19 May 2021

Delicious Depression-Era Potato Rolls

 If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I love to bake. The problem is...I've been so busy baking and sharing, I keep forgetting to take photos to share all the yumminess with you all! It may only matter to me and a few others, but I  simply will not post a recipe if I can not show you the steps.  Because I firmly believe,  more often than not, the "How" of a recipe is just as important, if not more, than the "What" to baking.   I think I have baked more in the last year than ever before. I’m so grateful that I have this particular gift, it has made me happy and feel useful in a time where that isn't always easy to do.  That brings me to the recipe I am sharing with you today. It's a wonderful old, and I do mean old, 1930, to be exact, depression-era recipe for Potato Rolls or Buns whichever your preference.
(these were formed) They are extremely versatile. 
(I made them Brioche bun style, here)
(They make excellent buns, too! Perfect for hamburgers or sliders!) 
 Any and all resources go a long way these days, especially when in the midst of a pandemic and it's an, especially, useful time to know how to stretch the dollar. I have a wonderful recipe I use from my basic everyday dough:  rolls, bread, cinnamon rolls, etc...  I’ll share that with you, here, soon, and provide a link.  

Given the amount of baking and sharing I’ve been doing this past year, I’ve looked to the many tried and true recipes from our past.  By that, I mean our collective past.  Mind you, I tweak them a bit to my taste and availability. (wink wink) 

Just the same, there is a lot to be said for looking to the past for frugal inspirations. It is often said that everything comes back around if you wait long enough... Thankfully, that is certainly true of recipes! Yay! Which brings us to this wonderful recipe, pre-WWI, in fact. These are considered, and fittingly, called "Depression-Era" Potato Rolls or Buns. The image below is the cookbook this comes from and one of, if not the first, published of these yummy rolls.
(source) Glen and Friends has been an awesome source of inspiration)

Thank you, Mrs. Joyce got sharing your recipe with us all those years ago.
The original recipe called for 5 cups of water, plus additional liquids, which was pretty normal with recipes back then, they were feeding a small army, so, I am sure it was very useful, but today, it's just too much. So you will notice I have cut the size of this recipe considerably, as well as some other noticeable changes based on personal taste and ease of preparation, so please refer to my recipe below. 

The star of this show... Potatoes! Be it ever so humble... The Potatoes are the rock star ingredient to this wonderful tender, soft, and delicious recipe. Be it leftover or just made for this recipe, yummy mashed potatoes steal the show in this dough.  Be sure to mash your potato quite well, you don't want a chunk of potato in your dough, although it will not ruin it. 
I have made this dough in my KitchenAid with the dough attachment, finishing it off on a cutting board with flour.
Step 1:
I find it easiest to combine my butter (no, the original recipe to not call for butter) with my mashed potatoes while they're still warm. Then you will have a great temperature going for your yeast to enjoy. You could easily use lard here if desired, but I am much fonder of butter.
Step 2: add your remaining liquids and sugar to your potato and butter mixture.
I've included a quick little video here so you can see for yourself how "liquidy" your mixture is and should be at this point.
If you are still having difficulty getting your hands on yeast, in your neck of the woods, I found these wonderful 1 pound vacuum sealed blocks on Amazon, they have been a lifesaver and were around $6-7! Depending on your recipe you can get active or instant, which is so helpful
When you incorporate the flour you are going to think you have mucked it all up. You didn't. This is what it looks like before you knead your dough. Very different from other doughs I've worked with.
This is the same dough 6-7 minutes after kneading. Whether you knead with a dough hook or by hand or like me.. you do a bit of both, the results are the same. The result: a beautiful, albeit wet, dough.
I’ve just folded up and over a few times to bring my dough into a smooth, manageable start. 
Same dough 45 minutes later!! Isn't bread-making magical?! 
Turn out onto a floured  cutting  board or counter, press into a large square, then fold it inward to a three-fold. Like this. (below)I find this very helpful with a wet dough like this, it makes it much easier to work with, really! 
This was the original method, per the first recipe, I could find. Which to me, as a baker, is odd. To roll or press out your dough and cut it into circles, like one would for biscuits, is odd for bread dough, but I wanted to see if they knew something I didn't. I used a kitchen water glass to cut these out.
They were all cut with the exact same 2-1/2" glass, but oddly they all turned out a bit different. The wonders of yeast! It is a soft dough, to be sure, but this much difference surprised me.  45 minutes later and they are ready for the oven!
They bake up beautifully. If you are wanting just a delicious roll to go with any meal, you could stop right here. They are perfectly delicious.  
If you prefer softer rolls, like me, simply brush them right out of the oven with some melted butter, that keeps them nice and soft.  If you prefer a little crunchy outside, simply omit this step.  
So, here’s my version of this wonderful recipe:

