The crockpot was brimming with local beef and vegetables. With the aroma of stew emanating from one side of the kitchen, I needed the familiar scent of fresh bread to rise from the oven. By the end of the night, I had a combination of warming comfort foods that helped (along with my many layers of clothes and blankets) to fight the wintry chills and evening darkness that January brings.
Old-Fashioned Dinner Rolls
Adapted from “The Art & Soul of Baking” by Cindy Mushet
1 small local potato, peeled and quartered
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
¼ cup evaporated cane juice organic sugar
½ stick (2 ounces) organic unsalted butter, very soft
½ cup local buttermilk
1 large, local, free-range egg, at room temperature
1 ¼ cup Saint Vincent whole-wheat bread flour
1 ¼ cup Saint Vincent unbleached flour
½ teaspoon salt
For Cooking the Potato
Put the quartered potato in a small saucepan, cover with water, and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the tip of a paring knife slides in and out easily.
Drain well, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water. Return the potato to the pan and mash using a fork.
Set aside to cool to room temperature.
For Mixing & Kneading the Dough
Warm the reserved potato water to 110-115°F and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the sugar and whisk by hand to blend.
Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is active and foamy or bubbling.
Measure ½ cup mashed potatoes and add to the bowl.
Add the remaining sugar, butter, buttermilk and egg, and whisk by hand until well blended.
Add the flour and salt and knead with a mixer until the dough begins to come together. It will seem sticky.
With the mixer on low, add additional flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead the dough by hand until the dough feels firm, dense and springy, 5-6 minutes.
Do not over knead or the starch from the potato will break down and make the dough gooey [I am probably guilty of this bit. The addition of whole wheat flour also added extra density].
For the First Rise
Lightly butter or oil a bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little butter or oil.
Cover with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free, cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 45-60 minutes (longer if the room is cold).
For Punching Down the Dough
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface.
Press down the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles.
Chill, covered, for at least 2-12 hours, or until the dough is very cold.
For Shaping the Dough
Cut the dough into approximately 3 oz portions (about 1/3 cup) and shape into a taut, round ball.
Line a baking stone with parchment paper, and position the rolls on the sheet about 3 inches apart.
For Proofing the Rolls
Cover the rolls loosely with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free, cotton towel and let rise until almost doubled in size, 35- 45 minutes (longer if the room is cold). They should look like they have taken a deep breath.
For the Baking
Preheat the oven to 375°F, and position an oven rack in the center of the oven.
Bake the rolls for 10 minutes.
Rotate the pan and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes longer until the rolls are golden brown and their internal temperature registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Transfer to a cooling rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature [unfortunately, my “room temperature” is usually too cold. I suggest serving warm. Wine also helps with winter warmth!]