The Unique Ingredient Molly Yeh Uses To Make Bread Extra Fluffy

Flour, yeast, and water are technically all you need in order to make bread, but the final outcome depends on the ratios of each ingredient and how you combine them. Some types of bread, like ciabattas and baguettes, are crispy on the outside with tons of air bubbles within, while others such as challah and Japanese milk bread come out with a pillowy soft texture. Per Bob's Red Mill, these types of bread are so drastically different because of the amount of carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the dough. Carbon dioxide forms when yeast eats sugar, so a longer rise and more sugar will create an airier dough. The development of gluten also promotes gas production, meaning the less you knead the flour the fewer air pockets will form.

Because water weakens the gluten structure, Baking How explains, a softer dough can be made possible with the addition of more liquid, or better yet, by substituting the water with milk. You can also achieve similar results by adding fat, which works as a gluten tenderizer. But by far the easiest way to go about it according to Molly Yeh (via Epicurious) is to add another form of starch.

Potato flour is Molly Yeh's shortcut to fluffier bread

Browse the bread aisle in any grocery store, and alongside the whole wheat, multigrain, and plain white varieties, you'll also see loaves and rolls of potato bread. The practice of replacing wheat flour with potato flour, Martin's Potato Rolls shares, comes from Pennsylvania Dutch culinary tradition, and it results in a very soft, fluffy bread. Even if you're not making potato bread, however, Molly Yeh discovered that you can use potatoes to bring the same texture to any type of bread. "I loved potato sandwich bread and potato bagels from Einstein growing up because, well you know me, I've always been one for soft doughy bread over a crusty baguette," she shared in a blog post, adding, "So this year for Rosh Hashanah when I was having my routine challah brainstorm, my mind went to the humble potato."

In the original version of her bread recipe, Yeh used whole potatoes that she cooked and mashed before mixing with flour, but she has since updated it, using potato flour instead. "When I was writing "Home Is Where the Eggs Are," I discovered how much easier it is to just use potato flour right in with the dry ingredients," she told Epicurious. Both methods yield fluffy results, so you can use whichever you have on hand.

Why does added potato make bread fluffy?

Dough made with potato results in fluffier bread simply because it alters its properties. Bread is held together by gluten, which forms when the protein in the flour is activated by liquid and kneading. But while gluten is essential in providing structure, too much of it toughens bread, Southern Living says. That's where potatoes come into play. Cooked potatoes are essentially enlarged starch molecules. These molecules when mixed with wheat flour inhibit the formation of gluten. Since less gluten forms in the dough, the bread comes out softer.

In addition to preventing gluten development, starch is also naturally absorbent, King Arthur Baking Company points out. That means the added potato will act like a sponge and retain any water or milk you add to the dough. Dough that's made with more liquid ingredients already results in softer, fluffier bread, so potato will enhance this quality even further.