Bake

Mama's Potato Clover Rolls

September 16, 2021
3.7 Stars
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

My mother makes these every year for Thanksgiving, and it's what I look forward to maybe even more than the turkey itself. The tradition began with Nana (my great-grandma). My mom swears she's never been able to get her rolls like Nana's (having never had Nana's, but I can say these are sublime. Her recipe is adapted from an old cookbook from my Grandma Jeanne's town of Overbrook, Kansas (The Overbrook Centennial Cookbook). I use butter for flavor, but she says shortening makes them lighter (it's true). You can make these as clovers, like she does, or as split-top or plain and simple round rolls. They bake up golden brown and beautifully fluffy. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Watch This Recipe
Mama's Potato Clover Rolls
  • Prep time 12 hours 30 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Makes about 18 rolls
Ingredients
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (720 g)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (99 g)
  • 2 tablespoons instant yeast (19 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (6 g)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (or shortening - see author’s note above), at room temperature (113 g)
  • 1 cup freshly mashed potatoes (from about 1 medium Russet potato) (about 250 g)
  • 1 cup warm water (about 95-100°F/35-38°C) (226 g)
  • 2 large eggs (113 g)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (113 g)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Make the dough the day before you want to bake the rolls. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed to combine, 20-30 seconds.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir the butter (or shortening) into the warm mashed potatoes and stir to combine. Add this mixture, along with the water and eggs and mix on low speed for 4 minutes, until a dough forms.
  3. Raise speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes more. The dough will be fairly smooth in texture, but may be a bit sticky. Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl that will allow room for the dough to expand. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour, then transfer to the refrigerator to rise overnight (my mom uses a tall dough tub, and punches the dough down once or twice as it rises - I usually don’t).
  4. The day you want to bake the rolls, bring the dough to room temperature for about 30-45 minutes. Divide the dough into even pieces (18 pieces if you want to make plain round rolls, 36 pieces if you want to make split-top rolls, or 54 pieces if you want to make clover rolls). I weigh the dough, scaling to portion each piece evenly - but it’s completely ok to eyeball it, too!
  5. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a tight ball. The best way to do this is to use the heel of your hand, making a circular motion upwards toward your thumb, then back down toward the base of your hand to round the dough. The more you round it, the tighter the shape will become.
  6. s you work, transfer the rounded dough to a greased muffin pans (putting 1 round, 2 rounds, or 3 rounds in each cavity depending on how you divided the dough). Cover the rolls loosely with a clean, lightly damp kitchen towel and let rise until visibly puffy, about 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C with the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Remove the towel from the rolls and brush the surface of each roll with melted butter. Bake the rolls until deeply golden brown, 20-25 minutes (a thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 200°F/93°C).
  8. When the rolls come out of the oven, brush them with the remaining melted butter. Serve warm, immediately (ideally).

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Meg Nicholson
    Meg Nicholson
  • Lauren
    Lauren
  • AntoniaJames
    AntoniaJames
  • Pamela_in_Tokyo
    Pamela_in_Tokyo
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, came out on November 10th, 2020, and my pie merch collaboration with Food52 is out now too: https://food52.com/shop/merchants/manifest-food52/food52-x-erin-mcdowell

16 Reviews

Vida April 8, 2020
This recipe could be ok with some important modifications. 1 teaspoon of salt to 6 cups of flour is terribly inadequate. I used 2.5 teaspoons, and they still turned out bland. I think the amount of yeast called for is unnecessary. If I make them again, I'd scale back to 1.5 tablespoons. The dough was a little out of control with its rising. I don't think they need 1/2 cup of sugar either, I think that's too much. I scaled it back to 2.5 tablespoons. Since the rolls are so bland from the lack of adequate salt (even after adding more than she called for), it's hard to tell if they could use more sugar or just need proper salt. Next time I'd add 6 tablespoons of sugar.

The recipe doesn't give explicit shaping instructions. She says to roll into 54 balls and place 3 each into a muffin tin for clover rolls. I didn't really think about how they would end up. I realized after they need to be nestled in tightly, each ball touching the bottom of the tin, to get that clover effect. I just simply placed 3 balls into each tin because the instructions didn't specify. As a result, they don't have the signature look. I should have thought that through, and the recipe should have been more clear.

All in all, this recipe was lacking as written. I may try to make them again and make them better with the above changes, or I may just use one of my already proven great potato roll recipe and shape them into clovers. In the meantime, we will eat these with salted butter and salt sprinkled on top.
 
Tracey W. May 19, 2019
These rolls are awesome!
 
Michelle December 11, 2017
Step 7 is still missing the photo. :(
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo August 20, 2019
Michelle, I found the photo you are looking for. Go to the very top of the page where the photo of the cooked and buttered roll is. It is a slide show.... there are 2 other photos behind it. If you click on the photos, the other will appear one by one. The one showing the rolling technique is there. :-)
 
Lisa P. November 25, 2017
I made these for Thanksgiving this year, everyone loved them. I loved making the dough the day before and only having the simple tasks of shaping them and giving them time to rise before baking them while the turkey rested. They are definitely my ‘go to’ roll for special occasions. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
 
Meg N. November 16, 2016
Thanks Erin! I have to travel the day of Thanksgiving, so I'd be making the dough at home and I'm wondering how long it can sit at room temp before it needs to be baked. Will it fall if it's left for a few hours? Thanks!
 
Atlanticgull December 7, 2015
These were incredible!!! They were the hit of the table. I don't use a dough hook and this was a beautiful dough to knead by hand. Thank you so much!
 
Macy P. November 17, 2015
Hi Erin! These look awesome. Question, can you send a picture of step 7? The link that you attached in reply to Lauren's message doesn't show a picture of this process. I just want to make sure I get it right. Thank you!
 
Author Comment
Erin J. November 23, 2015
I've uploaded it to this recipe - just scroll through the images above! Thanks!
 
Macy P. November 23, 2015
Thank you so much!
 
Alina November 16, 2015
I am getting ideas to make for my first Thanksgiving and these rolls look fantastic! My favorite are rolls and mash potatoes. This seems like a perfect mixture of it. I will be prepping these rolls. I hope I can do these rolls justice, they look delicious.
 
Lauren November 16, 2015
Step 7 says see photo- where is the photo? Thanks!
 
Author Comment
Erin J. November 16, 2015
Hi Lauren,

There's more photos accompanying the article - check it out here:

https://food52.com/blog/14787-old-traditions-new-traditions-the-potato-rolls-that-stuck-through-it-all
 
Lauren November 23, 2015
Thanks, Erin, but I think I am still missing it. I am sorry - any help is appreciated.
 
Author Comment
Erin J. November 23, 2015
Hi Lauren, I uploaded it here to this recipe, just scroll through the images above! Thanks!
 
AntoniaJames November 13, 2015
Ah, I know this recipe well. I'm wondering if someone in Overbrook brought it with them from central North Carolina, or perhaps was a member of the Moravian church. The ingredients and procedures, down to letting it rest overnight, are identical to a "sugar cake" recipe I got in Winston-Salem in the historic Moravian village in the 1960's.

To turn this roll dough into cake, simply heat 1/2 pound each dark brown and white sugar and melted butter to make a topping; spread the dough out on two jelly roll pans; after letting it rise, dock the dough like focaccia and pour the sweetened butter all over it. Add whatever spice you like to the topping. I also add a few pecans. Bake for 20 minutes at 350. ;o)

P.S. Not a bad idea, now that I think about it, turning a yeasted cake into dinner rolls.