The epitome of thin-crusted, fluffy-crumbed American rolls, Parker House rolls are pillowy soft, a little sweet, and packed with butter. They owe their name to Boston’s famed Parker House, a hotel that has been a bastion of Brahmin hospitality since the middle of the nineteenth century.
Truth be told, the Parker House roll is pretty much a standard dinner roll—it’s the shape that sets it apart. And that shape relies on forming the dough into balls using the friction created between the moisture in the dough and the work surface. Once in individual balls, the best way to shape the dough is to lightly flatten it with your palms and then roll it into an oval shape with a small French-style rolling pin or short dowel. When doing this, it’s important to keep the edges thicker than the center so that they’ll adhere to each other when the dough is folded and not puff open during baking. Be sure to do this—if you lose that all-important shape, you lose the Parker House name.
Shaping Parker House Rolls
1. Gently stretch the dough into two even logs. Using a dough scraper (or knife), divide the dough into evenly sized pieces.
2. Drag the dough in small circles over a clean counter using a cupped hand, until the dough feels firm and round. It should feel like the dough is spinning underneath you but not turning over.
3. Use the palm of your hand to flatten each roll into a ½-inch-thick circle.
4. With a floured rolling pin, gently flatten out the center of each dough circle, leaving the edges thick. This should push the dough into an oval shape with a depressed middle.
5. Lightly brush the dough with melted butter, then fold in half and gently press the dough together at the edges to seal.
Want to try for yourself? Check out our Parker House Rolls recipe free through November 22nd.