Parker House Rolls

From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite...I was raised in an apartment that was in one of four buildings set around a central courtyard. The buildings each contained four duplex and two garden units. The complex had twelve courtyards that, when viewed from the air, resembled military housing, save for the extensive landscaping and oversized buildings that housed the large apartments. During the war years, a scant male presence created a community of women who, of necessity, learned to fend for themselves. They formed tightly knit groups and established support systems that I haven't seen the likes of since, and there were times that it was impossible to distinguish neighbors from family members. Holidays tended to be communal affairs. You've already met Hannie and Mrs. P. who lived in the duplexes to the left of ours. You have yet to meet Anita who lived across the hall in our half of the building. She was young, married, but childless, and was a mathematician working on a project at the University of Chicago. More interesting to me at the time was the Christmas tree she kept in her living room. It was put up the year her husband was sent to North Africa and remained there until his homecoming. The tree was by then an ornamented stick, but it stood watch like a sentinel connecting her to him while he was away. Anita was no match for the cooking of Hannie or Mrs. P., but she did her share of work for our parties which were held in the basement laundry room. It was an expanse of about 75 feet that separated the two garden apartments from each other. The basement was whitewashed and curtained and, under the eagle eye of Mrs. P., a deliberate effort was made to keep it immaculate. On special occasions, a wringer washer, shared by all the neighbors, was rolled away and wash tubs were boarded and draped to hold the evenings bounty. Fels Naptha and bleach competed with the wonderful aromas that wafted down the stairs to the basement. Anita usually brought her Parker House rolls. They were all the rage back then and considered to be quite stylish. The rolls were first served at the Parker House Hotel in downtown Boston in the mid 1870's. While the rolls were sold to other hotels and restaurants, the ingredients were kept secret until 1933 when the recipe was requested by President Roosevelt. Anita's rolls were delicious. They were light and fluffy and the aroma as they baked could drive you mad. While I suspect memory plays tricks with reason, I've never had rolls that tasted quite as good as hers. This recipe is the closest I've ever come to matching them. I hope you enjoy them.

Parker House Rolls...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite


2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar, divided use
1/2 cup warm water
1-1/2 cups scalded milk, cooled to room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup melted butter, divided use
6 cups all-purpose flour

1) Combine yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar and water in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Let sit until frothy, about 5 minutes. Add milk, reserved 1 tablespoon sugar and 1/4 cup melted butter to yeast. Add 1-1/2 cups flour and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes. With mixer at low speed, add 4 cups of flour, a cup at a time, beating until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let double in volume, about 1 hour.
2) Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Roll dough into a sheet 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 3-inch rounds. Crease each round in the middle with the back of a knife. Brush exposed surfaces with reserved butter. Fold dough over and press lightly to seal. Place rolls 2-inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Cover lightly and allow to rise again until nearly double in volume,
about 35 minutes.
3) Meanwhile preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake until rolls are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on racks. Yield: 36 rolls.

You might also enjoy these recipes:
Torpedo Rolls - One Perfect Bite
Kaiser Rolls - One Perfect Bite
Buttermilk Cluster with Blue Poppy Seeds - One Perfect Bite

This post is being linked to:
Wild Yeast - Yeast Spotting