November 23, 2010

Park it Right Here for a Better Roll Recipe

So it seems that the same restaurant that created Boston Cream Pie (not a pie but rather a cream-filled cake) also created the Parker House rolls that are creamy inside and toasty, crunchy on the outside -- and not that hard to make if you're BRAVE enough to spend a few hours babysitting some yeast. Need some delish homebaked bread for your Thanksgiving feast? Can't you smell that aroma now? Check out this recipe that started in the great state of Massachusetts, our featured state of the week.

First, you can find the original recipe for these rolls at the Omni's Parker House Hotel in Boston HERE. The recipe says you'll need 3 and a half hours before serving but I'm not about baking under pressure. I'm freezing some rolls now for later in the week. The recipe should make more than 3 dozen. You can make cut out smaller rolls to increase that number, too.

Here's why I like this recipe: You can take a round cookie cutter and cut out the dough rather than spend awhile trying to shape a gazillion round perfect balls for uniform rolls. These rolls don't need to look great because the butter factor will ensure they're incredibly good to eat. We're already tackling the monster that is yeast so no need to complicate things anymore. I used the top of a glass to make my circles, though I'd not recommend that if you're having children help cut out shapes!

The Original Parker House Rolls
from the Omni Hotels Parker House in Boston, Mass.

6 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages of active dry yeast**
1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks) softened
1 large egg (try to buy range-free, if possible)

*You may need more flour depending on humidity and other factors like number of helpers pouring in flour. Try to use good quality flour, I usually try to sneak in a bit of whole wheat flour but didn't for this recipe. This week isn't about healthy.

** This should equal 4 1/2 teaspoons of yeast if you buy it in the jar, but double-check the label.

Step 1: In a mixing bowl (with a dough attachment, that hook-looking thing) combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast; add 1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick). The other stick of butter/margarine will be for dipping and making the rolls crunchy on the outside!

With mixer at low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot tap water (120 degrees to 130 degrees F) into dry ingredients. I get water that feels warm to my wrist. Too hot and the yeast won't like it. Add egg, increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in 3/4 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough. I recall my grandmother's advice that relies on the mixer to do more of the kneading. So use that hook to mix in dough where it leaves the side of the mixer. The pic above needs more flour before going to the next step.

2. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cups) while kneading. I put more flour in the mixer and let the dough hook do most of the magic, making my by hand kneading time roughly about 3 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so that top of dough is greased, just like this:

Cover with a towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F) until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. I just placed the dough on top of a warm oven -- I'd just finished my self-cleaning option. (Dough is doubled when two fingers pressed into dough leaves dent.) It will look similar to this with working yeast:

3.  Punch down dough by pushing down the center of dough with fist, then pushing edges of dough into center. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make smooth ball; cover with bowl for 15 minutes and let dough rest. I think I know where the term "raising" children comes from. There are similarities with working with yeast dough and children. It's like you're putting dough into a time out. I love the recipe requires the bowl to be placed upside down over the dough -- like it's got it's own special hideout.

4. In 17 1/4 inch by 11 1/2 inch roasting or baking pan (this size pan is really optimal for this recipe), over low heat in oven, melt remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter or margarine; tilt pan to grease bottom.

5. On lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll dough 1/2 inch thick. With floured 2 3/4 cutter, cut dough into circles. Holding dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted butter/margarine in pan; fold in half.

Knead trimmings together; re-roll and cut more rolls. Cover pan with towel; let dough rise in warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.

6. Bake rolls in a 400-degree oven 15-18 minutes until browned.

They'll rise a bit more in the oven.
Golden tops means they're done.

Not perfect looking rolls, but a success (taste-wise) for my first time attempting this recipe, which means you can do it, too. The rolls are soft and flavorful inside and the tops and the bottoms are crunchy, making this a good contrast of taste and texture that would look right at home on a holiday buffet table. Let me know in comments what you think!

 Next up: I attempt my friend's super-duper easy Boston Cream Pie recipe!

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