Potato Rolls: Bring on the Buns!!!

In my last post I mentioned saving the water that you boil your potatoes in to use for making bread.

I didn’t know if I would have time today to show you want to do with it.  I had some serious cake baking that needed to get done and even though I’m a super duper multi-tasker I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew (haha!).  Well, I got into a cake bakin’ groove and figured that whipping up a quick batch of buns would be no problem.  I love baking bread.  I would even go as far as to say that I love baking bread more than I love eating bread…and that says something! 🙂

My grandma R. makes fabulous bread.

Grandma R., the ultimate bread baker.

Some of my earliest memories are of her taking the rolls out of the oven,  slathering them with gobs of butter and homemade strawberry jam, and giving them to us kids to eat.  And man…did we eat!  Back then I never paid any attention to grandma’s bread baking process, and to be honest all I really remember is having to wait FOREVER for the dough to rise.  FOR-EV-ER.  But as I got older my impatience subsided…kind of… and my interest in baking began to increase.  I asked grandma for her bread recipe.  She said the recipe was her mother’s, and that she’d love to teach me how to make it.  So one day while my cousin was home from college for Christmas break, grandma came over and taught us both how bread dough should feel when you’ve added enough flour.  She taught us how to shape the rolls and loaves and most importantly, how to make cinnamon rolls!   This post isn’t about that recipe though.  I’m sure sometime I’ll share it on this blog, but today is not the day.  This post, instead, is about a little bit of information grandma told me a couple weeks ago.

Mom had brought grandma and grandpa over for the day and while I was baking grandpa his lavender chocolate macarons (he loves those things!), grandma was looking though some old magazines I had.  There must have been a recipe or something that caused her to remember, I’m not sure. She told me that when her mom made bread she sometimes would save the water that she boiled potatoes in and added it to the dough instead of milk. She didn’t have the recipe, but gosh, would she like one.  Thanks to the magic of Google, I was able to fulfill her request.

Potato water, with all it’s starchy goodness, really adds some nice moistness to the dough.  The rolls came out pretty light and they tasted like little pillows of pure bliss.  One note, if anyone decides to try this wonderful recipe, you should only refrigerate potato water for about 24 hours.  If you keep it any longer it may sweeten and really mess with the taste of your bread.   Another quick note I have about bread baking is that anyone can do it!!!  It’s so easy and really doesn’t take a lot of time at all.  Less than 75 cents for a loaf of bread sounds pretty awesome too, doesn’t it!?

The Recipe

Potato Dough Rolls (adapted from The Kitchn)

(I made 12 big rolls.  This could easily make 15-20 though)

  • 1 cup boiling potato water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups flour (I used closer to 5 1/2)


  • In a big bowl whisk the boiling potato water, 1/2c. sugar, salt butter and zest together and let cool.
  • In a separate, little bowl combine the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and yeast. Let it sit and mingle for about 10 minutes or until foamy. (*note* when adding live yeast to warm water, make sure the temperature of the water doesn’t exceed 140 degrees F.  It’ll kill your yeast.  Also, I usually skip this proofing step and throw all my wet ingredients together first and then add the yeast, sugar and flour.  I’m just a bread bakin’ rebel, I guess.  I’ve never had problems doing it this way but someday I’m sure my yeast will have entered into retirement and my bread won’t rise properly.  So if you don’t want to risk it…proof it!).

Proof (haha) that my yeast is good!

  • In a large bowl whisk the potato water mixture and the yeast mixture together. Add the eggs and 2 cups of the flour. Whisk well, then stir in the other 2 cups of flour with a wooden spoon. The dough should be a little on the sticky side.  I didn’t knead it, and instead left it sit on the counter for a couple hours to rise.  The original recipe said to cover and refrigerate it, up to several days.  That’s a good idea…but I want it now!  I’m all about the instant gratification.
  • When you want to bake them, shape into balls and place side by side in a greased 9×13 pan (I used a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper). Coat hands lightly with flour to roll. Let’s talk about shaping the rolls, quick.  I want to show you Grandma R.’s way of doing things.  Grandma pinches off a piece of the dough and quick sets it in a bowl of flour.  Don’t roll it around in there, you just want a little extra so the dough won’t stick to everything.  Then she makes a circle with her thumb and her pointer finger.  She simply pushes the dough through the hole.

view from the top

view from the bottom, after the dough has been pushed through

This creates something called a “gluten cloak”…and that’s exactly what you want!  You’ll get a nice smooth roll with the untidy ends tucked underneath.  Put the rolls on the cookie sheet or in the pan and then lightly press down on them.  This will also help with the shaping.

  • Let rise, covered until doubled.

ready to rise!

Ready for the oven

  • 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.  I don’t do that, instead I brush each roll with ghee when it’s done cooking, not before.

ghee = Indian style clarified butter. Use real butter if you don't have this little jar of awesomeness in your pantry...it'll do the trick.

  • Bake at 375°F for about 20 minutes, depending on size of rolls.  **Oops!  I didn’t read this part of the directions.  I baked mine at 350 degrees F for about 17 minutes.  They turned out fantastic!**

After all that cake baking…

bottom layer crumb-coated!

I realized I hadn’t eaten anything all day except a couple tastes of frosting and cake batter….quality control, you know? I was super excited to take a shower and sit down to a glass of tea and 1/2 a roll smothered in strawberry jam…

I deserved it! 🙂

After I scarfed down my roll, my brother called.  He and his wife stopped over for a little while.  My nephew, Nathan, was with them too.  I haven’t seen him in a long time and I couldn’t believe how cute he’s gotten!  Here, take a look…

Michael with Nathan

I was too busy taking pictures of Nathan that I didn’t catch anyone eating the rolls, but I assure you..rolls were eaten (Piyush had 3 in one sitting!).  And they were enjoyed by all!


7 thoughts on “Potato Rolls: Bring on the Buns!!!

  1. Kim - Liv Life

    My mom uses potato water to make gravy at Thanksgiving and is always reminding us to “save the potato water!!”
    I think I could love these rolls! They look absolutely wonderful, however those baby pics steal the show!

  2. loftheim

    I will definitely try this recipe! Its genius! I dread making rolls, I only make bread because I just can’t get the rolls right, but with this awesome “walktrough” I’m sure I’ll be able to make some nice rolls! Thank you for the recipe!!


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