A recipe we borrowed from Europe.
Potato rolls by joyosity, on Flickr
Including potatoes in bread tends to make it softer and moister, for a few reasons. Potatoes are practically gluten free, and since gluten is a structural element, the result is softer. The starches in potatoes hold more water than wheat starches. Additionally, yeast loves potassium, which the potatoes provide in abundance; this tends to give the interior an airy texture.
This is a technique we borrowed from Europe; back when France, Germany and Britain were exploring uses for the potato in the 17th and 18th centuries, much of the attraction was the potential to use them as a wheat substitute for times of famine.
The recipes developed then came along to the American colonies and we’ve made them ever since. One example is the recipe in 1838’s The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph:
Sweet Potato Buns
Boil and mash a potato, rub into it as much flour as will make it like bread–add spice and sugar to your taste, with a spoonful of yeast; when it has risen well, work in a piece of butter, bake it in small rolls, to be eaten hot with butter, either for breakfast or tea.
(Note that these are sweet potato rolls, not sweet potato rolls.)
A word of caution: potato bread (particularly ones containing sugar) tends not to get quite as brown, and the more sugar and potato, the paler the result. I’m not entirely sure why this happens, but here’s my guess.
The Maillard reaction that causes bread to brown requires both amino acids and reducing sugars. Gluten is a protein compound. As potatoes are gluten-free, and wheat has more protein than potatoes, the quantity of amino acids required in the Maillard reaction may be lower. Additionally, the sugars may not reduce as quickly in the presence of the moister potato starch.
But if there are any chemists out there who can weigh in, please do!
From the box of F.J. from Sun City, Arizona. Some cards suggest a family history in Missouri.
Ice Box Rolls
1 cake yeast dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup warm mashed potatoes, mixed with sugar, water and yeast.
Add 1 cup cold water, 1 tsp. salt, 6 cups flour.
Cover–place in refrigerator and use as desired.
Recipe from Norma Shores