My friend Rich and his wife Jen are in possession, I believe, of superhuman powers. How else to explain their ability to get as much done as they do? The two maintain a thriving homestead in west Asheville, complete with a beautiful chicken coop, a recently planted small orchard, and a beautiful, large fenced-in kitchen garden. A staff writer at the Mountain Xpress and canning enthusiast, Jen keeps many balls in the air at one time. Meanwhile, Rich owns his own website development business, is an exquisite music photographer on the side, and goes out to hear live music about 5 nights a week. He’s also an exceptionally good bread baker. You see what I mean here? These folks are unstoppable!
A few weeks back, we had the two over for a night of bonfire-gazing, hard cider-swilling, and hamburger & homemade french fry-noshing. Rich brought his sweet potato buns to house the burgers and they were quite possibly the best burger bun I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Tender, sweet, with just the right amount of toothsomeness, these buns were the perfect complement to the burger’s robust, hearty flavor. Several of you asked if Rich would be willing to share the recipe. Lucky for you all, he’s a generous fellow and provided the photos and recipe shown here today.
Thanks, Rich! Happy bun baking, ya’ll!
Sweet Potato Buns
I always felt bad lovingly cooking my favorite burger and then having to slap it on a store-bought kinda stale bun. One day I decided to make my own. I tried a bunch of white or whole wheat buns and they were good, but still not worthy. And then, probably while drinking some strong local IPA, I decided to do a potato bun and not just any potato bun, but a sweet potato bun! Well, I have never looked back. The smooth texture and the sweet flavor is a perfect pairing for a burger. My favorite is bison, but I love them with a homemade black bean patty. This week we tried turkey burgers, which I usually find to be dry horrible health food, but the wonderful taste combination has stayed with me for days.
Please note these buns, like all homemade bread, are best consumed within a few days so I recommend planning on having burgers of varying kinds all week. Sounds terrible, right? Yield: 12 rolls
-1 medium sweet potato
-1/3 cup applesauce
-2 Tablespoons honey
-1 Tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup milk
-1 1/2 teaspoon baking yeast
-1/4 cup reserved sweet potato water
-3-4 cups all-purpose flour
1) To start, peel and roughly chop the sweet potato. Cover the sweet potato pieces with water in a pot and boil until soft. You should be able to easily stick a fork through the pieces. Then transfer them to your stand mixer and beat them with the paddle attachment until all the pieces as mashed. You are now done with the pot, but make sure you save a 1/4 cup of that water for the next step.
2) In a new bowl warm 1/2 cup of milk and add the 1/4 cup of sweet potato water, which is hopefully still warm. Add the 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and set aside for about 5 minutes for them to get frothy.
3) Head back to your stand mixer and add the apple sauce, honey, sugar, salt, and egg to the mashed sweet potato. Still using the paddle attachment, mix until combined. If you wanted a richer dinner roll taste, you could substitute 1/3 cup of oil or butter, but we are usually putting something rich and tasty on the roll so I don’t think it needs it.
4) Once the yeast mixture is frothy, stir that into the sweet potato mixture.
5) Now switch to your dough hook on your mixer, turn it on the 2nd lowest speed, and add the flour 1/2 cup at a time waiting until it has been incorporated into the mixture before adding the next 1/2 cup. You are looking for a silky consistency where the dough doesn’t stick to bowl and easily pulls off the hook. This will usually be 3 – 4 cups, but keep adding flour until you get the right texture. Once you get there, continue to on that same speed for 2 – 3 minutes. With all my dough I like hand knead for another minute at the end just to make sure the dough feels right.
6) Lightly oil a large bowl and add your dough turning once to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and set some place warm to double in size for about 90 minutes. This time of year I just put it on a stool near our wood stove.
7) Once it has doubled in size, beat down the dough down on a floured surface and divide into 12 pieces. Form roll-shaped balls by pulling the dough out and under itself. We don’t care how the bottom looks, but the top and sides should be smooth. Space the 12 balls evenly on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. At this point you can sift flour on top if you want a rustic look or hold off if you like them plain or want to add seeds later. Cover with a damp kitchen towel again and let rise for around 45 minutes. They won’t double in size, but they should get a little bigger.
8) Preheat the oven to 400ºF. At this point if you want to add sesame or poppy seeds, just brush an egg white and water wash on top of the buns and sprinkle the seeds over them.
9) Bake in the oven for 12 – 15 minutes until the tops start to turn golden brown. Cool slightly on a wire rack, slice, and add your favorite burger to the middle.
Source: Adapted from Annie’s Eats (http://www.annies-eats.com/2009/06/08/potato-rolls/)