The smell and tasty of good yeasty rolls is enough to make any meal. I love making Alton Brown's Parker House dinner rolls for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or both!). Easy enough to make. Awesome enough to wow your guests.
Who doesn't love a good dinner roll?
You can never go wrong when serving some homemade yeasty rolls.
They used to be a staple with every meal, but as American families get busier and busier, you don't see as many people taking the time to bake them anymore.
Trust me, when you do, they beat anything that comes out of a can or the freezer.
Years ago, when my favorite cook Alton Brown came out with a Good Eats episode on rolls, I was super excited to see what he was going to make.
The answer - Parker House rolls. Let me tell you about them and my experience making them (photos included!)
Origin of Parker House Rolls
The technique for Parker House rolls was invented at a hotel in Boston, MA in the 1870s. There are different versions of the story, but they have a common theme running through them involving an angry chef throwing around unbaked rolls.
What are Parker House Rolls?
Parker House rolls are basically a roll that is folded over on itself with a pat of butter in the middle of the fold. Not need to butter these rolls at the table.
How to Make Alton Brown's Parker House Rolls
Below you will find my notes from forming the dough along with some step by step pictures (and even a short video!)
Once you had made your dough you roll it into a log. Then cut it into 16 pieces.
Then form those 16 pieces into 16 balls. Then you roll those balls into flat disc like in step 4.
I have done this with a french style rolling pin. Alton Brown recommends using a small wooden dowel from the hardware store. I think he is right, it would be easier to get it flat that way and the rolls will look better.
No matter what they are still going to taste good. Use what you have.
This might be my favorite part, putting the little pat of butter in the middle. Man, are these buttery!
You then fold the dough in half over top the butter and pinch it close.
Here is a short video that shows you how.
It doesn't take too long to do it, especially if you have the bread making skills my wife does!
Once you have all your rolls ready to roll, brush them with more butter - I never said anything about these being low fat. The pastry brush I am using is from Oxo and I absolutely love it. It works well and isn't hard to clean.
Give the rolls enough time to double in size. Takes about a half hour or so.
Alton says to cover them with plastic wrap while they rise. I was out last time I did this and honestly, with all the butter melted on top, they didn't dry out at all. It all depends on the weather too - is it humid or dry out? Use your judgment.
Then it's baking time, and the shortly thereafter - eating time.
How to Keep the Rolls Warm
When the rolls are done and have had time to cool a bit so that no steam is coming off them, I wrap them in a clean towel.
A great trick if want keep them warm is to place them inside a slow cooker or Crock Pot wrapped in that towel. Set the slow cooker just to warm (NOT low or high).
This is a great way to keep your rolls warm on Thanksgiving. You can do the rolls right before the turkey and let them stay warm in the slow cooker.
Check out other ways to Use Your Slow Cooking on Thanksgiving
Other Alton Brown Recipes You'll Want to Try
Alton Brown's Parker House Rolls
- 8 ounces whole milk
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 15 ounces all-purpose flour plus extra for kneading
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 ounces room temperature butter
- 1 ounce chilled butter cut into 16 cubes
- Combine milk, sugar, yeast, flour, egg yolks, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Use the paddle attachment to combine all the ingredients. Then switch to the dough hook. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Add in 2 ounces of room temperature butter and mix low until combined.
- Increase the speed to medium and work the dough until it pulls away from the side of the bowl. about 5 minutes. You know the dough is done if you can take a small piece and stretch it out and light goes through it without the dough breaking.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter or board. Form the dough into a ball and place it back in the mixing bowl.
- Cover the bowl and give the dough time to double in size. Should be around an hour.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and roll it into a log. Cut the log into 16 equal pieces.
- Flatten the each piece with your hand. Using a rolling pin or wooden dowel, roll each piece out until they are about ½ inch thick or make are around 3 inches wide.
- Place a pat of cold butter in the center of the dough.
- Fold the dough in half and seal the edges with your fingers. Repeat with all the dough.
- Place onto a greased sheet pan or line the pan with parchment paper. Space the rolls out evenly.
- Melt the remaining 1 ounce butter and brush the top of each roll.
- Allow the rolls to rise for an additional 30 minutes before baking.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Place into sheet pan into the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until browned on top. Rotate the pan half way through for evening browning.
- Allow 5-10 mintues to cool before serving.
- To keep warm, wrap in a clean kitchen towel.
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