Parker House Rolls

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Yield: 16 rolls

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These feather-light, buttery rolls were a 19th-century staple of the Parker House, a famous Boston hotel — the same hotel that in 1855 created the first Boston Cream Pie, serving both rolls and pie to the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

So what makes a Parker House roll special? Butter. A buttery fold during the shaping process (and butter brushed on after they're baked) give them over-the-top flavor. An egg, milk, and a fair amount of butter in the dough give them fine and tender texture. All in all, this Boston-based roll is a bread-basket classic.

One more note: the "original" Parker House roll recipe calls for the dough to be cut in circles, dipped in butter, and folded over. However, having tried this rather messy process in the past, and ending up with rolls that popped open in the oven, rather than hold their shape (and their buttery pocket), we opted for a slightly different method.

The result? Softly rounded rectangular rolls, looking very much like the rolls served these days at the Omni Parker House hotel — still a Boston landmark after all these years.

Parker House Rolls

star rating (76) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 16 rolls
Published: 12/21/2010

Ingredients

Tips from our bakers

  • Due to the natural tendency of yeast dough to both stretch and shrink as you work with it, don't stress when you don't end up with rolls that are all the same size. Just arrange them however they best fit to cover most of the bottom of the pan — a shorter one next to a longer one, etc. By the time they've risen, baked, and been slathered with butter, no one will care about perfection, size-wise. And anyway, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Directions

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1) In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients (except the 3 tablespoons melted butter at the end), mixing to form a shaggy dough. Note: to speed the rising process, whisk together the milk and egg, and heat gently just enough to remove the refrigerator chill; then add to the remaining ingredients.

2) Knead the dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (7 to 8 minutes) until it's smooth.

3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or 8-cup measure (so you can track its rising progress). Allow it to rise for 90 minutes; it'll become quite puffy, though it probably won't double in bulk. Note that the dough takes quite awhile to get going; after 1 hour, it may seem like it's barely expanded at all. But during the last half hour, it rises more quickly.

4) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, roll or pat the dough into an 8" x 12" rectangle.

5) Brush the dough all over with a light coating of the melted butter. You'll have melted butter left over; save it to brush on top of the baked rolls.

6) Cut the dough in half lengthwise, to make two 4" x 12" rectangles. Working with one rectangle at a time, fold it lengthwise to about 1/2" of the other edge, so the bottom edge sticks out about 1/2" beyond the top edge. You'll now have a rectangle that's about 2 1/4" x 12". Repeat with the other piece of dough.

7) Cut each of the rectangles crosswise into four 3" pieces, making a total of 8 rolls, each about 2 1/4" x 3". Place the rolls, smooth side up, in a lightly greased 9" x 13" pan. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, making 16 rolls in all. You'll arrange 4 rows of 4 in the pan, with the longer side of the rolls going down the longer side of the pan. Gently flatten the rolls to pretty much cover the bottom of the pan.

8) Cover the pan, and let the rolls rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they're puffy but definitely not doubled. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

9) Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they're golden brown and feel set.

10) Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. Pull them apart to serve.

Yield: 16 rolls.

