It’s another Slovak Sunday, and the third in a row that I’m making a yeasted dough. What can I say? The breads I’ve made so far from The Anniversary Slovak-American Cookbook have been so good, I can’t help myself from going back and trying another. This week it’s a batch of beautifully simple potato rolls. Potato rolls are my all-time favorite roll to serve at holiday gatherings, and I’ve made a few different versions over the years. This recipe, with a short list of ingredients that includes real mashed potatoes and plenty of butter, is going to be the one I go to from here on out.
Growing up, it wasn’t a big family dinner if there weren’t rolls on the table. How else are you supposed to sop up the gravy/stuffing/mashed potatoes/cranberry sauce that’s left on your plate? When I hosted my first Thanksgiving, before I realized that making rolls from scratch actually isn’t that hard, I made sure I bought a batch of hearty wheat rolls for the table. Of course, I forgot to actually serve them, and then cursed myself for making my guests eat the last of their mashed potatoes with a fork (what are we, savages?) while I ate the rolls with turkey and cranberry sauce for lunch the rest of the week.
One benefit of making rolls yourself is that you won’t forget to serve them. The smell of freshly baked potato bread will have you counting down to when you can serve them. Being able to eat one of these potato rolls warm from the oven, with steam and rising from them as you split them open, is worth the time it takes to cook and mash the potatoes and then put the dough together. The rest is just a matter of timing, making sure you let the dough rise long enough but not too long. Working backward, if you start three hours before you want to serve your meal, with a few minutes’ work you can have fresh rolls at your table.
The first step is to mash a cup of potatoes and let them cool until they are lukewarm. I had yellow potatoes on hand so that’s what I used, but I imagine russets would work as well. To make sure that the potatoes are fluffy before you add them to the dough, put them through a sieve. We want the flavor of the potatoes in the rolls, but not a lumpy texture. Then you add them to the rest of the dough ingredients, knead for a few minutes, and let it rise until it’s doubled in bulk.
There is something about the smell of dough rising that makes me feel accomplished, like no matter what else I have (or haven’t) done that day, this is something that was worth the effort.
Once the dough is risen, you pinch off small portions, roll them into balls, and put three of them together in a muffin tin. Let them rise again until they’ve doubled, then you’re ready to bake.
Twenty-five minutes later, and you have hearty, rich potato rolls waiting to be pulled apart and spread with butter. These went fast at our house, so be prepared to have an empty basket when you pass them around at your table.
- 1 cup raw diced potatoes
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted
- Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with the water. Boil over high heat until the potatoes are tender, 10-15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid in a measuring cup or small bowl. Place the potatoes back in the saucepan and mash them with a fork or potato masher. Then, using a fine mesh strainer and the back of a spoon, push the mashed potatoes through the strainer and into another bowl. If you have a small strainer, it may be easier to do this in small batches.
- Once the potato water has cooled to being lukewarm, sprinkle the yeast over it and let sit for a few minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine 3 ½ cups flour, salt, and sugar. Use your fingers to incorporate the butter. Add the yeast mixture and potatoes, and knead the mixture until it springs back when pressed with a finger, 2-3 minutes. If the dough becomes too sticky to work with, add in the remaining flour as needed.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, brush with extra melted butter, and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a towel. Let the dough rise until it is doubled in bulk, 1.5 to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or grease two muffin tins.
- Pinch off small pieces of dough and shape them lightly into round balls. Place 3 balls together in each muffin cup. Cover the muffin tins and let them rise until doubled in bulk again, 20 to 30 minutes.
- Bake for 25 minutes and serve warm.