Parker House rolls are slightly sweet with a soft, pillowy interior.EXPAND
Parker House rolls are slightly sweet with a soft, pillowy interior.
Photo by T. Tseng

Dish of the Week: Parker House Rolls

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we’re sharing a recipe that can easily make its way onto any holiday table: Parker House rolls.

Traditional Parker House rolls are soft, slightly sweet yeast rolls that are often made by flattening a ball of dough into an oval shape with a rolling pin and folding it over itself slightly. As the name suggests, the rolls were invented at Boston’s historic Parker House hotel during the 1870s. Opened in 1855 and the oldest continually operating hotel in the United States, the site is now home to the Omni Parker House. Legend has it the rolls were created when a disgruntled hotel cook had an argument with a customer and threw the unfinished yeast rolls in the oven, denting them and giving them a special texture.

American culinary expert and Boston native Fannie Farmer shared a recipe for the rolls in her 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cook Book. Since then, the buttery rolls have found their way onto restaurant menus and home tables across the country.

There are several variations today, of course, and it’s common to find the rolls without that signature folded shape. Fold-over or not, every true Parker House roll has the same crispy, buttery exterior and pillowy, slightly sweet center.

This recipe, from The Pioneer Woman, incorporates milk and a whole lot of butter, making the rolls as decadent as ever (note: the recipe makes three dozen rolls). Serve them warm with honey butter and jam in the morning and with more butter, if desired, at lunch and dinner.

Parker House Rolls

Ingredients yields 36 rolls
4 cups whole milk
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
1 cup sugar
4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
8 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
1 tablespoon (heaping) salt
1 cup (additional) all-purpose flour
2 sticks melted butter (additional)

Directions

Combine 4 cups milk, 2 sticks butter and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, and when the mixture is hot (but not boiling), turn off heat and allow to cool to warmer than lukewarm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Sprinkle in the yeast and 8 cups of flour. Stir to combine, then cover and allow to rise for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 additional cup of flour. Stir to combine. Divide dough in half, then turn out onto floured surface. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, then form into a ball and cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes (repeat with other half of dough, or store it for a later use.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan.

Roll out dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut circles with a 2 1/2-inch cutter. Dunk each circle in melted butter, then immediately fold in half and place on a cookie sheet, flat side down. Press lightly to encourage sealing. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Cover with a towel and allow rolls to rise 30 to 45 minutes.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

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