While the decadently buttery white dinner rolls associated with holiday dinners are delicious, sometimes we crave something similarly soft and tender but a little leaner. Old-fashioned potato rolls, with their light, moist crumb, fit the bill.
Potato roll recipes abound, but almost none specify what type of potato to use, and some turn out heavy, rather than feathery-light, rolls. We wanted to nail down a foolproof recipe for these tender rolls.
We learned when we developed our Potato-Dill Sandwich Bread recipe that more starch is better, so we chose high-starch russets. Potato starch granules are about five times larger than wheat granules, so they can absorb at least five times as much water, resulting in a moister crumb.
As we made batch after batch of rolls with different amounts of mashed russets, we discovered something interesting: The more potato we used, the less time the dough needed to rise.
As it turns out, the potassium in potatoes activates yeast; the more of it there is, the quicker and more vigorous the rise. This led us to consider the cooking water. When potatoes are boiled, they leach almost half of their potassium into the water, which helped explain why so many recipes called for adding it to the dough.
We found that when we switched from using 5 tablespoons of milk to using the same amount of potato cooking water, the rising times dropped still more. These rolls weren’t just light, moist, and satisfying; they needed significantly less rising time than many standard dinner rolls. Don’t salt the water in which you boil the potatoes.
- 1 large russet potato (10 ounces), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 21⁄4 cups (121⁄3 ounces) bread flour
- 2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg, room temperature 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt
How To Make Potato Dinner Rolls
1- Place potato in medium saucepan and cover with 1 inch cold water. Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer and cook until potato is just tender (paring knife can be slipped in and out of potato with little resistance), 8 to 10 minutes.
2- Transfer 5 tablespoons (21⁄2 ounces) potato cooking water to 4-cup liquid measuring cup and let cool completely; drain potatoes. Return potatoes to now-empty saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, shaking saucepan occasionally, until any surface moisture has evaporated, about 30 seconds.
3- Off heat, process potatoes through ricer or food mill or mash well with potato masher. Measure 1 cup very firmly packed potatoes (8 ounces) and transfer to separate bowl. Stir in butter until melted and let mixture cool completely before using. Discard remaining mashed potatoes or save for another use.
4- Whisk flour, yeast, and salt together in bowl of stand mixer. Whisk egg and sugar into potato cooking water until sugar has dissolved. Add mashed potato mixture to flour mixture and mix with your hands until combined (some large lumps are OK).
5- Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add cooking water mixture and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Increase speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic and clears sides of bowl but sticks to bottom, about 8 minutes.
6- Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds. Place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
7- Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Press down on dough to deflate. Transfer dough to clean counter and stretch into even 12-inch log. Cut log into 12 equal pieces (about 2 ounces each) and cover loosely with greased plastic.
8- Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep remaining pieces covered), form into rough ball by stretching dough around your thumbs and pinching edges together so that top is smooth. Place ball seam side down on clean counter and, using your cupped hand, drag in small circles until dough feels taut and round.
9- Arrange dough balls seam side down on prepared sheet, spaced about 11⁄2 inches apart. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rise until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
10- (Unrisen rolls can be refrigerated for at least 8 hours or up to 16 hours; let rolls sit at room temperature for 1 hour before baking.)
11- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Gently brush rolls with egg mixture and bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
12- Transfer rolls to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.