This year I made no pies, no cornbread, no beans, no pumpkins. I spent the entire holiday making batch after batch of buns for a project to be announced shortly.
The impulse to develop this recipe began with a podcast I heard on which Adam Schiff noted that while vegan burgers have become much more widely available, the vegan bun remains an elusive desideratum.
I can think about a few possible reasons for this. Two conflicting qualities make a sandwich bun optimal. The ideal sandwich delivery system is sufficiently soft and fluffy that it does not interfere with or distract from the sandwich contents, but strong enough to contain any juices without disintegrating. A dough with eggs and milk or milk powder can provide a fine dense crumb to fill these requirements, but adding mashed potatoes to the dough can do the same thing. This recipe is inspired by the potato bread in The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison. I added some sweet potato just for some golden eggy color, but serendipitously, the sweet potato dough turned out softer and fluffier than any other batch. This is also a recipe which works best with all-purpose flour.
1 medium-large russet potato, about 6-7 ounces
2 ounces sweet potato
2 pounds all-purpose flour (about 7-8 cups)
1 cup water (use water from cooking the potatoes, plus enough added to make one cup)
1 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 1/2 packets yeast (1 tablespoon, 3/8 ounce)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons date syrup, malt, or sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Coarse grain sea salt (optional)
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1-inch dice. Put them in a small saucepan and add water to cover and 3/4 teaspoons salt. Bring to the boil and simmer until quite tender. Strain and reserve the water.
Measure reserved potato water and if necessary, add enough water to make one cup. If the water has become cool, reheat it. Combine the water and soy milk in a mixing bowl. The mixture should be warm. Sprinkle yeast over the surface and add half the flour. Mix with the paddle. Leave the spongy dough in the mixing bowl to rise for 45 minutes.
Mix the dough once more with the paddle. Remove the paddle and add the potatoes, syrup, oil, salt, and remaining flour. Knead with the dough hook for four or five minutes. This dough can also be kneaded by hand. The dough will be somewhat softer and stickier than typical bread dough, but worry not.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. Punch it down, separate challah, and divide the remaining dough into twenty pieces for large buns or 40 for slider buns. Roll the dough bits into round balls and arrange them on parchment-lined sheet pans. Press each roll to flatten into bun shapes. Cover and and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350F (Mark 4)
Bring 1/2 cup water to the boil. In a small cup or bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon cornstarch in 1 teaspoon cold water. Add the cornstarch slurry to the boiling water and cook until clear. Brush the tops of the risen buns with cornstarch, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and coarse salt. Bake the buns for 25 minutes, rotating the pans after 15 minutes.