Monday, November 23, 2015

Perfect Parker House Rolls

Growing up, my mom made rolls twice a year- for Thanksgiving and Christmas. There was no discussion of what kind of rolls to make, or how many we should make, because there was only one recipe, and we just knew they made a lot of rolls. And it was one of the most wonderful events of the year.

Only later, like when I was nearly in my 20's, did we learn that "rolls" are "Parker House Rolls," because of the way that you shape them. But what is in a name? They still taste just as sweet! My family still just calls them "rolls." And they can be absolutely perfect for holiday meals. Most importantly, they are perfect for leftover turkey sandwiches.

Let's talk perfect leftover turkey sandwiches. I know some people swear by the butter, salt, and pepper method. I know some people add the cranberry sauce, or gravy. My brother even adds mashed potatoes. I prefer the heavy mayo, heavy mustard method, with turkey generously crammed between my mom's Perfect Parker House Rolls.

Buttery, fluffy, rich, and tender, these Perfect Parker House Rolls will make you want to pour yourself a bowl of gravy and dip rolls from now until New Year's. They are coated in butter before you bake them, so the bottom of the rolls have a satisfying, buttery crispiness, that is just barely salty. Because you use a knife to form an indentation to fold the rolls in half, you don't have to use a knife to cut them once they're baked. This is so important because it leaves your knife free to do more important things, like load up your roll with mayo (no Miracle Whip at Little Red Hen's house), and mustard.

Another perk to this recipe is that it is the same one for the Best Cinnamon Rolls. After making a few dozen rolls, you can use any extra dough to roll out some delicious cinnamon rolls for breakfast, or late night munching while searching Black Friday ads, or watching a Christmas movie.

Ok, let's talk time and quantity. This recipe is worth the work, but it takes time. Figure about 2-3 hours, start to finish. Not all of that is hands-on. The dough needs to rise twice- once in the mixer, and once before the rolls are put in the oven. How many rolls does this make? Depending on how large you cut them, plan on 4-6 dozen. Yes, they freeze well. Yes, they are good the next day, but obviously, they are most perfect right out of the oven. If you're doing these for a special holiday meal, I would reccomend making the dough and having the pans of rolls ready to pop in the oven right after your turkey comes out. My mom would always bake the 3-ish pans of rolls while she and my dad carved the turkey and made the gravy. Another great option is to bake the Parker House Rolls the day before, (which is what I did this year!).

Honestly, these rolls are so much a part of the holidays for me that I don't know where I would be without them. They have a legacy! My grandma made these rolls and she taught my mom how to make them. When I got old enough to learn, my mom taught me. Every time I make them I am grateful to my mom for teaching me how to bake, for the memories I have of cozy Thanksgivings and informal Christmas dinners with my immediate family, and for the blessing it is that I have my own family to make rolls for now.

If you have to choose, let Costco or Marie Callender's do your pies and put your time into rolls. I can't guarantee that no one will discuss politics at the dinner table, but I will bet that you could use these Perfect Parker House Rolls to diffuse any holiday tension!

Perfect Parker House Rolls


  • 1 1/2 cups warm milk
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 5 tbs active yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 eggs
  • 11-13 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • Directions:
    Step 1: Make the Dough
    1. In a stand mixer with a dough hook, combine warm milk, warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let yeast start to froth, about 3 minutes. 
    2. Add the oil, salt, and 2 cups of flour. Mix on low until barely combined- about 1 minute.
    3. Add the eggs and 2 more cups of flour and mix on low until combined.
      Too sticky. Needs more flour.
    4. Continue to add flour one cup at a time, increasing the speed of the mixer as the dough thickens. After 10 cups of flour have been added, add the remaining flour in half cup increments.The dough should be slightly sticky so that the dough sticks to your finger when you touch it, but it leaves little residue on your finger. The dough should not pull away from the side of the mixing bowl entirely, unlike bread dough. It should be rather soft, but not runny. Once the dough reaches this consistency, continue to let it knead for about 5 minutes. 
      Just right!
    5. Cover the mixing bowl with a clean hand towel and set the bowl in a warm place to let dough rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Outside is a great option in warmer weather, on a warm stove works well in cooler months. 
    Step 2: Turn the Dough Into Rolls

    1. While dough raises, melt 1/2 cup  of butter in a small bowl. Set aside.
    2. Once the dough has doubled, return the bowl to the mixer and knead the dough for about a minute. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Get out 2-3 cookie sheets.
    3. Lightly grease a clean counter top with vegetable oil. If a larger counter space is available, take all the dough from the mixing bowl an set it on the oiled counter. If only a small space is available, start with half of the dough. I recommend handling half the dough at at time. WAY more manageable. Note: The temperature of your counter top will affect your rolls. If your counters are too cold, the rolls will not rise as well. My mom has been known to put a space heater on the counter while the dough is rising to warm things up. In the winter, I turn up the heat in my house a few degrees and preheat my oven before I even start mixing the dough just to ensure my kitchen counters are not too cold. 
    4. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Using a 3"- 4" cup or bowl, cut circles in the dough. Use the flat side of a butter knife, put a slight crease on each circle.
    5. Dip half of the roll in the melted butter. Put the butter side of the roll down on cookie sheet. Fold the roll in half and flip the roll over, so the buttered side of the roll is now the top of the roll. 
    6. Repeat for rest of rolls and all remaining dough. Each cookie sheet can hold 20-24 rolls. 
    7. Let raise until doubled in a warm place, (I let them raise on the stove), about 20 minutes.
    8. Bake for 20-25 minutes until rolls are light golden brown on top, and roll in center of the pan is no longer doughy.
    9. Remove from oven and immediately invert pan onto a cooling rack. (I put the cooling rack on top of the rolls and then flip the whole thing over.) 

    10. Remove cookie sheet and enjoy!

    Bake the bread. Share the slices. 

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