Mama's Potato Clover Rolls

November  5, 2015
3 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
Author Notes

My mother makes these every year and it's what I look forward to maybe even more than the turkey itself. The tradition began with Nana, though my mom swears she's never been able to get her rolls like Nana's (having never had Nana's, 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 rolls. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Watch This Recipe
Mama's Potato Clover Rolls
  • Makes about 18 rolls
  • 6 cups (1 pound 9.50 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons (14 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (3.50 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4.00 ounces) unsalted butter or shortening, room temperature (see author’s note above!)
  • 1 cup (about 1 large Russet potato) freshly mashed potatoes (meaning boil the potatoes, steam to dry, then mash)
  • 1 cup (8.00 ounces) warm water (95 to 100° F)
  • 2 (about 4.25 ounces) large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (4.00 ounces) unsalted butter, melted for brushing
In This Recipe
  1. Make the dough the day before you want to bake the rolls. To make the dough, combine the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 20 to 30 seconds, just to combine.
  2. Stir the butter or shortening into the warm mashed potatoes and stir to combine (and until the fat is melted).
  3. Add the water, the potato mixture, and the eggs and mix on low speed for 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and scrape the dough away from the hook. Raise the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes more. The dough may be a little sticky: That’s okay.
  4. Transfer the dough to a large, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Transfer the dough to the refrigerator and let rise overnight. (Mama says to use a BIG container and check the dough periodically, punching it down as needed to prevent overflow).
  5. The day you want to bake the rolls, bring the dough to room temperature (about 30 to 45 minutes).
  6. Divide the dough into even pieces (18 if you want to make plain rolls, 36 if you want to make split-top rolls, or 54 small pieces if you want to make clover rolls). I weigh the dough and then do the math to figure out how much each piece should weigh, but eyeballing is okay too!
  7. 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 to the base of your hand (see photograph).
  8. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease muffin pans with some of the melted butter.
  9. Place the balls of dough (1 for plain, 2 for split-top, 3 for clover rolls) in each cavity of the baking tin. Cover the rolls with a damp, clean towel and let rise for 1 hour. (Mama says to brush them with a little butter here to keep the tops from drying out, but the towel is usually enough if you want to wait.)
  10. Brush the risen rolls with melted butter. Bake until deeply golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes (a thermometer inserted into the center should read 200 to 215° F).
  11. When the rolls come out, brush them with melted butter (yes, again—thus is the genius of my mother). Serve warm, ideally.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Meg Nicholson
    Meg Nicholson
  • Lauren
  • AntoniaJames
  • 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, is out on November 10th, 2020.

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:
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.