Reviews

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  • star rating 04/14/2015
  • susanallain from KAF Community
  • These rolls are the best! I didn't have instant yeast so I used active dry yeast and only one packet. Even though I used 1/4 teaspoon less yeast and 1/4 cup extra water (to proof the yeast) they came out superb. I kept saying to my husband "I can't believe I made these. They tasted professionally made! My husband had SIX with dinner and one for dessert with molasses on it (a Canadiian thing). Next time I will follow the recipe and see which version is better.
  • star rating 01/14/2015
  • alleygirl1 from KAF Community
  • Made these rolls today for dinner! Very Easy recipe to follow! The end result was delicious!
  • star rating 01/05/2015
  • papertail from KAF Community
  • Finally, rolls like what I remember eating years ago. Only complaint is that these are too easy to make and addictive
  • star rating 11/27/2014
  • cphair from KAF Community
  • Made these Thanksgiving Eve. Baked and cooled, I put them back into my KAF 9 x 13 pan, covered with plastic wrap for transport. Next day I removed the wrap, popped them in the oven for 10 minutes to reheat and served them with dinner. They were the most delicious rolls I have made yet; I will be making these year after year. Thank you KAF for this great recipe!
  • star rating 11/27/2014
  • Liv from Boise, ID
  • Absolutely delicious, but I'd recommend only using 1/2 cup of instant potato flakes (if you use that instead of potato flour). Using the whole 3/4 cup of flakes makes the rolls dense and heavy. I wondered about that and googled potato flake sub for potato flour and no one, including King Arthur Flour on this website recommends that much potato flakes in place of 1/4 cup of potato flour. Usually the potato flakes are just double the potato flour amount. I made these for Thanksgiving in place of my usual crescent roll -- formed them and then froze them overnight, and pulled them out Thanksgiving morning and let rise in the fridge for several hours while I was preparing everything else. I've made many breads and rolls (including croissants and artisan loaves) in my 30 years of baking and my husband said this was one of his favorites and should replace the crescent roll we normally make. Very homey, buttery, soft and light.
  • star rating 11/26/2014
  • Ed from Doylestown, PA
  • Easily followed recipe that produced attractive and tasty rolls my first try (even though I misread the amount of salt and only used 1/4 tsp). I have never had much luck with Parker house roll formation in the past but these came out perfect. Thanks.
  • star rating 11/25/2014
  • Susan from North Carolina
  • I made these twice in the same day. The first time I weighed all ingredients in grams, just as the recipe suggested. The dough was extremely stiff and I ended up adding 2 more tablespoons of milk. I still wasn't thrilled with the consistency. I was kneading this batch by hand--very difficult to knead. Once allowed to proof, the texture was fine. The second time I decided to include a lesser amount of potato flakes (I used Bob's Red Mill). It turns out that 3/4 cup of those potato flakes actually weighs 35 grams. So I went with that weight. I also used my KitchenAid mixer. This dough came out very well. But both batches produced very nice rolls. The second batch had a smoother texture and browned up prettier. I will go with my second method as I make these for Thanksgiving. I have made some herb butter and some orange-honey butter to go with them.
  • star rating 11/25/2014
  • chezsam from KAF Community
  • I tried this recipe as stated the day before I wanted to use it for a Sunday dinner. Didn't like the outcome. They were dense and blah tasting to me. You have to understand I live at almost 6000 feet. But then on the next day I tweaked your recipe a bit and the result was so good that my kids who don't usually eat bread were nibbling these rolls behind my back before dinner and threatened to not stop. What I did differently was: heated the milk to 120 degrees (knowing it would cool down pouring it into the bread machine), put it in the Z. bread machine which was set to the 150 minute dough cycle and added 2.5 t of Active dry yeast and 1 T of sugar. When it bloomed, I whisked it slightly and mixed in the beaten egg. I had already mixed all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl as well as used 3/4 c of mashed potato flakes and 3 T of sugar (I had added one more T of sugar than the recipe called for). These dry ingredients I added to the Bread machine and poured the melted butter around the edge of the dry mixture. I left the machine to do it's thing only taking the dough out when the rise was completed and before the machine tried to knock it down. After making the rolls and using the 9X13 inch pan, I had heated the microwave by boiling 2 cups of water in it then with the boiling water still in the MW I put the 9X13 inch pan in for the second rise for an hour. The rolls only rose not quite up to the top of the pan. Then in the oven they looked beautiful. My house is quite cold and the moist MW rise really helped. They were light and I could say perfect. My guests loved them and I'm making them again for Thanksgiving. That bread machine is wonderful and so is this recipe. Loved it!
  • star rating 11/21/2014
  • Jeff from Winterville, NC
  • Wow! I made these rolls for the first time tonight and they were a big hit. I'm a novice and this recipe was easy to follow and came out with a perfect texture and taste.
  • star rating 11/20/2014
  • kaf-sub-lzcoker from KAF Community
  • I have made this recipe several time and everyone loves them. I want to make them the night before and let them rise overnight. I am not interested in making any other dinner roll recipe for our Thanksgiving dinner. I looked at Mary Jane's blog, but I want to make the Parker House rolls. Otherwise, I may not be invited back next year... and the host is my daughter! ; ) Has your test kitchen tried letting them rise overnight?
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