Here in Oak Lawn, the weather is cool (no snow – yet) and there’s little gardening to do. Gardening, and designing Gardens, are my Zen. When I can no longer put my hands in the dirt, I find my Zen in the kitchen. I love feeding my family and friends something I’ve made just for them and my family loves loves loves bread, especially hot out of the oven. I like making it more than I like eating it. It really is not hard to make bread and I think you’ll find it relaxing to work on only one thing for a period of time, especially something that should make most anyone smile.
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas I make Potato Rolls. They are a sweet compliment to the savory meats, the bitter greens, and the earthy root veggies at the all our holiday feasts – Thanksgiving and Christmas and all the parties in between.
I’ve adapted this recipe from a McCall’s Cooking School cook book I bought nearly 30 years ago. I haven’t changed it very much. I’ve swapped some of the white flour for whole wheat. I’ve experimented with the balance of white to wheat and found this ratio gives a soft texture and sweet flavor. I’ve also added a little milk and butter to my mashed potatoes, like real mashed potatoes should be. The original recipe called for instant mashed potatoes with no milk or butter. What fun is that? Make real mashed potatoes with a little extra for you.
Rini’s Potato Roll Recipe
1 cup of mashed potatoes which have been made with milk and butter.
1 1/4 cups of warm water (105 to 115F)
2 packages of active dry yeast
1/2 cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon of Salt
1/2 cup of butter, softened
6 1/2 cups of flour **3 cups of White Whole Wheat Pastry Flour and 3 1/2 cups of White Flour
Melted Butter for the bowl in which you’re going to put your dough to rise.
1 egg beaten with 2 Tablespoons of water for an egg wash on the bread dough before you put it in the oven
#1 First make your mashed potatoes. You can use any potatoes you want, but my mother-in-law says the red skinned make the best mashed. I used golden because that’s what I had on hand. While your potatoes are boiling, prepare the yeast mixture.
#2 I’ve learned that to get my dough to rise, use the best yeast (I use Rapid Rise Yeast) and a thermometer. You can find thermometers for food in any grocery store. They’re usually in the baking section. It’s ok to use one that’s marked for candy making as long as the temps go as low as 105f. The temp should be no less than 105 and no greater than 115. Too hot will kill the yeast and not warm enough will not activate the yeast. Pour the 1 1/4 c of warm water into a large bowl which has been rinsed in warm water. Using the thermometer check the water temp before adding the yeast. Once the water temperature is correct, sprinkle the yeast packets over the water, then add the sugar and the salt. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until the mixture is completely dissolved. Let it stand for about 5 minutes. The mixture will start to bubble a little bit and you will be able to smell the yeast activating. It’s cool kitchen chemistry.
#3 add the eggs and the softened butter to the yeasty water and beat on medium until it’s blended. Then add 3 cups of the flour, beating at high speed until smooth. Add 2 cups of the flour, beating until all the dough is incorporated. Add the remainder of the flour 1/2 a cup at a time, beating between additions, until the smooth dough leaves the side of the bowl. This takes the place of traditional kneading which is done to develop the gluten in the bread. As the gluten develops, the dough will become elastic, sort of what pulling taffy looks like. ** Side Note – I use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but when I first started making this recipe I used a hand mixer. If you are using a hand mixer you won’t be able to get all the flour mixed in with the hand mixer. You will have to use your hands to incorporate at least the last 1 1/2 cups of flour. It can be a very satisfying task if you have the time and your hands are up it.
#4 Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter, place the dough in the bowl, and then brush the top of the dough with a little more butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, or waxed paper, AND a towel. Let rise in the refrigerator for 2 hours until it is double in size. Proofing your bread in the fridge for your first rise will slow down the fermentation, which will give your yeast longer time to work it’s magic and give you a really tasty, sweet bread. If you’re in a hurry, you can certainly let your dough rise in a warmer place. I have put my covered bowl of dough on top of my dryer for a speedy rise – but keep in mind your dough will be soft and delicate but not as sweet with the quicker rise. After your dough has doubled in bulk, take it out of the fridge and punch it down. Again, this can be a satisfying task depending on how your day is going. Punch it good.
#5 After the first proof, you can put your dough (keeping it covered) back in the fridge for up to 3 days, punching it down once a day. If you’re ready to bake it after the first proof, once you have punched it down, let it rest while you prepare your baking pans. To shape your rolls, grab a small amount of dough and roll it into a ball. Don’t overwork the rolling because you will make your dough tough. Fill your muffin tins with 3 balls of dough in each muffin hole (what do you call that spot?hmm). Once you’ve filled your muffin tins, put a towel over each one and let the dough rise for a second proof for an hour, or until double in bulk. The balls of dough will mesh together after they’ve risen.
LAST STEP – YEA!!
Brush with butter, mmm more butter. Or, an egg wash which is an egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water. The egg wash gives your rolls a lovely golden color, the butter will give it more flavor. The choice is yours.
Bake in an oven preheated to 400f (375 if you have a convection oven) and bake for 12 minutes or until golden.
The rolls will be soft and mildly sweet. Their sweetest will compliment a salad or a roast. They are so yummy you can serve them plain. Butter works too.