Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this whole bread-making thing, the season changes and half of what I thought I knew went out the (now open) window. I had read that the exact amount of flour needed would vary with humidity. So I knew … but I didn’t understand.
This recipe started out with 3 cups of flour, and probably ended up closer to 5. And it wasn’t just humid, it was hot. So it rose way more, and way faster, than I expected.
They came out delicious though, so I’ve clearly learned a little something along the way.
1 large or 2 medium potatoes
¼ cup potato water (see below)
¼ cup butter (4 tablespoons, ½ stick)
¼ cup sugar
up to ½ cup milk (see below)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (one package)
¼ cup warm water (105°-115°)
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups each white flour and bread flour
Prep the taters*
Peel one large or two medium potatoes. (You can skip ahead a few steps if you have about a cup of leftover mashed potatoes to start with.)
Dice the potatoes into small cubes.
Boil in salted water over medium heat until the largest pieces are fork tender.
When the potatoes are done, take a quarter-cup of the water you boiled them in, and add it to the butter.
Scoop the potatoes out and press them through a food mill or a ricer.
Add the sugar — except for one teaspoon, which you need to keep for the yeast.
Set it aside to cool to room temperature.
Prep “bread” ingredients
In a separate bowl combine the yeast, sugar (for the yeast to eat) and a quarter-cup of warm water — 105°-115°, warm enough to activate the yeast, not so hot you kill it.
Set the yeast aside to “proof” for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know it’s activated when you see lots of bubbles coming to the top.
Crack the egg into a measuring cup, and fill up the rest of the way to 1/2 cup with milk.
Mix the potatoes and make sure they’re not still hot. Otherwise it will kill the yeast. Add the milk-and-egg and the yeast mixture to the potato mix, and mix again.
Sift in the flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each cup until combined. Along with one of the cups of flour, add the salt.
Once all the flour is added, knead on medium-low speed for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl and stick to the beater. If it’s too sticky, which means it’s not pulling away from the side, keep adding flour a quarter-cup at a time until you reach the right consistency.
I nearly overflowed my mixer bowl before it was good. I knew humidity would affect how much moisture the flour would absorb, but holy cow this was a lot. I tried to add about half-and-half white flour vs. bread flour. I figured the potato would make the dough heavy, and it would need the extra rise you get using high-gluten bread flour.
Once you’ve got the right texture, turn the dough out onto a floured surface a knead for a few more minutes, to make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Put a few tablespoons of oil in a clean bowl. Add the dough and turn it to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp dish towel. This will keep the dough from drying out and forming a skin, which would keep it from rising as much.
Set the bowl someplace warm — if you were in my kitchen this day, anywhere at all would have worked. It was nearly 90°. Usually I put the bowl in the oven with the light on. That typically provides just enough warmth. Let it rise until doubled in size.
Usually this takes about an hour to an hour-and-a-half. But on this day … I don’t know if it was the heat, the humidity, maybe the sugar in the dough, but this went far past double and was actually pushing against the dish towel when I pulled it out. Start checking yours at 45 minutes.
Once it’s risen, punch it down to release the bubbles.
Shape and bake
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface again, and press it out into a circle with your fingers. You’re not trying to stretch it like a pizza crust, just making it easier to cut into even portions. Once it’s round, cut with a pizza cutter into 12 or 16 even pieces.
Roll each piece in the palm of your hands, then press into a flat disk. Make sure you have plenty of flour on your hands and the work surface so nothing sticks.
Lay the shaped pieces of dough out on baking sheets, leaving plenty of room for them to rise.
I could have put 8 on a tray — which would have worked great, since I had 16 pieces — but I didn’t want to risk having them get stuck to each other. I didn’t need to worry about it, they would have separated just fine.
Oh, you may be wondering what I greased the pan with. Nothing. Just put the dough right on bare metal. That’s the other reason for all the flour when you’re shaping them. In this case it’s the flour that keeps them from sticking to the pan.
Set the pans in your warm place to rise until the buns have doubled in size again. This time it took about an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 400°, then turn it down to 300° when you put the buns in. This will give them a quick rise when you put them in without burning the crust. Check at about 10 minutes. They are finished when they’re golden brown, and have a hollow sound when you thump on the bottom of one with your thumb. (Yes, this means you have to pick up and handle one of them straight out of the oven. Use an oven mitt, or find a guy who’s trying to impress you to do it for you.)
And that’s it.
These were used for the Grass Fed Steakburgers I posted about yesterday. But my wife couldn’t wait for the burgers to be ready. She had one right out of the oven with butter. And the girls had them the next morning with butter and jelly for breakfast. This recipe would work great for dinner rolls. Just roll them out smaller, and have lots more of them. They’d probably cook faster, too, so keep an eye on them.
Want more like this? For more recipes like this, that you can hold right in your hands, and write on, take notes, tear pages out if you want (Gosh, you're tough on books, aren't you?) you might be interested in How To Cook Like Your Grandmother, 2nd edition, Illustrated. Or to learn your way around the kitchen, check out Starting From Scratch: The Owner's Manual for Your Kitchen.