1 cup of mashed potatoes

1/2 cup or 1 stick of butter

1 cup of lukewarm milk

2 eggs, room temperature (if you have a hard time with this, simply put your eggs in a bowl of warm to hot water for a couple minutes, and voila! room temp)

2-1/2 tsp of yeast, I used active, you could easily use active instant

Add 2 cups to start and then gradually add 1-1/2 cups more of flour

You may need another 1/2-1 cup of flour, depending on your weights,  size of eggs, etc.  

Don't worry, it will be fine.

This will be a wet dough, That's okay!

Cut or form your rolls, let them rise another hour or so in a nice draft-free space.  Brush with an egg wash ( 1 egg, 1Tblsp water) 

This is why you brush with the egg wash. I'll write more about that later. 

Now, You are ready to bake!  As Mrs. Joyce said, “bake in a moderate oven “.  (350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 180 degrees Celcius) 

We've learned from Depression-era. Do you ever wonder if decades from people will look back and refer to this as the pandemic era? Just a thought.  
Thank you for spending some time with me, here.  Let me know how you like, or don’t like, I guess, these wonderful gems from the past. 


  1. Oh my gosh! These look amazing Theresa! It was such fun to wake up and find this post in my inbox this morning. Automatically took me back to my Grandmother's kitchen. Thanks so much and have a great day.

    1. Oh, Denise, you just made my morning. Thank you so much for your sweet comment. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  2. Would you please make me some?? They look so good!!

    1. LOL, Jenna, Come on by!! I always have some going! Happy to share! Seriously, super easy. I hope you'll give the recipe a try. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  3. yummmmmmmmmmm! These look delicious. How wonderful they have a first edition of the cookbook. Happy TFT Day, wonderful features this week too. xo

  4. Wow - flashback to my favorite school cafeteria rolls ever!! The joy of my grade school life was getting to help in the kitchen and use an actual paint brush to spread butter over the huge pans of rolls! I used to trade everything on my tray to get a whole plate of them when lunch came! I'll be making these tonight!! Thanks a million for the instructions AND the memory!

    1. Oh, Barbara, that makes me smile so much for sharing that fun memory! I love that!

  5. YUM, looks good!! Thanks so much for linking up with me at the Unlimited Link Party 26. Pinned!

  6. Oh, these looks so wonderful, Theresa! I so wish I still havd my KitchenAid mixer. I got it as a wedding present years ago and never used it much, so I ended up selling it. I would use it a lot now! I will still try these rolls, though. They look amazing!

    1. Oh my goodness, Pam! The one and only time I stood in a crazy Black Friday line was to buy my KitchenAid! I use it almost daily! That said, these rolls could be just as easily done by hand. Thank you for popping by with your kind comment. ;)

  7. Those look so good. Thanks for sharing how to make them.

  8. CONGRATS! Your post is FEATURED at my Unlimited Link Party 27!

  9. I'll be featuring you this week - thanks for sharing with us at the To Grandma's house we go link party. Happy June!

    1. Tarahlynn, you’re so sweet! Thank you so much.


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