Thanksgiving Basics: Parker House Rolls

Look, I get it, there's a lot to do for Thanksgiving, do the rolls really have to be homemade? If you've got a great bakery near by taking Thanksgiving pre-orders or if you just really really love the squishiest grocery store rolls you can possibly find then, hey, go for it, but if you find digging your hands in to dough and the yeasty smell of fresh baked bread soothing, maybe throw these into your Thanksgiving production mix. I'll honestly be making mine a few days in advance and freezing them until the big day.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons Warm Water (105-115 degrees if you want to bust out the thermometer OR just warm to touch)
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (this is the same as one grocery store packet)
  • 2 tablespoons Honey
  • 3 ounces Unsalted Butter 
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 3/4 cup AP Flour plus extra for kneading
  • Additional 1 oz butter for finishing
  • optional: bacon fat for greasing the pan

  1. First things first, we want to get our yeast happy and active. Combine the warm water, dry yeast and sugar in a small bowl and mix until the yeast is dissolved. Let it hang out for about 5 minutes. At the end of five minutes it should be at least as foamy as the picture above. More foamy is fine but no foam means you've probably done something to kill your yeast. If you don't have foam, throw away and try again with slightly cooler water.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt 3 ounces of butter. Add honey and milk in with the butter and heat just until lukewarm. Pour the milk/honey/butter mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture, bread flour and salt. Mix this together with a wooden spoon (or in my case a silicone spoon) until well combined. It shouldn't really look like dough yet. Mix in 3/4 cup of All Purpose flour. I started this with the spoon but mostly ended up lightly kneading it in until it looked like a sticky ball.
  3. Turn your messy, sticky ball out on to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Or, if you're fancy, until it passes the windowpane test). Form your dough into a ball and put it in a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. This will probably take about an hour but if you're kitchen is super warm because of all the other Thanksgiving things you're whipping up or your milk got a little warmer than lukewarm when you were heating it, it could be less time.
  4. Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan with either butter or bacon fat (I did bacon fat, obvs). Turn your dough out onto a counter (not floured) and divide into twenty equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball* and place into pan in four rows of five. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. Uncover and use a chopstick to create a crease down the center of each row. Loosely cover and let rise again for 15 minutes.
  5. While rolls are doing their final rise, preheat the oven to 375. Melt 1 oz of butter. When the rolls are done rising, brush with butter and put in the oven. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the rolls in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a rack. I always want to eat them immediately at this point but the flavor and texture really will be better if you wait 15 minutes.
  6. Store in an airtight container up to 24 hours and warm in oven to serve. This is the kind of roll that really isn't that great more than one day old so if you want to make the rolls more than 24 hours in advance I recommend freezing them.

*Here is a not very good video of me making my dough into balls. Next time I try to make a video of something, I'll do it when my husband is home and make him hold the phone. He might have the sense to hold it horizontally.