Monday, November 19, 2007

Mashed Potato Dinner Rolls

This weekend I made a batch of these to have on hand for Thanksgiving. This recipe is from The Grass Roots Cookbook by Jean Anderson. I don't think it is in print any more so if you see a copy for sale, snap it up. It was the result of a "best cooks" series run by Family Circle, for which Anderson traveled thousands of miles and profiled many home cooks around the country known locally for their excellent cooking. This is one of the best cookbooks I know for representing regional cooking in the last days when such a thing was widespread and cooks vied to be the best. Every recipe I have tried from it has always been wonderful.

These rolls are no exception and my family loves them. They are the epitome of those soft, slightly sweet, buttery American rolls that are so difficult to find these days. Bakeries carry ciabiotta, authentic baguettes, fresh flour tortillas ... but a good American roll is hard to find.

I make these using leftover mashed potatoes. The fact that they are seasoned doesn't really make any difference to the rolls. Also, I have found it is good to leave the dough slightly sticky. Otherwise the rolls will be dry. I also tend to add 1-1/2 teaspoons malt powder (from King Arthur Flour) when I have it around.

If I am making them to serve to a large group, then I will bake them as described in the recipe. The result is very pretty, as our Japanese exchange student from long ago said, "Like a flower!" Otherwise, in a more utilitarian fashion, I make 48 balls of dough and put them 6-rolls x 8-rolls into a half-sheet jelly roll pan. (This is a large size pan that you can get from a restaurant supply company. I find them invaluable for cookie baking and much more.) I then freeze them in 6-roll squares to pull out for dinner.

Here is the recipe, straight from the book.

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup hot, unseasoned mashed potatoes
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast (That would be 2-1/2 teaspoons for those using bulk yeast ... also available from King Arthur flour. I double this amount if I am in a hurry.)
2 cups warm milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
9-10 cups all-purpose flour (enough to make a soft but manageable dough)

  1. Combine butter, mashed potatoes, sugar and salt and stir until butter melts (if using leftover mashed potatoes, melt the butter and add it ... that warms up the potatoes). Cool mixture to 105 to 115 (or lukewarm).
  2. Sprinkle yeast over warm milk in a large mixing bowl (milk should feel comfortably warm when dropped on wrist). Stir until yeast dissolves.
  3. Add mashed-potato mixture to yeast; beat in eggs. Add the flour about 2 cups at a time, beating well to blend. Add only enough flour to give you a soft but workable dough -- it should not be so sticky that you cannot knead it.
  4. Turn dough onto a floured board and, with well-floured hands, knead about 5 minutes or until soft and springy (I do the mixing in my Kitchen Aid with the beater until it is "shaggy" and switch to a kneading hook for the kneading ... but for many years I made these by hand).
  5. Turn dough into a buttered bowl and brush the surface with melted butter. Cover with a clean dry cloth and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk -- about 2 hours. (This dough takes somewhat longer than usual to rise because it contains only 1 package of yeast.)
  6. Punch dough down and let rest about 10 minutes. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead lightly again -- about 2-3 minutes.
  7. Pinch off bits of dough and roll into balls about the size of golf balls. Arrange one layer deep, in concentric rings, in three well-greased 9-inch layer-cake pans (I also have used pie pans for this), spacing the rolls so that they do not quite touch one another (they will after they have risen). Cover pans with clean dry cloth, set in a warm, draft-free spot and again let rise until double in bulk -- about 1 hour or slightly longer.
  8. Bake the rolls in a very hot oven (450) for 10 minutes or until rolls are nicely browned and sound hollow when thumped with your fingers. Serve hot with plenty of butter.
  9. Note: Any rolls not eaten right away can be cooled to room temperature, then wrapped in foil (do not separate rolls) and frozen to enjoy later.

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