Recipe of the Week: Homemade dinner rolls in half the time, thanks to potatoes

Cooks have been using potatoes to make dinner rolls for a long, long time, but the science-minded cooks at America’s Test Kitchen figured out why they are so soft: The potato starch absorbs even more water than flour starch. Contributed by Carl Tremblay

Cooks have been using potatoes to make dinner rolls for a long, long time, but the science-minded cooks at America’s Test Kitchen figured out why they are so soft: The potato starch absorbs even more water than flour starch. Contributed by Carl Tremblay

Homemade rolls are such a treat at Thanksgiving, but they are often one of the first dishes that home cooks might skip in order to have enough time to make everything else.

However, the editors at America’s Test Kitchen have figured out that old-fashioned potato rolls are just as tender as traditional rolls, and they rise much faster because the potato and potato water cause the yeast to activate much more quickly than flour and milk or water. The 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. One thing to keep in mind: Don’t salt the water in which you boil the potatoes.

You can make these a day ahead of time and store in the fridge, but let them sit at room temperature for about an hour before baking.

Potato Dinner Rolls

1 large russet potato (about 10 oz.), peeled and cut into 1‑inch pieces
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 1/4 cups (12 1/3 oz.) bread flour
2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch salt

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.

Transfer 5 tablespoons 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. Off heat, process potatoes through ricer or food mill or mash well with potato masher. Measure 1 cup very firmly packed potatoes 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.

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). 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.

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.

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.

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.

Arrange dough balls seam side down on prepared sheet, spaced about 1 1/2 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. (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.)

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. Transfer rolls to wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 12 rolls.

— From “Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results At Home” by the editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)


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