This recipe for soft and buttery Parker House Rolls makes a historical American dinner roll, perfect for a holiday or any occasion.
The History of Parker House Rolls
Dinner rolls are essential to any holiday dinner celebration. And, one of the rolls that has cemented itself in American food history is the Parker House Roll.
Like any good, historical food, there is an amusing story that is told about the “invention” of the Parker House roll. It goes like this: in the early 1870’s in Boston, there was a hotel called the Parker House. One day the pastry chef got incredibly angry after a run-in with a disgruntled hotel patron and haphazardly threw a batch of unfinished rolls into the oven. When they came out, they were folded and dented. Quite imperfect-looking, but nothing a little extra brushing of butter couldn’t fix. In fact, these soft and buttery rolls became a quick hit, with recipes appearing in cookbooks by the late 1870’s.
Their buttery exterior and fluffy interior makes them a favorite of dinner guests, and their ease of preparation makes them a favorite of hosts. These rolls work beautifully when made ahead and refrigerated or even frozen for later use.
How to make Parker House Rolls from scratch
To achieve the classic “Parker House” look, each ball of dough is rolled flat, dented in the middle, and then folded over, creating a pocket-looking shape. Many recipes will tell you to brush the rolls with butter before folding, but we had problems with the rolls staying shut during the final rising when the inside was coated with butter. Instead, we use an egg-wash on the inside to get the dough to stick to itself nicely while still achieving that perfect, pull-apart consistency. Then, the risen rolls get brushed with melted butter to create a wonderfully buttery and crisp exterior.
Parker House Rolls
- In a large bowl, mix together warm water, sugar, and yeast. Set the bowl aside until the yeast becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Cut 4 Tbsp of butter into small cubes, and place it in a small saucepan with the milk. Heat the milk until the butter melts. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool to 80-90F.
- When the milk has cooled, mix it with the foamy yeast. Stir to combine.
- Add 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix well. Add the remaining flour ½ c at a time, until a soft dough forms.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, 7-10 minutes (Your dough should be soft and slightly tacky.) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft free place, until doubled in bulk, 1 hour.
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it a few times and roll it out to ¼ inch thick.
- Using a 3 inch cookie cutter (or a glass with a 3 inch mouth), cut rounds in the dough. Once all of your dough has been used, collect the scraps. Knead them a few times and then roll them out again, continuing until most of the dough has been used.
- Using the blunt end of a knife, press a crease into each round of dough, slightly off center. (This will help them fold.) Brush each circle with a little beaten egg. Fold the larger half of dough over the smaller half, pressing it gently so the fold stays closed.
- Place the rolls on a greased baking sheet, spaced roughly 3 inches apart. (At this point the rolls can be refrigerated overnight or prepped for freezing.*)
- Cover the rolls with a damp tea towel and let them rise until nearly doubled, 25-30 min. Near the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter. When the rolls are ready to go into the oven, gently brush the tops with the melted butter.
- Bake the rolls at 350F for 13-15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the rolls from the pan to cool on a wire rack.