Sunday, September 14, 2008

Soft Potato Pillows (Rolls)

Potato rolls, potato bread, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One, two, three ... many.

Back in the States, I would insist that we buy potato hamburger buns and potato hot dog buns. When we bought dinner rolls, they were potato based. So soft, so good, slightly sweet but not sickly so.

Soft like little pillows of potato-ey goodness, soft to give physical contrast to the food that these little yeast-grown balls of flour and potato carry. Yet, strong enough to actually hold their own against a hard-core backyard grill burger will beef drippings, caramelized onions, and, of course, Heinz ketchup.

Culinary perfection in bread form. Found on the bread aisle in every store ... cheap.

When I got here in the Philippines, my starches consisted of rice, rice, rice, rice, and sometimes, rice. Bread? That is a snack food around here. You go to the local bakery and buy little rolls for P1 (2.1 cents) each.

Hamburger buns? Only the fast food joints (McDonald's and Jollibee) have those. And, they aren't telling where they got their buns. So, the memory of a nice soft bread faded slowly from my mind.

That is, until this week. When I returned from Cebu, my RSS reader had over 700 items for me to read. One of them was this posting by Greg & Michelle, the Culinary Sherpas. They make sliders (yum!) and put them on potato rolls. I like their use of the phrase "utility food". You might see that used in my later writings.

My mind was racing. I'd given up on the bread before because I was terrible with breads. I figured that I would see real-life zombies roaming the streets looking for brains before I managed to get some bread dough to rise.

Fortunately, with my new zeal for cooking, I'd done a few bun recipes and had great luck. I was feeling confident that I could pull off something good. I wanted something that was close to what I could buy in the stores in Washington, if not better. So, I started scouring the Internet.

After a lot of Google fu, I found a recipe for Amish Potato Rolls on RecipeZaar. The problem was, the recipe is too big for my normal stand mixer. I have a 20 quart Hobart, but I didn't want to whip out the Big Iron just for rolls. So, I halved the recipe.

Oops, 2-1/2 eggs. Hmmm. I already thought the recipe sounded lightly eggy, and after my experience with the choux dough, I didn't want to have eggy potato rolls. So, I dropped the half egg. I also kicked the shortening up from 3/8 cup to 1/2 cup.

  • 2-1/2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 4-5 cups bread flour

Preheated my oven to gas #4 (350F, 175C).

I put the water and yeast into my mixer's bowl and wisked them together. I let them sit while I gathered the other ingredients. A few minutes later, I added the sugar. I use SAF instant yeast. It is wonderfully forgiving unlike the insolent little yeast monsters found in packets.

I then mixed in the remaining ingredients, less the flour. Mixing them on low using my poor dying mixer blade (will someone please remind me to order a new one? I keep forgetting).

Once the other ingredients looked like some kind of lumpy porridge, I started adding the flour. One cup at a time. I added flour until the lump of dough formed was workable and a little sticky. That ended up being 4-1/2 cups.

I sprayed a second bowl with some cooking spray, scraped the mass of dough out of the mixer bowl using my silicone scraper (if you don't have one, get one! make sure you buy a one-piece scraper, the two-piece units tend to fall apart eventually), put a towel over the bowl, and let it all sit for about an hour in the Philippine heat ... err, warm spot in the kitchen.

When I came back to the dough, it had risen nicely. Oh, my days as a failed baker are ending!

I pulled out a small bowl and put in a generous handful of flour. I also got a 9" x 13" baking pan and sprayed it with cooking spray.

Before we go any further, I should note that the recipe suggested that you spray your hands with cooking spray to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands. I tried that. I sprayed between each little dough ball. They were wrong. Don't bother. Just accept that your hands will be a nice bit of dough on them. Oh, and be sure to take off all jewelry on your hands. Really, do it. You'll thank me later.

So, I made large golf ball-sized balls of the dough ... about 2 inches in diameter. I rolled each in the flour bowl to coat. And, lined them up in my baking pan.

With rolls like these, pull-aparts, you want to put the rolls close together. You want them to rise and cook together. This pushes them up rather than out.

Somehow I managed to pick the right size and got 20 of the little sticky dough balls in a 4x5 pattern in my pan. That was lucky.

Time for the second rise. I covered the pan with towels and let it sit for another 20 minutes. I probably spent a full two minutes of that time ensuring that my hands were dough-free. That stuff was sticky!

Finally, second rise is done ... into the oven. 350F (175C) for 20-25 minutes. I set my cell phone's alarm for 15 minutes because I didn't want to have another burn accident like I did with some of my cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie.

After 15 minutes, no worries. Looks like they still need another 10. But, out of pure paranoia and greed (I wanted to eat these!), I set my alarm for another 5 minutes.

I come back in 5 minutes and look into the oven. They hadn't made as much progress as I'd expected. And, I noticed that the oven thermometer was reading 300F (150C). That's odd. This oven keeps its temperature well.

Oh no ... after a little checking I figured out that the gas in the tank had run out. It was late, it was raining, and I didn't feel like going out into the back yard to get one of the spare tanks (we keep an extra two because I like to Be Prepared ... yes, ex-Boy Scout).

So, I kept the oven door closed and let the rolls coast for another 10 minutes. A total of 30 minutes in the oven. But, the last 15 were at a slowly decreasing temperature.

Were they ruined? Let's find out ...

Test Results

Primary Test Group: Oh my god! (yes, just like the ribs) How did you make these? Did you buy these? Marasa! Masarap! (Tagalog for "delicious")

These were consumed before any could reach the other test groups.

Potential Improvements

Well, cooking them for the full time would be good. While I love gas, running out at bad times is one of the risks here since we run off little 11 kilo tanks of LPG.

The bottoms were a little brown. Soft, but brown. I might try making them at 325F (163C) and cooking for 25-30 minutes.

I might try kneading the dough next time. I thought it was unusual not to. Although, that probably led to the wonderful softness.

Potential Variations

Not many. One really doesn't want to get away from the basic roll that is so good. Maybe adding a little more mashed potatoes for more potato flavor.

Possibly add some chives (I'll have to grow those myself) or other typical mashed potato toppings.

Maybe make these in hamburger bun size or in hotdog bun shape.


Fantastic! I could not have been happier with the result.

I think I'm going to make the sliders like the Culinary Sherpas.

I'm getting more confident with making yeast-based breads. This is good. It's always been a weakness of mine in the kitchen. I suspect that I'm having good luck because here in the Philippines, unlike Seattle, every part of the kitchen is a nice warm spot in which the dough can rise.


Arundathi said...

that looks great - funnily i've seen 3 different bloggers make potato bread today! have to try these!

Lalaine said...

Welcome to the Philippines, James!

James said...

Arundathi: Thanks! They were amazing (notice the used of past tense)! I, too, was surprised that a few of us did the same dish on the same day.

Lalaine: Thanks! I love it here. I'm staying.

StripyPixieSocks said...

Those look absolutely delish... I have been meaning to try porato bread for the longest time, I might just have a go this week following your recipe!

gay said...

I love the potato rolls, too, when I was in the US for a while. The recipe looks easy to make, I must polish my baking skills! Never could bake well (*sigh*)

Dave said...

Marvelous. I'm going to try these this weekend.

James said...

To all: Yes, these are easy to cook. Even easier to eat.

Hillary said...

I invite you to bring this to our Potato Roundup in October!

Chew on That

Snooty Primadona said...

I can't wait to make these at Christmas/ Great recipe!

James said...

When my oven decides to work again, I'm going to make some slider buns.