When Sister Schubert's Parker House rolls appeared in grocery stores everywhere, cooks around the country rejoiced. Even the most seasoned bakers had to admit that hers were as good, if not better, than most homemade. The sausage-stuffed rolls are my personal favorite, because in my house they signify the arrival of fall. And although I will always have a love for those delicious store bought rolls, this recipe may have just kicked them out of my freezer for good.
While most people probably reserve Parker House rolls, homemade or otherwise, for special occasions, they are a regular occurrence at my house long before the season's first chill. Because as Southerners know, come the first Saturday in September, it's football season and all which that entails.
I just so happened to grow up in a college town, so I was practically raised on the art of tailgating. I am headed home on Friday for the big kickoff weekend, and I am looking forward to the food almost as much as the big game. My mom's pre-game Saturday spread rarely changes: you can always expect a cheesy breakfast casserole, custardy quiche lorraine, fresh fruit salad, homemade blueberry muffins, and Sister Schubert's sausage-filled rolls. Oh, there are plenty of Bloody Marys and mimosas to drink, too!
In honor of football season — and fall, for all you non-football fans — I decided to finally whip up a from-scratch batch of the classic rolls on my very own. I am no stranger to bread making, but something about competing with "The Sister" seemed downright scary. Was I setting myself up to fail?
Much to my surprise, Parker House rolls are mighty similar to every other "milk bread" recipe I have ever made. (How did I not ever put that together!?) If you've ever attempted cinnamon rolls or even pizza, you can totally make these. The secret to the light-as-a-feather texture is to not knead the dough, and the key to great flavor is, well, plenty of butter, of course! These ultra soft rolls don't even require a mixer. They do require a few hours of your time, but it's mostly hands off while the bread is rising.
I tuck smoked cocktail sausages in the unbaked rolls for the world's best pigs-in-a-blanket, but they are just as good without the extra adornment (although a little honey butter never hurt). If meat isn't your thing, try stuffing them with a cinnamon-sugar mix or a handful of sharp cheddar cheese. I also think they make the best slider buns for stellar pulled pork sandwiches. Their delicious options are unlimited!
Sausage-Stuffed Parker House Rolls
Makes 24 rolls
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/2 cup warm water, 105°F to 115°F
1 cup whole milk
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
24 smoked cocktail sausages
Additional flour, for rolling
Sprinkle yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar over the warm water and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk and 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter in a small saucepan over medium-low until butter is just melted. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until dissolved.
Combine the milk mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in 4 cups of flour and mix well. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, until a ball of dough forms — the dough should be smooth and fairly sticky, but not tacky; if it seems to wet, add another 1/2 cup of flour.
Transfer the ball to a large greased mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and set it in a warm, draft free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place cocktail sausages on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Thoroughly blot with a paper towel to remove any excess grease.
Meanwhile, grease two 9-inch cake pans or disposable aluminum rounds. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and roll to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a floured biscuit cutter, cut dough into 2-inch rounds.
Gently press each round into an oval shape, place 1 cocktail sausage in the center, and fold the dough around to form a half moon. Gently press the very center front to seal shut. Set aside and continue with remaining rounds.
Melt the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter. Using a silicone pastry brush, lightly coat each roll with butter. Starting on the outside and working your way in, place the rolls, seam side out, into the greased pans (about 12 rolls per pan, see above image). Cover the pans with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and a let rise in a warm, dry place until doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake the rolls, uncovered until just barely golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove rolls from the oven and brush with any remaining melted butter. Serve hot.
To make rolls the night before: Arrange rolls in pans and allow to rise as directed. Refrigerate, covered, up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour while oven is preheating. Bake and serve as directed.
To make rolls and freeze: Arrange rolls in pans and allow to rise as directed. Tightly wrap each pan in a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Rolls can be frozen for up to one month. To cook, remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Bake and serve as directed.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)