Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have turned to home cooking instead of dining at restaurants or buying fast food meals. Thanks to the virus we have become more aware of what we put on our plates, and some of you may have discovered that cooking and baking also have therapeutic qualities.
I have been contacted by a number of American Slovaks asking for recipes of ancient dishes their grandmothers used to make. Cheesy Potato Bread Cake (or zemiakový posúch) is one of them. It took some research to indentify the dish from the ingredients I had been given and a short description of the method. I also found out that there are several variations on zemiakový posúch.
Unlike the round, pan-toasted cakes I tried a few months ago, this cheesy oven-baked potato bread cake has, you guessed it, a cheese filling. I was tempted to use bryndza at first to make it more authentic, but knowing how hard it is to get this Slovak cheese outside of Slovakia, I thought again and bought a good quality hard cheese.
Cheesy Potato Bread Cake
Serves 4 – 6
For the dough:
- 500 g bread flour (about 3½ cups)
- 300 ml milk (about 1¼ cups)
- 21 g fresh yeast*
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons oil
- 50 g butter to brush on top, melted
For the filling:
- 3 large potatoes (about 500 g)
- 100 g hard cheese, grated
- 5 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried dill
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
*If you can’t get hold of fresh yeast in your country, use the dried or instant one (21 g fresh = 7 g instant), and follow the instructions on the packet.
- Peel and wash the potatoes under running water. Dice them and place in a cooking pot filled with water. Bring to the boil, adjust to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and put aside to cool.
- Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Make sure you stir it well into the flour, so the salt doesn’t come in direct contact with the yeast at the next stage. Spoon the oil in the flour.
- Heat the milk in a heatproof mug over a low heat until warm. Add the sugar and stir well. Transfer some of the milk into a glass. Between the tips of your fingers, crumble the yeast into the milk. Stir well until the yeast dissolves. Add a pinch of flour to kick-start fermentation. Cover the glass and leave it in a warm place (see photos in this guide for more help).
- When the yeast has risen up to the brim, pour all the contents of the glass onto the flour. Add the remaining milk and knead by hand until you achieve a smooth, medium-thick dough. Scrape the bits of the dough stuck to your fingers with a butter knife. Cover the bowl and leave to stand in a warm place for an hour.
- Meanwhile, strain the potatoes and mash them with a ricer. Stir in the salt, ground black pepper, the dill and the grated cheese. Mix well.
- Grease a baking sheet the size of 39x29cm (15x11in). When the dough has doubled in volume, transfer it onto a floured rolling board. Divide into halves and shape two rectangular loaves. Pat one loaf down with your hand, then roll out into a rectangle the size of the baking sheet. Carefully roll the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer into the baking dish. Patch up any tears or smooth any bumps with your fingers (see photos in step 8).
- Distribute the cheesy potato mixture onto the dough and level with a spatula.
- Roll out the other dough loaf the same way as the first one and transfer into the baking sheet.
- Bake in the oven preheated to 180°C for about 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake turns golden brown and its edges are coming off the sides of the baking sheet. Take out of the oven and onto a wooden board. Brush the melted butter on top of the cake and let cool a little.
- Cut into 12 squares and serve warm with a mug of fermented milk.