Significantly fresher and more flavorful than store-bought, these big, pillowy buns, from chef Noah von Blöm of Arc restaurant in Costa Mesa, California, are very much worth making. This recipe makes double what you need, but the buns freeze well.
1 large russet potato (3/4 lb.)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk (2%)
1 cube fresh yeast (.6 oz)* or 1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 large egg
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour, divided
1 3/4 cups bread flour, divided
1/2 cup fine-ground cornmeal
How to Make It
Peel potato, cut into 1-in. chunks, and put in cold salted water. Bring to a boil, covered; then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, return to pot, and let dry over low heat, stirring, until potato begins to look white and chalky, about 2 minutes. Using a ricer or potato masher, rice or mash potato.
Add warm potato to bowl of a stand mixer along with butter. Using dough hook, mix on low speed until incorporated. Add buttermilk, yeast (crumbled if fresh), egg, sugar, salt, and 1 cup whole-wheat flour. Mix for 3 minutes on low.
Still on low speed, add 1 more cup whole-wheat flour and incorporate before adding bread flour in two batches, letting the first incorporate before adding the next. Mix until dough comes together around hook in a soft, smooth, only slightly sticky ball; if it's sticky, mix in up to 1/2 cup more whole-wheat flour. Mix 6 minutes more.
Lightly flour a large bowl and turn dough into it. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, set in a warm place, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Turn dough out onto a cornmeal-dusted work surface and sprinkle with more cornmeal. Punch down and cut into 8 equal portions. With wet hands, roll each into a tight, smooth ball, using your thumb to tuck ends under; then sprinkle with a little more cornmeal. Set each ball as finished on a lightly oiled baking sheet, using 2 baking sheets total and spacing the balls as far apart as possible. Cover each with a damp kitchen towel, set in a warm place, and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°.
Bake buns, switching positions of pans halfway through for even baking, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
*Fresh cake yeast makes the dough rise a little quicker than active dry yeast; find it with the eggs at well-stocked grocery stores.