A little sweet potato kneaded into yeasted dough makes rolls extra soft and sweet. Down South, we like our bread so tender that it’s sometimes on the edge of underbaked. I affectionately call thoses quishy rolls. These orange-tinted rounds can—and should—be baked all the way through. They’ll end up as supple as any squishy ones.
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 large egg, beaten, at room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, at room temperature; plus 6 tablespoons (3 ounces), melted; plus more for your hands, softened
Vegetable oil, for the bowl
In a small saucepan, combine the milk, sweet potato, and sugar and heat over medium heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, until lukewarm (90 to 110ºF). Remove from the heat and whisk in the yeast and egg. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Beat the flour and salt in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed until blended. Add the milk mixture in a steady stream. Mix until just moistened, about 1 minute. With the machine still on low, add the 8 tablespoons room-temperature butter, one piece at a time, beating until each piece is incorporated before adding the next and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally. It’s okay if the dough looks broken at this point. Beat on medium speed until the dough is well combined and looks scrappy, about 2 minutes.
Swap the paddle for the dough hook attachment and knead the dough on medium-low speed until nice and smooth, about 5 minutes, occasionally scraping the dough off the hook and from the sides and bottom of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled metal bowl. Turn the dough to coat in the oil, then cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1hour.
Uncover the dough and gently press down with your hands. The dough should be sticky without actually sticking to your fingers. Cover loosely with plastic wrap again and let rest for 5 minutes. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
Coat your hands with softened butter, as if you’re washing your hands in the butter. Pinch off a golf ball–size piece of dough, then squeeze it through your thumb and index finger of one hand into a tight ball. The motion is similar to squirting water at someone in the swimming pool. You need a bigger opening between your fingers for dough than for water, but it’s the same squirting-squeezing motion. Place the ball on the prepared pan, with the pinched side against the pan. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls of dough 1 1/2 inches apart. Cover the pans of dough lightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat theoven to 400ºF.
Uncover the rolls and brush the tops with the melted butter. Bake until light golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
You can let the rolls cool completely, then freeze them for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw and then bake them in a 350°F oven until toasted and warm.
Excerpted from Carla Hall's Soul Food by Carla Hall. Copyright Harper Wave, 2018.
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