Sweet Potato Rolls 24.000

Mark Finkenstaedt for The Washington Post; Styled by Lisa Cherkasky; Tableware from Crate and Barrel

Nov 18, 2009

The sweet potato in these rich, soft rolls gives them a beautiful saffon color perfect for the Thanksgiving table.

Make Ahead: Up to 3 weeks in advance, bake the rolls for 10 to 12 minutes, until fully puffed but just starting to turn a pale golden brown. Let cool to room temperature in the pie plates, then wrap the rolls and plate in a double layer of plastic wrap. Either put the wrapped plate in a sturdy, jumbo-size, resealable, freezer-safe plastic food storage bag or wrap in another two layers of aluminum foil; then freeze. The day you're serving them, take the rolls out of the freezer at least 2 hours ahead of time and let them come to room temperature, then unwrap and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.

24 2-inch rolls

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 24 2-inch rolls

  • 8 ounces sweet potato
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons (two 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus enough to grease the pie plates for baking the rolls
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
  • Oil, for greasing the proofing bowl


Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork, and microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes or until soft. Let cool, then peel and put through a potato ricer or food mill, press through a strainer, or thoroughly mash so it is smooth. You should have 1/2 cup of flesh.

Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; proof for 5 minutes. (If the yeast bubbles and foams, it is active. If it does not, it is dead; buy fresh yeast and start over.) Add 2 eggs and beat on low speed, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and salt. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes (no need to scrape down the bowl), then add the sweet potato and beat for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the flour at a time, beating to form a slightly stiff dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl; add flour as needed.

(Alternatively, mix by hand: Proof the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl, then whisk 2 of the eggs in a large bowl just to combine, then add the yeast mixture, along with the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and the salt. Stir with a wooden spoon to blend well. Add the sweet potato; stir until thoroughly combined, then stir in 3 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl and is stiff enough to work.)

Lightly flour a work surface.

Transfer the dough to the prepared surface; knead for 2 to 3 minutes, adding flour a tablespoon or so at a time, and adding only enough to prevent the dough from sticking to the countertop. It should still be tacky to the touch but should not stick to your hands. When it is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball.

Use oil to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl, then place the dough in it, turning it to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. The dough will be ready when you can push 2 fingers into it and the indentations remain.

Use a little melted butter to lightly grease the inside of 2 glass pie plates or round cake pans (9 or 10 inches).

Punch down the dough and use a bench scraper to divide it into 3 equal pieces. Use the scraper again to divide each piece into 8 golf ball-size pieces (for a total of 24). Roll into balls, then arrange them in the prepared pie plates.

Cover with plastic wrap; let the rolls rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the remaining egg, then brush it on the rolls. Bake them for 15 to 20 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown on the top and bottom. Let cool slightly in the pie plates, then cover loosely with aluminum foil and serve warm, letting diners pull them directly out of the plates; or use a large spatula to transfer them (held together) to a cloth-lined basket or another serving dish.

VARIATION: Instead of the freshly cooked sweet potato, you can use 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree. Proceed as directed, but be prepared to add up to 1 cup of extra flour in the initial mixing to account for the extra moisture in the canned puree and to create a stiff enough dough.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Beard on Bread," by James Beard (Knopf, 1973).

Tested by Joe Yonan.

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