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The Simple Pleasure of Homemade Parker House Rolls
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The Simple Pleasure of Homemade Parker House Rolls

I love breakfast sandwiches. Right now, while I’m seeking comfort, I really love breakfast sandwiches. The simpler the better. Don’t give me toasted sourdough, aged cheese, arugula, or some flavored mayo you’re calling “aioli.” Give me a fried, crisp-edged egg with a slightly soft yolk, American cheese (because it melts the best), some sort of breakfast meat (I prefer a puck of sausage with a hint of maple), and a soft roll that feels like a gluten hug.

As a baking-inclined individual, I want to produce that roll myself. I have, in the past, made enriched baked goods using sourdough. It is possible. It is delicious. It also takes for-fucking-ever. In the spirit of comfort and (somewhat) speedier gratification, I decided I’d make a yeasted roll. I enjoy brioche as a general matter, and it may seem the natural choice for this enterprise, but it felt like too rich a bread for the simple elegance of the breakfast sandwich. I thought about potato rolls too, but they require either roasting potatoes (for which I don’t have the patience), or procuring a bunch of stuff I don’t have on hand (like potato flour and powdered milk). Parker House rolls, on the other hand, are plush, pillowy, and just rich enough to provide a little buttery accent to one’s sandwich. Also, they can be made with things I always have on hand.

My starting point was Alex Guarnaschelli’s very lovely Parker House roll recipe, and then I made a few modifications. The original recipe produces more bread than I want to have to freeze, so here I converted her volumetric measurements into metric weights and the recipe to a formula, which I can now scale up or down.

I swapped out active dry yeast in favor of instant yeast. Switching from the active dry yeast means dispensing with the need to proof the yeast in water and sugar. The sugar could easily be incorporated into the main formula, and the water is an opportunity to use the tangzhong, or water roux, method for this bread. This method involves cooking a portion of the flour and water into a paste, which is then incorporated into the final dough. The starches in the flour are pregelatinized, which allows the dough to effectively have more moisture without behaving like it’s any wetter. You get an even softer roll that keeps longer and yields something that lives in the space between Parker House rolls and Hokkaido milk bread.

I usually bake off twelve of these at a time. I scale them at ninety grams and fit a dozen of them on a well-oiled quarter sheet. This allows the sides to touch as they bake, giving me that soft middle characteristic of a Parker House. 

What follows below are measurements for twelve rolls, but I have also included the formula for these rolls so you can scale. This produces a wonderful, soft tinned loaf for sandwiches, and is also my go-to dough for babka and cinnamon rolls.

This recipe was published in The At Home Issue of Life & Thyme Post, our quarterly newspaper shipping exclusively to L&T members. Get your copy.

Equipment

  • Stand mixer with dough hook
  • Bowl scraper
  • Bench scraper
  • Digital food scale
  • Vegalene or other non-flavored cooking spray
  • 9 ½” by 13” quarter sheet tray
  • Instant-read thermometer

Ingredients

  • 530 g. and 14 g. of bread flour (separated)
  • 60 g. granulated sugar
  • 11 g. sea salt
  • 8 g. instant yeast
  • 272 g. whole milk (room temperature)
  • 1 large or extra large egg (room temperature)
  • 103 g. unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (plus extra for brushing finished rolls)
  • 71 g. water

Formula:

Bread flour: 100%
Granulated sugar: 11.1%
Salt: 2%
Instant yeast: 1.5%
Water: 13.1%
Whole milk: 50%
Whole eggs: 12.67%
Unsalted butter: 19%

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Method

  1. Remove milk and egg from the refrigerator; allow to come to room temperature.
  2. Melt butter over medium-low heat, being careful not to brown. Allow to cool completely.
  3. While butter is melting, combine water and 14 grams of reserved bread flour in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk constantly and gently until a paste is formed. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool. This is your tangzhong, or water roux.
  4. Once the water roux and butter are cool, and the milk and egg are at room temperature, combine them all with the rest of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (all of your mise en place should be in the stand mixer at this point).
  5. Mix on low until all dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Feel free to scrape the bowl a bit if necessary. Once all ingredients are incorporated, increase speed to medium and run mixer for 3 to 5 minutes, until a smooth dough is achieved.
  6. Once done mixing, take the temperature of your dough. The ideal temperature is 75 to 80℉. Any higher and the dough will ferment more quickly; any lower, and it will take longer to bake.
  7. Cover your dough and leave on the counter for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, do a fold. Lift up a corner of the dough and fold it over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat until you’ve done four folds. Cover; wait another 20 minutes and repeat.
  8. After another 20 minutes, your dough should have doubled in volume—or come close to doing so—and become noticeably glossy and smooth. At this point, punch down your dough, cover it, and throw it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour (you are welcome to leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours if need be). Chilling the dough makes it a lot easier to handle and slows things down long enough to keep the dough from running away on you.
  9. While the dough is chilling, put a healthy coating of Vegalene on your quarter sheet pan.
  10. After at least an hour, remove chilled dough from the fridge, punch down, and turn out onto a well-floured work surface.
  11. Weight out 12 90-gram chunks of dough; wind them up into balls using the resistance of your work surface to create tension. Place dough balls onto your sheet tray evenly spaced and cover with a damp cloth. Set the oven to 375℉.
  12. Once dough balls have doubled in size, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating as necessary until rolls are golden brown and reach an internal temperature of at least 190℉. Once out of the oven, brush your rolls with the extra melted butter.
  13. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack. Separate and eat immediately or freeze whole in an airtight bag. Take out the desired quantity the night before breakfast and allow to defrost, covered on your counter. Toast for five minutes at 350, cut in half, and fill with egg, cheese and sausage (bacon is also acceptable).
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