I love bread. I love dinner rolls. I was so eager to try this recipe. And make no mistake… Parker House rolls are really, really yummy. But I’ve made so many in the last month, I hope I never see another one again.
This recipe was truly a test of my perseverance and endurance. It forced me to put the adage of “Try, try again” into practice. Who knew that a little yeast roll could be such a pain? It took three tries to get this recipe right. I can place the blame partly on my amateur bread making skills. Some of it rests on the recipe as printed-which I will explain. The rest was just sheer bad luck.
But, do not let my failure dissuade you! Parker House rolls are round slices of dough, slathered with butter and folded up. They’re a rising yeast recipe and are, when done properly, fluffy and buttery in flavor. They were invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston and are still served there.
I vaguely remember reading about these cute little dinner rolls at some point in my vintage recipe research. So when I was flipping through my copy of the 1939 “Household Searchlight Magazine” Cookbook and saw them, I immediately bookmarked the page and got to work.
The first time, I didn’t pinch the rounds together tightly enough-and they popped apart. My husband and I dubbed the first batch “Mick Jagger Lips Rolls.” (see photo below). In my defense, the recipe doesn’t call for you to punch down the dough after rising. I’m still skittish in my bread making and not confident enough yet to fill in steps that perhaps don’t need to be explained to more seasoned bread makers. As a result, I think the excess air made the rolls apt to pop apart.
The second time, I punched down the dough after it rose but… I burned them. Now, the recipe calls for the rolls to be baked for 15-18 minutes at 450 degrees. No way is that right!
The third time, I finally got it right.
The rolls are delicious but this recipe makes 50 plus rolls, so keep that mind if you’re only a fringe bread lover-or if you live alone. Here’s the recipe:
• 1 cake compressed yeast or 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
• ¾ cup milk
• 1 ¾ teaspoon salt
• ¼ cup shortening melted
• 6 tablespoons sugar
• ¾ cup lukewarm water
• 5 cups flour
Place milk in mixing bowl and add yeast, salt, shortening, sugar and water. Add flour, a cup at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Turn onto floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny (or knead about 10 minutes in your mixer, as I let “Babs” do for me on the 2nd and 3rd tries).
Place in greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise one hour, or until double in bulk.
Punch the dough down and roll out to 1/3 inch thickness. Cut dough into rounds and, using a butter knife, gently make a crease down the middle of each circle.
Brush one half of each round lightly with melted butter and fold each round in half, pinching the ends together firmly with your fingers. Place close together in rows on well-greased baking sheet.
Cover and let rise again about one hour. If any of the rolls pop apart, repinch them. Bake at 450 degrees for 8 minutes.
Now, thanks to my month-long expedition, I hope that you’ll avoid the mistakes I made and create a perfect batch on your first try! Enjoy!