Hey honeybun!


Honey-Herb Sourdough Potato Rolls

I love a soft, squishy dinner roll. I love their yeasty aroma, the butter enriched dough, and how when they smoosh together in the pan a little and you pull them apart, the in-between layer of tender bread doesn’t know which bun to stay with, and you must eat the bit in question to resolve the conflict. I rarely eat dinner rolls, but they always come out for the holiday table. Thanksgiving is the dinner roll holiday without equal, a come-one-come-all of simple, shared food, pure and simple. It’s a ridiculously fantastic ritual we should practice year-round.

So, dinner rolls. Potato rolls, actually. My heart still goes a-pitter-patter when I see those floury potato rolls at the grocery store. For a millisecond I re-live the whiny, pre-teen pleading my sister and I performed for mom when we really wanted something–which was a big deal “back then” in the era of bum-spanked, obedience-drilled, austerity-trained children who knew to spend their whining currency very carefully. Whining was risky, and it did not go far at all. But WE HAD TO HAVE THOSE BUNS.

Now these bun are a whole-nuther story. As a fully-fledged adult, I get whichever rolls or buns I want, and these elicit no whining, just swooning and sighs. They satisfy all the memory triggers–they’re soft and squishy any craveable all on their own, but they’re way better than version.01. They greatly benefit from the rich flavor and slight tang of sourdough, plus the sweetness of honey is dreamy. I based my recipe on Simply Recipes Potato Dinner Rolls, and keep her wonderful, light-handed addition of rosemary to the dough and honey-butter glaze to the tops. I have made these with other herbs and herb combos, like fresh thyme, rosemary-lavender, or either rosemary or thyme with lemon zest, with equally fantastic results.

Clockwise from top, honey, sourdough starter, rosemary, mashed potato and butter

If you don’t keep a sourdough starter at home, I recommend giving it a try. It’s fun, it won’t take over your life (but don’t blame me if you let it), and you can come up with a silly name for your new pet. That’s mine bubbling away above.

Honey-Herb Sourdough Potato Buns
makes 24 dinner rolls

3/4 cup warm water, about 80F
1 1/2 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
150g sourdough starter (50% flour/50% water ratio)
1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
3T milk
4 1/2 oz (1 stick + 1T) regular salted butter, melted and cooled
4 1/2 oz (about 1/3) c honey
3 large eggs
1T + 1t minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
750g all-purpose flour (about 6 cups)

For honey butter topping:

  • 1/3 c regular salted butter, room temperature
  • 3 T honey
  • Flaked sea salt

Place warm water in a large mixing bowl, add sugar and swirl to combine. Sprinkle dry yeast over sugar water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes frothy. Frothy means your yeast is good and ready to grow! If it doesn’t, try again. Still no luck? You may need to purchase fresh yeast.

To the frothy yeast, add sourdough and stir to combine. Then add potatoes, milk, honey, butter and eggs. Combine. Add flour, salt, and chopped herbs. Cover the bowl loosely with a cloth, and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, soft but not sticky, and stretches without breaking right away. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rest at room temperature for about 3 hours.

(I usually ship the dough off to the fridge overnight at this point. Spray the dough lightly with oil, cover with towel and chill until you’re ready to form and bake.)

Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide dough into even thirds, divide each third in half, then each half into 4 equal pieces, to make 24 portions. I scale my portions to keep them uniform; they should weigh about 2 1/2 ounces each.

Round each dough portion by cupping your hand over the dough and rotating while putting a little pressure with your thumb and pinky to ease the bottom edges under.  This creates a clean ball with a smooth surface and directs any seams to the bottomside. Working on a surface that allows the dough to drag a bit but not stick is best. So, not too much flour! More info on bun rounding here.


Place buns smooth side up on a parchment lined pan. All 24 buns fit perfectly on a half sheet pan, or 12 buns fit 2 9×13 pans (or bake in batches). Bake at 350 for a total of 20-25 minutes. While baking, prepare the glaze by melting the butter and honey gently together in a small saucepan. Let cool slightly before using. For nice golden tops, brush lightly with honey-butter glaze after 15 minutes and return to the oven for the last 10 minutes to finish the bake and brown the buns.

Let buns cool slightly, then brush the tops of the buns with glaze, then sprinkle each with crunchy, flaked sea salt.

Storing the rolls:
Breads with long sourdough fermentation periods like these have a longer shelf-life than regular breads and don’t require lots of wrapping or plastic. You also may find they get eaten up so fast you don’t have to worry about it! If I have to store them, I let them cool fully then wrap them up in parchment or in paper bags.