Potato-Buttermilk Dinner Rolls
This Thanksgiving didn’t exactly go according to plan. Of the three things I had intended to contribute to the table this year, I ended up making two: a flawed yet delicious chocolate-pecan pie (which I’m sure you’ll see around here if I work up the courage to make it again and work out a couple proportion mishaps), and potato-buttermilk rolls. Of those two things, it was only the pie that managed to (barely) make the deadline of actually being served on Thanksgiving day. So yes, not only did I succeed in producing only one dish for the holiday whose sole focus is on food, but I made Thanksgiving-material food after the actual holiday. Sometimes I wonder what the qualifications are for having the confidence to have a food blog. I might be missing the mark on a few.
But! As much as that lovely holiday revolves around food, that’s not really the real point of it. Because as trite or cliche as this sounds, I got a lot more happiness over Thanksgiving weekend from spending time with family, friends, and my boyfriend than from producing a delicious pie. Or even fresh (but late) potato-buttermilk rolls. When they finally came out of the oven on Friday night at around ten o’ clock, my family hovered in the kitchen waiting to break into the fluffy, warm rolls and slather on some butter and tart apricot jam. But it was the moment afterward when we all settled into the living room to watch TV, napkins with the piping warm rolls in our laps to munch on, that made me feel a lot more satisfied. Because let’s be honest: fresh yeast breads, straight from the oven, are almost always delicious. But they are always better when you’re in a cozy, warm place (home), around people you love. This weekend was a good reminder that sometimes the things that get in the way of the always-so-important plans are more important than what you were trying to accomplish anyway.
But as important as family and friends are, let’s not short-change these rolls. These things are pretty addicting: moist and a little hearty but incredibly fluffy. They have that fresh bread taste that I’m sure you’re familiar with, but with the background flavor of potato. This, by some miracle, makes fresh bread even more mouth-watering. These are great all-purpose dinner rolls, although I think next time if I were to make them, I’d arrange them in a pan to make pull-apart rolls, kind of like this. Also, note that depending on how many pieces you end up creating from the dough, you’ll end up with a size either closer to a dinner roll or a sandwich or hamburger bun. I wish I had broken mine into even smaller pieces to have more manageable portion sizes. But no matter how you decide to bake them, don’t forget to share! With the people who make sharing worthwhile. I promise you no matter the portion size, they’ll be eaten up quickly.
Potato-Buttermilk Rolls (Dinner Rolls or Sandwich Buns)
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking
1 large russet potato (about 1/2 lb or 250 g), peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) water
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) buttermilk
2 packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 cups (940 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
In a small saucepan combine the water and potato chunks and bring to a boil. Cook until the potato is soft and very tender when touched with a fork, about ten minutes. It won’t to harm to overcook the potato here–it’s all going to be mashed smoothly anyway.
Pour the cooked potato cubes with the water into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached, if using. Mash the potato cubes with a fork until smooth. Stir in the buttermilk and let cool until warm (about 110 degrees F). If the mixture is too cold, you can warm a proportion of it in the microwave until heated up enough. Once warm, dissolve the yeast in the potato mixture and let stand 5 minutes. Add the flour, salt, sugar and butter and stir with your hand or a wooden spoon until a shaggy mass forms. Scrape the dough out onto a floured work surface. Invert the bowl over the dough and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Uncover the dough and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes, adding enough flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking as you go. Alternatively, if using a stand mixer, after adding the flour, salt, sugar and butter, knead on low speed until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes, adding flour as needed for the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl.
Once kneaded, form the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Cut in half with a sharp knife. Cut each half into 8 equal pieces for rolls or 6 equal pieces for sandwich buns (for a total of either 16 or 12 pieces). Cover pieces with a kitchen towel and let rest 5 minutes before shaping. Line two rimless baking sheets with parchment paper, or alternatively, if you want pull-apart rolls, heavily butter two 10-inch cake pans. Roll each piece of dough against the work surface into a ball and place on/in prepared baking sheets/pans. Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel again and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for about 15-30 minutes, or until they almost double in size. If you want a ligheter, airier texture for sandwich buns, let the dough rise until spongy and pillow-y soft when gently squeezed, 30-45 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Once risen, lightly dust the tops of the rolls with flour. Bake rolls until puffed and lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes. The bottoms of the rolls should just start to get golden.