How was your weekend? I imagine we all celebrated different things in different ways: maybe this year our celebrations overlapped a little bit more than usual as we reflected on our health and how our individual communities have come together – in big and small ways – during these past few weeks. Either way, I hope it was a weekend filled with good.
We spread our Easter out over the weekend, with “Easter lunch” happening both Saturday and Sunday, because why confine it to one day when no one is coming over, right? Mr. Table usually plays golf over the holiday weekend, which didn’t happen this year, but we made up for that with a homemade 6-hole mini golf course around the main floor. We got Animal Crossing for our Nintendo Switch, which is a huge mistake, because I’m now eyeballs-deep in a home loan on a mystery island filled with cherry trees, wasps, and not much else. That said, I’d be collecting bugs and fish right this very moment, but my kid went back to Upstairs School in the study and I’m trying to set a good example. With the video game, if nothing else.
Other stray thoughts:
Highly recommend streaming Amazon’s Tales from the Loop, especially if you’re into pensive, melancholic television that will both warm and break your heart at the same time. Did you love the pace of Sundance’s Rectify? Do you dig gloomy, seventies aesthetics? This is the show for you. Described as “dystopia with hot chocolate” and “a sci-fi feelings machine,” every episode feels like one very deep, drawn out, satisfying sigh: cathartic, and I love it to bits.
I live a life of nearly non-stop music here at the house – a privilege given to those of us that work from home, to be sure. I’ve had to tone it down in recent weeks in terms of what I listen to, because although I’m definitely not aboard the CensorShip, I do recognize that some things are better left to adult ears. I’ve been rediscovering my love of artists like Peter Gabriel and Billy Joel, among others: ones I took for granted / dismissed / underestimated when I was younger, deep-diving into their archives and listening to whole albums I’ve never heard before. It’s been a pleasure: if you have unhindered access to Spotify or another streaming service, do yourself a favor and take a listen to artists you remember liking. Dance in your living room. Play it louder than you should. Do not even begin to care about what other people think.
Like everyone else, I’ve also been ramping up my bread production here: it makes me feel good. I’ve fielded a lot of texts from friends about carbs by now: seems as though all of us agree that we’re consuming way too many. Which begs the question: how many carbs is “too many” at a time like this? Who’s going to be the judge of that, exactly? Here’s what I think: I think we’re all in a situation none of us have ever been in, that none of us maybe even thought possible. We are helping kids get through daily schoolwork, relocating offices to our sofas, not seeing anyone for maybe months at a time, dealing with a constant, looming, unquantifiable fear that has no definite timeline. So! Keep moving your body around in your space. Stick your face in the sun. Eat the carbs without fretting about the carbs right now: we’ll all have time to get back to our hangups and insecurities once this is over, don’t you worry. *wink*
May I suggest my favorite carb? It’s these buns, by a mile. From a past issue of Milk Street Magazine, they started life in this house as a “oh, those look fun to make!” baking project and swiftly became an essential item. They’re simply fantastic; you simmer a sweet potato with honey butter until everything is soft, mix it in with some flour, salt, and yeast, the dough that comes out supple like a sweet dough, and so easy to work with.
I’d even recommend this to the non-bakers, or the sporadic ones: you can’t mess this up: trust me, I’ve tried. I forgot about one batch for hours, and it just sat on my counter, very fat, waiting to be baked: everyone said it was my best batch yet. The sweet potato combined with a nice dose of salt hits a perfect sweet/savory balance: by now, we’ve eaten them for every meal. I’m always surprised by how much the honey and the potato come through in this: you use a relatively small quantity, but you get big flavor at the end.
So make your carbs. Make these carbs. There’s a vegetable in there, and honey is great for combating seasonal allergies, if you need some excuses. They’re perfect and you’ll want them all the time.
Burning question: will this loaf? I think it will – I also think it’ll make lovely non-skilleted buns. I’m testing the loaf theory this week, and buns in the coming weeks, so I’ll let you know.
Portugese Sweet Potato Rolls
Adapted very slightly from the September-October 2019 issue of Milk Street Magazine. Lots of “highly recommend” stuff in this post, and Milk Street certainly fits into that category.
Makes | 8 |generous buns, or double it easily for 16
- 12 to 14 oz organic sweet potatoes, peeled, in 1 inch chunks (that’s 1 medium potato, or 2 small)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, in pieces
- 1 Tbsp good quality honey
- scant 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2/3 cup water
- 411 grams bread flour (it’s about 3 cups, but I’ve taken to weighing my flour to match recipes, because it’s the one time it really matters)
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
Notes | The recipe calls for instant yeast, but I’ve made it with active dry nearly every time and never detected a difference or issue. In this time of scarce yeast, I say you use what you have. Do double this recipe if you wish: we run through these so fast that a double batch has become essential.
| Preparation | Add potato chunks, butter, honey, salt, and water to a large saucepan and heat over medium high. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer; cover and cook until potatoes are really tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the contents of the saucepan into the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for 30 minutes until warm.
Coat a large bowl with olive oil. Using the paddle attachment, beat the cooled potato mixture on low until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add flour and yeast and mix until a dough begins to form, about 1 minute. Exchange the paddle attachment for the dough hook and stir on low for 4 to 5 minutes, then increase speed and knead for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until very soft and smooth. Remove from bowl, form into a ball, and transfer to the oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until dough is doubled in size, 1 hour or so.
Once your dough has ballooned, preheat oven to 350˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out and cut into 8 equal pieces (like cutting a pie; triangles work here.) Tuck ends under and cup your hand around the dough ball, firmly rolling against your countertop until a nice tight ball forms; place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces. Use your palm to flatten the dough to about 1/2 inch thick on the sheet pan; cover with plastic wrap again and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes.
Heat a large skillet over medium until thoroughly heated; a drop of water should sizzle on contact. Place 3 to 4 rounds in the skillet, seam side up in the pan, and cook until deeply golden, about 2 minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook the opposite side until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer back to the sheet pan, seam side down, and repeat with remaining rounds, evenly spacing them apart on the pan.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until cooked through; centers should be 200˚F, but I never use a thermometer here. Remove and transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes or so before serving.