We are turning back the clock to use an old-time technique that makes homemade bread last longer. It’s called a sponge and is simply a mixture of liquid, yeast, and half the flour mixed together the night before. Sponging improves fermentation of the dough, which leads to improved shelf life as well as lighter, fluffier texture and more complex flavors. You can apply this technique to your other bread recipes!
- Yield: 2 loaves 1x
- Category: Bread
- Method: mixer
- Cuisine: American
3 cups lukewarm potato water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons yeast
3 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil or melted butter or liquid fat of choice
1 teaspoon sea salt
2–4 tablespoons brown or white sugar or honey
3–4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
The night before:
Combine potato water, vinegar, yeast, and whole wheat flour in KitchenAid mixing bowl. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature overnight or up to 24 hours. If you happen to have a 6-quart round Cambro container, you can use the lid to cover your KitchenAid mixer bowl.
Add oil, salt, and sugar to sponge. Gradually add the flour and mix on low speed using the flat paddle beater until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Hold back some of the flour, you may not need it all.
Let dough rest 5 minutes, covered. This gives the bran in the whole wheat flour time to hydrate which softens the edges making the dough easy to handle.
Now add the dough hook, but before you start, take a moment to butter the hook and the collar all the way up and over the top. This will keep the dough from climbing up into the machine where it doesn’t belong.
Lock the head and set the machine on low speed again, 1. Let the mixer knead for 5-8 minutes. Now it’s time to get our hands in the bowl. The best way to know how the dough is developing it to touch it. It should feel smooth and resilient. Bread dough made with whole grain flour will retain a certain amount of stickiness, like the sticky side of a Post It note. This is okay and does not need to be eliminated.
When you think you are done kneading, let the dough rest 5 minutes and then perform the windowpane test. Use clean scissors to cut off a walnut-size piece of dough. Slowly pull and stretch the dough to see if it will hold a thin membrane. Hold it up to a window; if you can see light through it, you are done kneading; if not, knead another minute or two, rest 5 minutes, and re-check.
Wash your mixing bowl, dry it, and grease it. Give the dough a few turns by hand on a lightly greased counter and shape it into a smooth ball. Place dough in the bowl, smooth side up. Cover with a bread cloth, cotton (not terry) dish towel, or a plate. Allow it to rise in a protected spot until almost doubled, 1 hour.
To check if it’s done rising, do the poke test: take 2 fingers and gently press the dough. When you withdraw them the indentation should remain, but the dough should not “sigh” or deflate.
Meanwhile, grease your loaf pans.
Turn the dough onto the work surface and gently flatten it with your greased palms to remove air bubbles. Using a bench knife or a chef’s knife, divide dough in half. Press one half into an 8×12-inch (20×30 cm) rectangle. Fold in thirds like an envelope. Flatten again with your hands into an 8×12-inch (20×30 cm). Roll dough up, beginning at a narrow end. Place seam side down in prepared loaf pan. Repeat for second loaf.
Cover the pan and let rise until dough curves nicely over the top of the pan, about 25 minutes. Set the oven to 350°F (175°C) to preheat. The touch test will help you determine if your bread is ready to bake. Instead of poking your fingers into the dough, this time simply touch the dough. It should barely show your fingerprint.
Bake 35-40 minutes, until the loaf is well-browned and done. To test for doneness, carefully tip the loaf out of the pan and inspect the bottom. The crust should be evenly browned and sound hollow when thumped with a finger. A food thermometer will read 195-200°F (90-93°C).
Cool baked loaf on a wire rack for a crisp crust or on a wooden breadboard for a softer crust. If desired, brush warm loaf with melted butter. Wait at least an hour before slicing to allow the crumb to set.
- To avoid stressing the motor, be sure not to exceed 6 cups whole grain flour when using the KitchenAid mixer.
- Perfect for holidays where mashed potatoes are served, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Save the potato water, mix up a bread sponge and the next morning you can easily bake 2 loaves of fresh Potato Sponge Bread for sandwiches.
And here are the loaves in all their golden brown glory. The crumb is pillowy-soft, even with half whole wheat flour.
For a soft crust, brush the warm loaves with softened butter while still warm. The loaves have good structure and are easy to slice. The sponge technique + potato water confer complex, almost wine-like flavors. Your grilled cheese sandwiches (and any sandwich!) will taste surprisingly delicious!
Go on, try this technique in other bread recipes…
Using a sponge in other recipes
Less yeast is required when using a sponge because the yeast has all night (up to 24 hours) to feast on the flour, bubble, and grow. Potato Sponge Bread calls for just 2 teaspoons of yeast for 2 sandwich loaves. Use this recipe as a guide. If your recipe calls for more yeast, reduce it to 1 teaspoon per loaf.
- Let bread cool and cure completely on a wire rack – 8 hours or overnight
- Choose a wrap based on your climate: dry (beeswax wrap or plastic bag), humid (linen bag)
- Place in a cool, dark cupboard. In hot weather, consider refrigerating bread within 2 days (contrary to what others may say, it can extend the storage life of homemade baked goods.)
- Loaves made with a sponge will last 7 – 14 days, depending on your climate and temperature in your home.
Please share any tips you have on ways to make bread last in the comments for all to benefit from!
What kind of yeast do you use?
Hi Lucie, I use regular active dry yeast. Instant yeast is okay to use, also.