Cold weather, orange and yellow leaves, windstorms, torrential rains, and a stubborn head cold have conspired to make me really feel the onset of autumn. I’ve roasted a chicken, made several pots of soup, and braised a brisket with Frank’s Red Hot chile sauce and dried onion soup mix (not to mention my first kugel – more on that later). I also made dinner rolls, which I haven’t done in a million years.
These aren’t just any dinner rolls, either. They’re sweet potato dinner rolls, which are sweet and earthy and soft and perfect for scenting the house on a cold fall evening.
Like so many things that I make, this is from a book by Alford and Duguid, although unlike most of their recipes I’ve found this one needed a little tweaking. Many of their yeasted breads tend to have far too little yeast and far too much salt for my taste, and my experience has been that even after a four or five hour rise, you have a barely-risen dough that tastes entirely of salt. Therefore, I referred to some classic American dinner roll recipes and adjusted amounts accordingly.
I particularly love these rolls, not just for their rich flavor, but for their beautiful pale orange color. They beg to be served with other autumnal dishes such as turkey, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and cheese.
The finished rolls are amazing eaten hot out of the oven, with lots of butter, but they’re also wonderful torn up and dunked into soup, or toasted and made into little sandwiches or sliders. I can particularly recommend a filling of leftover spicy brisket with bitter salad greens.
Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
adapted from Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
1 sweet potato, about 1 pound (get a Garnet Yam, if you can, for a rich orange color)
2 cups water
2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup brown sugar
between 3 and 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp salt
Peel the sweet potato and cut it into chunks. Place in a saucepan with the water, bring to a boil and simmer 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid, and mash the sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Let cool.
When the reserved cooking water has cooled to lukewarm, add the yeast to it and stir. Add this mixture to the mashed sweet potato and stir some more. Mix in the brown sugar, add a cup of flour, then stir in the eggs, melted butter and salt. Add more flour, a half cup at a time, until the dough is too thick to stir. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead for ten minutes or so, adding more flour as necessary, until it’s smooth and resilient. Turn it into a clean oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise for about two hours or until doubled.
Using a knife or dough scraper, divide the dough into 16 pieces (cut in half, then in half again, etc). Butter a large baking sheet and set the rolls on it, spacing them slightly apart. Cover and let rise another 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°.
When the rolls are nicely risen, pop them in the oven (you can give them a butter or egg wash first, but I usually don’t bother) and bake for about half an hour, until they’re golden on top and make a satisfying thunk when you tap them on the bottom.
Eat some immediately, with butter. Let leftovers cool completely before sealing in a plastic bag or container.