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Potato Tray Buns

By Susanne Merrett

Potato Tray Buns

This recipe comes from Roy Finamore's One Potato Two Potato, a glorious collection of 300+ potato recipes. I have altered the original recipe (Yeasty Potato Dinner Rolls) according to my family's preferences – I make large pull-apart tray buns instead of the individual rolls and have adjusted a few ingredients for our Atlantic climate. 

Do try this recipe. These buns are sublime – chewy, soft, buttery, and oh so satisfying. They keep for days and days wrapped in plastic and freeze beautifully. As far as baking skills required, even novice bakers will have success here. This recipe takes several hours, but most of the time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. If you are an experienced baker, feel free to use this dough as a base to make all sorts of different breads....besides tray buns, try a braided loaf, regular loaves, individual buns, or perhaps a cinnamon raisin loaf. Endless possibilities for deliciousness!

Yields 24 buns

Ingredients:

3/4 pound Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into large chunks

1 packet (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

1/4 cup sugar 

5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour 

4 large eggs

1/2 pound (1 cup) melted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

milk for glazing

Method:

  • Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with one inch of water. Bring to boil, and simmer until quite soft (almost falling apart). Drain, reserving water. Put the potatoes through a ricer or mash until totally smooth.
  • When the potato water has cooled to lukewarm, measure out 1/2 cup and add the yeast to it and let the mixture sit until bubbly (about 5 minutes).
  • Into the bowl of your standing mixer, add the mashed potatoes, yeast mixture, sugar, an additional 1/2 cup of potato water, and 1 cup of flour. Mix well until smooth. You have now made a sponge, which is baker talk for a really wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a linen towel and lest rest in a warm, draft free area until doubled and bubbly (about 30 minutes).
  • Add the melted butter, eggs, salt, and about 4 1/4 cups of the remaining flour. With the dough hook, beat for a few minutes. If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl but instead forms a ball around the dough hook. Continue to beat the dough for a few more minutes until the dough is soft, sticky, and very smooth. Leave the dough in the mixer bowl, remove the dough hook, and cover with plastic wrap or linen towel. Leave the dough to rest in a warm, draft free place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (or until doubled). (The original recipe called for 2 to 2 1/2 hours of rising time, but I have never found it took that long.)
  • Line two 9 X 12 inch deep baking dishes with parchment. Flour your work area and hands, then punch down the dough and pull out of the bowl. Divide the dough in half. Keep dividing each dough ball in half until you have 24 small dough balls. (I actually get out my digital kitchen scale weigh out the dough into 24 equal balls, which is usually around 75 grams, depending upon the weather  - humidity affects the amount of flour required in the dough. If you don't have a scale, no problem, eye balling works just as well.) 
  • Take each dough ball and roll it in your hands to smooth it out. There is always one side that is a little messier looking – this will be the bottom of the bun. Gently pull and smooth the top and sides of the dough ball around to the bottom and then tuck and pinch it to form the bottom. You are trying to form a nice, smooth ball of dough. If all else fails, use your tried and true snowball making skills instead! Arrange 12 buns in each baking tray. Cover and let rise for about 1 hour. The buns will be close together in the tray and will be touching when baked – voila, tray buns – less crusty exterior, more soft and tender buns.
  • When there is about 20 minutes left in the rising time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Brush buns with milk. When the oven is hot, pop the trays in and bake for 24 to 26 minutes, rotating half way through.  As with all bread, you know the buns are done when you tap the bottom and get a hollow sound. Don't try to take one bun out to test it, just treat the buns like big loaf, and flip them all out as one. Then tap the bottom.
  • Let cool in pan a few minutes before removing to cool on a baking rack. Serve hot, or let cool and keep in plastic for several days. These buns keep longer than most fresh homemade bread and they freeze fantastically.

NOTES:

  • For multigrain buns, substitute 1 1/2 to 2 cups of whole wheat flour.
  • Feel free to use leftover mashed potatoes in this recipe. You will need about 2 cups. Substitute regular tap water for the two 1/2 cup measures of potato water.
  • To make into two large bread loaves, divide the dough into two balls. Roll each ball into a rectangle. (The short side of the rectangle should be the length of the long side of your loaf pan – if you have a 10 X 5 inch loaf pan, your rectangle should be about 10 X 14 inches.) Starting at the short side, roll the rectangle into a loaf, pinching the seem together along the bottom. Place each loaf into a parchment lined loaf pan.  Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 35 to 45 minutes. The baking time will depend upon the size of your loaf pans. Fatter loaves will take longer. Tap on the bottom of the loaf to test for doneness – when you hear a hollow sound, your bread is done.

 

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