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Parker House Rolls

This recipe is part of the “Celebratory Goose Dinner” miniseries. For the complete menu, timetable, and printable shopping list, see the introductory post.

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When I was growing up, Parker House Rolls were a family classic. This was long before I moved to Boston and understood the regional significance of these rolls; all I knew was that whenever someone said these three words, people got excited.

I suppose the taste didn’t make that big of an impression on me at the time. Some of that “bland New England food,” I dismissed them in favor of the bold flavors of Italian sausage with fennel, acidic tomato sauces and herb-stuffed artichokes with plenty of butter. While rolls in general were an afterthought to me, when pressed, I fell whole-heartedly in the camp of Parker House Rolls’ arch-nemesis and number one competitor at the dinner table, the sweet and sexy Hungarian Rolls.

Both roll recipes are a bit of work, in their own way. Yeast breads both, Parker House Rolls need to be rolled out and cut with a biscuit cutter before being brushed with butter and folded, while Hungarian Rolls need to be divided, hand-rolled, and dipped in sugar and butter before being arranged monkey-bread style in a tube pan with a hefty sprinkling of raisins between each layer.

So when I saw a recipe for Parker House Rolls in a recent issue of Bon Appetit that skipped the use of a biscuit cutter in favor of a rectangular tiled formation in a pan, I was intrigued. It had been years since I had eaten these rolls, and I was preparing a menu with strong colonial influences, after all.

But I wanted the recipe to be even easier. Enter my best friend the bread machine. I’m happy to say that my machine adaptation worked out perfectly, and that these are truly a cinch to make. More happily still, I’m pleased to report that the taste has made quite an impression on my adult taste buds, and most certainly have shrugged off the label of “bland.” While lovely served warm with butter and dipped in gravy alongside a hearty feast, I find these rolls truly shine the next morning when you steal down to the kitchen for a few leftovers slathered with butter and jam.

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Easy Bread Machine Parker House Rolls
from Fannie Farmer via Bon Appetit, adapted for use with a bread machine by The Hungry Crafter

  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed
  •  ¼ cup vegetable shortening (i.e. Crisco)
  • 1 room-temperature large egg, lightly beaten with fork
  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  •  ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • Maldon sea salt (optional)

Place the first six ingredients in your bread machine pan in the order listed (important!). Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Insert pan into bread machine and run the dough cycle.

When dough cycle is complete, preheat oven to 350°F and melt the butter in the microwave. Lightly brush a 13×9-inch metal baking dish with some melted butter. Remove dough to work surface, punch down, and divide into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 12×6-inch rectangle.

Cut lengthwise into three 2-inch-wide strips; cut each crosswise into three 4×2-inch rectangles. Brush half of each (about 2×2-inch) with melted butter; fold unbuttered side over, allowing ¼-inch overhang. Place flat in 1 corner of prepared baking dish, folded edge against short side of dish. Add remaining rolls, shingling to form 1 long row. Repeat with remaining dough for 4 rows. Brush with melted butter, loosely cover with plastic, and chill for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours. Bake rolls until golden and puffed, about 25 minutes. Brush with butter; sprinkle with sea salt. Serve warm.

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So today was a baking sort of day.  I’ve found myself at a bit of an impasse with my sewing project as I battle back and forth with the pressing debate of to buy a serger or not to buy a serger?  How badly do I want to avoid having to do french seams on this whole project? And so I bake.  It’s as good a way as any to work through a dilemma.

Breakfast was blueberry scones.  YUM.  There’s an entire stick of butter in there, so it really can’t help but taste good.

Moving into the afternoon, it was time for some good old fashioned bread out of the bread machine.

I’d been experimenting with modifications to a simple white bread recipe, and this final version has become my standard go-to bread for the machine.  I can be down to next to nothing for groceries in the house and always have the ingredients on hand; and when there’s not much food in the house, there is certainly nothing better than good bread!  Here’s the recipe:

Jo's Yogurt Bread

Jo’s Yogurt Bread

  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 6 oz. plain, non-fat greek yogurt (I use a single container of Chobani)
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. wheat flour
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 package ready-rise yeast (2 1/4 t.)

Put all ingredients except for the yeast into the bread pan in the order listed.  Make a well in the dry ingredients (about 1″ deep) and pour in the yeast.  Cook on basic bread cycle setting for 1.5 lb. loaf.  Be sure to eat the heel while still warm!

After bread was done, it was time for a dinner of garlic chicken sausage in white wine with orzo and diced tomatoes:

Next time I think I will nix the tomatoes, add basil and more parmesan, and finish with butter instead of oil.

While I’m on the subject of food, I should take a minute to brag about the wonderful meal I had last night at Garden at the Cellar.  I started off drinking “The Crule,” which I will have to assume is French for “Ginger Cosmo,” as it was simply vodka, cranberry juice and ginger beer.  Excellent combination, which I will definitely try to recreate here at home. With five of us there to celebrate my sister’s birthday, we got to taste a lot of different little plates including:  Chicken & Thyme Croquettes with Smoked Pepper Aioli, Glazed Short Ribs with Quinoa, Grilled Brussels Sprouts & Parsley Salad, Bacon-wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese and Curried Apple Hash, a handmade Chorizo “plate of the day,” and finally, a Duck & Fig Flatbread with Goat Cheese, Scallions & Arugula.  It was hands down all as good as it sounds.

Dessert brought us to Cafe Pamplona for cappuccinos, chocolate mousse, and a few rounds of word games.  I think my sister should have birthdays more frequently.

So there’s the writing.  As for the ‘rithmatic?  I think it’s time to go balance my checkbook.

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