Recipe Review

These Parker House Rolls Prove Old-Fashioned Classics Never Go Out of Style

updated Dec 4, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

Parker House Rolls might be America’s most popular old-fashioned roll. Made famous by Boston’s Parker House Hotel and Fannie Farmer’s The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Parker House Rolls are tender and buttery with a distinct folded pocketbook shape. Out of all the variations out there, Simply Recipes’ version intrigued us the most, with the soft-looking dough and single rise. Had they cracked the code for perfect old-fashioned rolls? Let’s find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Simply Recipes’ Parker House Rolls

You’ll begin by blooming active dry yeast in lukewarm water until dissolved. Meanwhile, heat whole milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts and the milk is warm to the touch. Set aside to cool slightly if the milk is too warm.

Stir the yeast and water mixture to combine, then continue to stir while pouring in the milk mixture. Stir in some of the flour until only a few lumps remain, then slowly add the remaining flour until a very soft dough forms. Knead the dough until smooth, transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with a clean, damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Leave it for about one hour or until puffed, but not necessarily doubled in size.

When the dough is ready, punch it down and transfer it to a floured surface. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness, punch about three-dozen rounds using a 2 1/2-inch round cutter, then make an indentation in the center of each with the back of a butter knife. Brush the rounds with melted butter, then them in half, pressing lightly to seal. Roll the dough scraps again to make more rolls. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, brush the tops with melted butter, then bake until golden.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

My Honest Review of Simply Recipes’ Parker House Rolls

The procedure for making this dough was simple and straightforward, and with just one rise, it was the fastest way to get a basket of freshly baked rolls to the table. The dough was soft and elastic, not wet and sticky, making it easy to portion and shape. The rolls had a soft and tender texture, with a buttery flavor.
To create these rolls’ signature purse-like shape, Simply Recipes has you roll the dough flat, cut them into rounds, and form them into half-moons. This was both time-consuming and not very effective, as many of the tops lifted in the oven. Also, since the rolls are spaced apart on a baking sheet rather than snuggled together in a dish, the outsides have a distinctive crust rather than pillowy-soft sides. I baked two pans at a time and rotated them halfway through baking as instructed, but I erred on the longer end of the baking time as I pushed for a deeper color on top. The result was rolls with over-baked bottoms.

Credit: Patty Catalano

If You’re Making Simply Recipes’ Parker House Rolls, a Few Tips

  1. Make sure to cool the butter and milk mixture. The milk, butter, sugar, and salt are heated to melt the butter, but make sure the liquid is no warmer than 105°F to 110°F when you add it to the yeast mixture. If you rush, the scalding hot milk can kill the yeast before you even get started.
  2. Try another shaping technique. Parker House Rolls are all about their folded-over shape, but if you prefer a pull-apart roll, this dough can do it too. The dough is soft, supple, and easy to work with, so try shaping the doughs into rounds instead.
  3. Top with flaky salt. For a special finishing touch, sprinkle the tops of the rolls with flaky salt. The melted butter will help the salt stick and adds a slight crunch to the soft rolls.

Rating: 7/10

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell; Design: The Kitchn

Have you made Simply Recipes’ Parker House Rolls? Tell us what you thought.