Cuisine Fiend

parker house rolls

Tue, 24 March, 2015


Parker House rolls

A few years ago I was travelling along the East Coast of America and found myself in Boston on the 4th of July. Tremendously excited, I was looking forward to seeing the celebrations and above all the firework display. Indeed it was sumptuous* although the city has a staggering number of extremely tall trees lining the coast which, lovely as they are, quite obscure the view. So unless you own a boat or set up camp on Harvard or Longfellow Bridge in the small hours of the morning, you’re not likely to gain a vantage point.

Never mind: what great luck to be in the Cradle of Liberty on Independence Day! That is, if you’d booked a hotel.

I hadn’t.

Thoroughly stupid, I know.

So the best part of the day was spent on driving around the city centre’s annoyingly one-way system in tremendous traffic, popping into all the hotels only to get the ‘fully booked’ answer before the question was even asked, until finally, miraculously, we found a room at the Parker House Hotel. Needless to say, in exchange for a small fortune. A cramped but opulent room – and Parker House rolls for breakfast.

They get their name from the very hotel, where they were created in the 19th century. They look a bit like Pacman and infuriatingly open up whilst being baked. Very, very nice though – all that butter doesn’t go in there for nothing. Crusty-crispy, soft inside and both keep and freeze rather well. The recipe is adapted from the ‘Bread Machine Kitchen Handbook’ by Jennie Shapter.

*although to give the Canadians their due, a few days before I saw the Montreal firework display on Canada Day and that was an amazing experience. Possibly better than Boston’s. Or they just have fewer trees.

parker house rolls


  • 450g strong white flour
  • 2tsp caster sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 10g fresh or 1tsp fast action yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 180ml warm milk
  • 50g butter, melted, for brushing


1. Mix all the ingredients except the extra 50g of butter in a large bowl or a standing mixer. Knead by hand or in the mixer with a dough hook attachment for about 15 minutes, adding a little warm water if the dough is too firm, until it’s smooth and silky. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for at least 1 ½ hour.

2. Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with flour and roll out to about 1cm thickness.  Cut out discs with a 7.5 – 8cm pastry cutter. Using a small rolling pin or a handle of a wooden spoon (I used a mallet handle) roll out a valley across the centre of each disc.

Cutting Parker House rolls

3. Brush the middle with the extra melted butter and fold in half, making sure the top overlaps the bottom. Press the edge to seal. Place the rolls on baking sheets lined with parchment and brush with more butter. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes to 1 hour until well risen.

Baking Parker House rolls

4. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Bake the rolls for 15 minutes until golden – some will invariably open up a little. Brush with the rest of the butter whilst still hot and place on a wire rack to cool.

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