I had to ask my mother for permission to post this recipe. These are her famous potato dough rolls, the ones the relatives insist we bring to every holiday meal. "Is Sandy bringing her rolls?" is all they want to know. As soon as we arrive plates of rolls get squirreled away for cousins who haven't shown up yet, or for "later." And that's before the meal even starts.
But this Thanksgiving the task of making these fell to me. I had never realized how easy they are. They are always rich and soft, with the moist density that potato water or flakes give, and their sweetness complements leftover ham or turkey wonderfully; just remember to hide a few!
Potato water, by the way, is just water that you've boiled potatoes in. If you aren't making mashed potatoes at the same time as these rolls, just add instant potato flakes to the boiling water.
Easy Potato Dough Rolls
about 15-20 rolls
1 cup boiling potato water OR 1 cup boiling water with 1 tablespoon potato flakes
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
2 eggs, beaten
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
Milk, cream, or egg yolk, to glaze (optional)
Mix the boiling water, potato flakes (if using), 1/2 cup sugar, salt, butter and zest (if using) and let cool until tepid and just warm to the touch. In a small separate bowl mix the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and yeast and let sit for about 10 minutes or until foamy.
In a large bowl combine the potato water mixture and the yeast mixture. Add the eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Stir well, then beat in 2 more cups of flour. Beat well and don't knead - it will be very sticky. Cover and refrigerate, up to several days.
When you want to bake them, shape into balls and place side by side in a greased 9x13-inch pan. (If you are baking these immediately after making the dough, you may need to add 1/2 cup more flour to get the dough thick enough to handle. But don't add too much; the dough is extremely sticky and should be.) Coat hands lightly with flour to roll, or use a spoon to roll lumps of dough. Let rise covered until doubled. You may want to brush with milk or cream before baking, or a mixture of egg yolk and milk or water to create a shiny roll.
Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, depending on size of rolls.
This recipe multiplies well; we usually triple it for holiday meals.
(Image: Faith Durand)