Lekker: Perfect Mashed Potatoes

I'm going to cut straight to the chase here: I HAVE DISCOVERED THE SECRET TO PERFECT MASHED POTATOES. 


It's baking powder. Wut.

The few people to whom I have divulged this secret thus far have greeted me with skepticism, confusion, and befuddlement. Yes. I know. It's totally weird. Nonetheless, somehow I found myself on this webpage the other day featuring an old recipe for "French Mashed Potatoes" from a Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook that does in fact call for one teaspoon of baking powder. I couldn't wait to give it a try, to see if this really WAS the Holy Grail of mashed potatoes, for my dinner last night of Bangers 'n Mash with Bacon Braised Collard Greens (recipe for that coming soon).

The verdict: yes, it really does make a difference. Yes, they really were fluffy clouds of comfort food. And ya know, I know this is legit, because I didn't do anything else differently this time except adding the teaspoon of baking powder! I'm curious to know how it works, because baking powder is a chemical leavener that contains both the acid and the base required to create a release of CO2 gases that then create that fluffiness, but you'd think that potatoes wouldn't have enough "liquid" in order to make proper use of that theory...hmm. In doing some research on the topic this morning, I stumbled across this hilarious thread of people fighting about mashed potatoes on the Internet. Because apparently that's a thing that people do. I can only assume that it ended with the brandishing of beaters at the computer screen.

Anyway, what follows is what I have defined as my go-to, do-it-in-my-sleep classic mashed potatoes recipe. I've included options at the end for ways to change it up, as well as my just-as-delicious dairy-free version, but if you've yet to master this beloved side dish give it a shot!

Alright well fine they don't look as good as they taste here but we've already established I suck at photography and besides food is for eating anyway. So just...eat it.

Perfect Mashed Potatoes
serves 4

What You Need
4-6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (The type of potato you use *IS* important! Don't just go picking up any bag, and don't assume that Russet potatoes are the gold standard. They are not. Gold potatoes are the gold standard. No but seriously, certain potatoes are better suited for certain purposes according to their "waxiness": hardy red skinned potatoes typically hold up well for potato salad but make a very starchy and heavy mashed potato; Russet potatoes are excellent for baking; and Yukon Gold [or other "gold"] potatoes are the creme de la creme for whipping into mashed potatoes.)
4 T salted butter
1/3 cup light cream
1 teaspoon baking powder (powder, not soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground black pepper

What You Do
1. Peel and dice your potatoes into chunks about 1/2 inches big. Doesn't have to be scientific, just try to get them all a similar size. Dump them into a medium sized pot and cover with cold water, salting the water well. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Try not to let them overcook to the point where they're falling apart in the water, as they become waterlogged and soggy that way.

2. Once the potatoes are done, drain them well of water and add the butter, cream, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Beat with a hand mixer for only about 2 minutes or until well beaten and fluffed. If you don't have a hand mixer, mash them up as best you can with a potato masher and then whip vigorously with a whisk. It's a good arm workout. Ta-dah! You're done!

 There are a zillion ways to jazz up your mashed potatoes if you're bored of the classics:
  • Boil the potatoes in chicken broth or stock instead of plain water.
  • Beat in some snipped fresh chives or spring onions to add colour.
  • Make indulgent cheesy mashed potatoes by adding half a cup (or more lol) of shaved Parmesan or cheddar cheese.
  • Crispy bacon pieces on top. Duh.
  • For tangy Southern potatoes, switch in buttermilk in place of the light cream.  
  • Stir in some oven roasted garlic for garlic mashed potatoes. Instructions for how to roast garlic can be found in my previous blog entry for Roasted Tomato Garam Masala Soup.
  • To make dairy free mashed potatoes, use Earth Balance "butter" in place of regular butter and swap out original coconut milk (NOT flavoured obviously) for the light cream.
Posted on January 29, 2014 .