I’ve been thinking about a certain issue of late…why is it that grandmother’s have the best recipes? After pondering for a good, long, while, I’ve come to a conclusion. They have their whole lives to find them! I’ve got a good recipe here, a crappy one there, but see, I’m only 31. Just wait til I’m 80! Hooo, boy.
Of course, upon further pondering, a different thought occurs to me. This is not a universal rule. One of my grandmothers was capable of whipping up a dinner party for 10 officers with no planning, at the drop of a hat, while my other grandmother’s specialty was Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese with hot-dog rounds stirred in. Hmmmm. Oh well, she had other specialties, I guess. Like horseback riding. And cooking broccoli in the pressure cooker ’til it was brown. Oh, and Frosted Flakes.
Anyway. These lovely feather buns have been at every family holiday for a great many years, and I’ve taken it upon myself to continue the tradition since my grama’s hands have a hard time mixing and shaping. They are truly lovely. I generally eat at least 3 the moment they come out of the oven. With jam. Or butter. Or nothing. I especiallly love them as mini ham or turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving.
Grama B’s Feather Buns
yields approx 3 dozen
Warning: silly me– I attempted to make a 1-1/2 batch in my kitchen-aide mixer. Ha! Overflow! I’d stick to one batch at a time if I were you!
- 1 cup hot mashed Russet or Idaho potato- reserve the cooking water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter or shortening (I use Spectrum Organic)
- 2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cakes fresh yeast or 2 pkgs instant dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm, not hot, potato cooking water
- 8 to 8-1/2 cups all purpose flour
In a large bowl, mash the potato together with the sugar and shortening. Stir in the milk, salt and eggs. You’ll be left with a fairly sloppy batter. Separately, dissolve the yeast in the reserved warm- not hot- potato water. Stir into the potato mixture. With a whisk, stir in 2 cups flour. Cover with plastic and allow to rise for one hour.
Transfer to batter to the bowl of an electric mixer and add about 6-1/2 more cups of flour. (Unless it’s a particularly dry day, I always use the extra 1/2 cup of flour.) Knead for about 8-10 minutes to make a soft dough, stopping to scrape down the dough as needed. At this point, the dough may still feel a little sticky, but the moisture will even out during the next rise. Cover with plastic and allow to rise until double in bulk, about one hour.
Place your *oven rack in the center-most position and turn on the oven to 375 degrees.
Lightly sprinkle your work counter with flour. Using a bench-scraper and scale portion out the dough into 1-3/4 to 2 ounce balls. (Alternately, eyeball it!! Each finished ball should measure approx. 2-inches in diameter). To roll the balls, cup your hand over the piece of dough as it sits on the counter. Begin moving your hand in a clock-wise motion (think: wax on, wax off”), until the piece of dough becomes a ball. You’ll notice that the underside of the dough has formed a little belly-button. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet- 12 per sheet- and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Bake for 12- 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and try your darnedest to not eat them all at once.
*I find that these cook more evenly when baked one tray at a time. If you are short on time and must bake 2 trays at the same time, place your oven racks in the upper third and bottom third of the oven. Be sure to swap the trays, top to bottom and bottom to top, midway through the baking time.