Parker House Rolls: The Best Thing That's Ever Happened to Your Bread Basket

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Imagine if a buttery croissant and a feather-light challah had a delicious, roll-sized baby. That just about sums it up. And if these aren't on your holiday must-bake list, we suggest you reconsider.

What's with the name?

The rolls are named for the Parker House Hotel in Boston, also the birthplace of another classic, Boston cream pie. (In other words, those Parkers knew their stuff.)

As legend has it, the rolls got their distinctive shape by accident: after an argument with a guest, a ruffled hotel baker angrily slammed a batch of rolls into the oven. Some of the rounds of dough folded over and baked up into the puffy shape we know and love today.

Tips for success

  • This recipe is easiest if you knead with a stand mixer and a dough hook, but you can certainly do it by hand if you want. The results will be just as good.
  • Use fresh yeast! Check the expiration date before you get going.
  • It's best to mix and bake this dough on the same day. But you can freeze the dough if you need to, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to a week. Thaw at room temp before shaping and baking. Your rolls will rise a little less, but still be superb.
  • In the unlikely event you have rolls left over, they are to-die-for at breakfast with butter and jam. Just saying.

Parker House Rolls

Adapted from Yankee Magazine

Yield: about 2 dozen rolls

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus extra for work surfaces
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, divided
  • 2 cups very warm water (120 degrees F)
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

Step 1

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine two cups of the flour with the sugar and yeast.

Step 2

Melt 1/2 cup (1 stick) of the butter with the salt. Combine the melted butter mixture with the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl.

Step 3

With your mixer on low speed, gradually pour 2 cups very warm tap water into the dry ingredients. Add egg. Increase the mixer speed to medium, and beat for two minutes, or until fully combined.

Step 4

Reduce the speed to low and beat in 2 more cups of flour. This will create a thick batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and stir in the rest of the flour. You may find it's easier to incorporate the remaining flour using a wooden spoon.

You should end up with a very soft dough that comes out of the bowl in one mass if you try to lift it.

Step 5

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until the volume doubles, about 90 minutes to 2 hours.

Step 6

Punch down the dough and knead lightly to form a smooth, seamless ball. Return to the bowl for 15 more minutes. While the dough is resting, melt the remaining butter in a saucepan or microwave.

Step 7

On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to about ½" thick.

Step 7

Cut circles using a 2-inch or 3-inch round biscuit cutter. Take care not to twist the cutter as you work (this trick keeps the rolls from getting pinched on the edges, which means a perfect rise once they hit the oven).

Step 8

Gently lift each circle by the edge and dip in melted butter, coating both sides. Transfer to a buttered baking tray, folding the circle in half as you set it down so it looks like a taco shell. Arrange the rolls in rows, just barely touching each other. (This creates nice soft spots where the rolls press against each other during baking.)

Cover the pan with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 400F.

Step 9

Bake the rolls for 15-18 minutes, until golden. Brush the hot rolls with melted butter (yes, more butter!) and serve while still warm.

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