Parker House Rolls
Parker House rolls are named for the Boston hotel that invented them in the late 1800s. The hotel is famous, in part, for putting up some of America’s literary giants, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The rolls are famous for being chockablock with butter — and for their singular shape. Allegedly, in a fit of rage, the hotel’s pastry chef hurled the very first batch of Parker House rolls into a hot oven, and in the tumult, they folded over on themselves. (This is the kitchen that also invented the Boston cream pie, so who are we to question their methods?)
For this recipe, we make the dough with half a stick of butter, and then once the little rolls are cut, we brush them with more butter (generously!) and fold them over — so they’re literally full of butter. They come out of the oven with a crispy, golden brown crust and a light, tender texture. And the flavor: They deserve every bit of their rich, buttery reputation, and yet that never stops us from adding more. They’re a full-blown miracle with a pat of butter (more, more!) and a drizzle of honey.
Make these rolls for Thanksgiving dinner, and your family will be filled with gratitude. They taste best when they’re piping hot, and they only need to bake for 20 minutes, so make sure they’re the last thing in the oven — and timed to roll out just as you’re setting dinner on the table.
Servings: 30 rolls
2 packages active dry yeast
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
½ cup warm water (100º to 115º, approximately)
2 cups, plus 2 Tbsp whole milk, divided
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, plus more for greasing
6 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more if needed
2 tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large Gelson’s egg
Special equipment: 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter
In a small bowl, dissolve the active dry yeast and granulated sugar in the warm water and set it aside until it’s foamy, about 5 minutes.
In a small saucepan, gently warm 2 cups of the milk and the cubed butter until the butter melts.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the milk mixture.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour and the salt.
Add the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, to the yeast mixture, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a soft sponge. The dough will be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, set it in a warm place, and let the dough rise until it’s doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Stir the sponge down with a wooden spoon and add about 3 ½ more cups of flour, ½ cup at a time, to make a dough that can be kneaded with ease.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead it until it’s velvety smooth and very elastic.
Let the dough rest for a few minutes, and then form it into a ball. Put the dough in a large bowl greased with butter and turn it so that the surface of the dough is thoroughly covered with butter. Cover the bowl and put the dough in a warm, draft-free place to rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Punch the dough down with your fist, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and let it rest for several minutes, until you are able to roll it out. It should be a ½-inch thick.
Using a 2 ½-inch biscuit cutter or a water glass dipped in flour, cut the dough into rounds. The leftover bits of dough can be reworked into a ball, rolled out, and cut into more rounds.
Brush the center of each round with the melted butter. Fold over ⅓ of each round and press it down to seal.
Arrange these folded rolls on a buttered baking sheet about a ½ inch apart. Brush the rolls again with melted butter and allow them to rise until almost doubled in size, about 20 minutes. They will probably touch each other.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375º.
In a small bowl, combine the egg and 2 tablespoons of milk to make an egg wash, and brush the rolls with the mixture just before baking.
Bake until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the rolls. Test one by gently tapping the bottom. If it’s done, you will hear a very faint, hollow sound.
Remove the rolls to a cooling rack and serve piping hot out of the oven with plenty of butter and preserves or honey, if desired.
Recipe adapted from: James Beard Foundation