Your boiling and mashing techniques regulate the volume of starch incorporated into mashed potatoes, which determines their consistency. Use all-purpose potatoes and full-bodied dairy products to enhance creaminess. It is important to manage the temperatures of all the ingredients and the moisture of the potatoes. Warm, dry potatoes absorb more dairy than potatoes that cooled after cooking or weren't drained thoroughly.
Select Creamy All-Purpose Potatoes
High-starch potatoes such as russets are dry and easily break apart, making them best for light, fluffy mashed potatoes. All-purpose potatoes have creamier textures and moderate levels of starch. They require more mashing to break down, yielding a denser, creamier mixture. Yukon gold, yellow Finn and Kennebec potatoes are all-purpose spuds that mash well.
Skip Slicing and Keep the Peel
Boil whole, unpeeled potatoes, which absorb less boiling water than peeled, sliced spuds. Place freshly scrubbed potatoes in a stockpot or Dutch oven, cover them with cool water and salt the water as you would for pasta. Bring the water to a boil, then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
Test for Doneness and Drain
Insert a paring knife into the potatoes to test for doneness after about 30 minutes. The potatoes are done when the knife meets no resistance. Drain the potatoes in a colander. Peel the skins if desired. Shake the colander to eliminate excess water. Do not allow the potatoes to cool.
Mash the Potatoes by Hand
It is best to mash potatoes with a hand tool, using an electric mixer briefly if needed, after you add all of the ingredients. Each stroke bursts the potatoes’ starch granules, incorporating more exposed starch into the mixture. It makes the mash creamy at first, but too much makes the potatoes paste-like. Break down the potatoes in a large bowl with a potato masher or ricer. Work the potatoes while they’re still hot to promote the absorption of dairy products.
Heat the Butter and Cream
Melt salted or unsalted butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat while you mash the potatoes. Melted butter coats starches in the potatoes, creating a silkier texture. Melt about 4 tablespoons -- or half a stick -- of butter for every pound of potatoes. Warm heavy cream or half-and-half in a second saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat 1/2 cup of cream or half-and-half for every pound of potatoes. Half-and-half may be the best balance of creaminess and richness if you’re concerned heavy cream is too rich.
Add Butter Then Cream
Pour the melted butter into the bowl of potatoes. Mix the potatoes and butter with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add half of the heated cream or half-and-half to the potatoes. Incorporate the remaining liquid incrementally until you reach the desired consistency. Stir the potatoes as little as possible. Season the mashed potatoes to taste with salt and pepper.
Additional Dairy Ingredients, If Desired
You can achieve sublime creaminess with butter and cream alone, but cream cheese, sour cream and Greek yogurt contribute creaminess to mashed potatoes as well as a subtle tangy taste. Add 1/4 cup cream cheese, sour cream or Greek yogurt per pound of potatoes if desired. Beat room-temperature cream cheese with an electric mixer before adding it to the potatoes so it is easier to incorporate.
Enhance Creaminess Electrically
The potatoes should be creamy after you blend in the dairy products. Beat the potatoes with an electric mixer on the high setting for up to 60 seconds if you desire a smoother consistency. Serve the potatoes immediately or keep them warm until you do serve them. Cooling causes the fat in the dairy products to coagulate, making the overall texture less smooth.
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