Parker House rolls are an easy yeast roll recipe for people new to baking dinner rolls. With an egg for texture and only one rise, you can whip these up for a special occasion or weekend dinner.
Is there anything better than a buttery homemade yeast roll? I think I would choose one over the most decadent dessert. I have a friend who was telling me how she had never made yeast rolls so I made this recipe knowing I would have some to share with her.
Yeast doughs, especially with rolls, are very forgiving. I think you’ll find this dinner roll recipe easy to follow and fool proof. As long as you don’t kill the yeast with hot water, you’ll have a soft and delicious yeast roll to accompany any dinner menu.
Why are they called Parker House Rolls
Parker House rolls originated at the Parker House hotel in Boston and were called “America’s first soft dinner roll when President Franklin Roosevelt asked that they be served at the White House. A parker house roll is known for its buttery soft interior and buttery crisp exterior. You will see them shaped several ways. Some fold the dough over making a half moon shape, but I’ve found that rolling them gives them a uniform shape and fluffy interior.
You can also make these in advance, just refrigerate the dough once it has been shaped and let it warm up while the oven pre-heats. One less thing to worry about when you’re having friends over or making a holiday meal. Since it makes 18 rolls, you can feed a crowd or freeze half for another meal.
Why you’ll love Parker House rolls
- You only have to let the dough rise once
- It’s hard to resist a homemade yeast roll
- You can make them in advance
- It makes a large batch so you can freeze some for later
- You can soak up your favorite gravy or creamy pork marsala sauce with the rolls
Tips for working with yeast rolls
If you are new to yeast doughs, I have two handy tricks to make sure they turn out.
- Trick #1: Proof the yeast. To do this, add warm water to a small bowl. Add your yeast and a teaspoon of sugar and let it sit for ten minutes. If it doesn’t get foamy, throw it out and try again.
- Trick #2: Let the dough rise in the microwave. This way you don’t have to find a warm non-drafty place or worry about the dog eating your dough while it sits in front of the fireplace. Just put a small glass bowl filled with water in the microwave and cook it for about 4 minutes or so until it’s boiling. Leave it in the microwave. Add your bowl of dough, covered with plastic wrap, to the microwave and keep the door closed. The heat and steam from the boiled water will keep the microwave warm and steamy and you’ll have a beautiful dough.
What you’ll need
- Active dry yeast – active or instant, instant will speed up the rise time but some say active provides more depth of flavor.
- Butter – in the dough itself and more to brush on top of the rolls when they’re done baking
- Whole milk – whole milk will give them a richer taste, make sure it’s a room temperature so that it doesn’t slow down the yeast.
- Flour – all purpose flour works great for these rolls
- Flaky sea salt – this will be the finishing touch to your rolls
- Salt, eggs, sugar, warm water
Step by step directions for Parker house rolls
Step 1: Mix the yeast with warm water and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Let stand until foamy, then add sugar, butter, milk and eggs. Next add the flour and mix with a dough hook. Brush a large bowl with some of the melted butter. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm spot until doubled in size.
Step 2: Shape the dough into a 9-by-16 inch rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 12 small strips. Working with 1 piece at a time, fold it unevenly so the top half slightly overlaps the bottom half. Tuck it under and place the rolls seam side down on a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, forming 2 rows of 9 rolls on each baking sheet. Each roll should just touch its neighbors.
Step 3: Bake the rolls for about 18 minutes, until browned; rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Immediately brush the rolls with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt.
Pro Tip: If you don’t want to bake all the dough, freeze the remaining dough in the shape you want. When ready to serve, put the frozen rolls right in the oven. You can also refrigerate these after forming and let come to room temperature before putting them in the oven.
Be prepared for soft rolls with enough texture to hold butter, honey or your favorite topping.
FAQ’s and tips
The water should be around 100º, warm but not hot.
The yeast should be foamy and bubbly, if you’re not sure add a pinch of sugar to the mixture if nothing happens, it’s dead.
The rolls can be served both warm and at room temperature. You can serve them with a pat of butter or other great options are honey butter and apple butter slathered on top.
The name comes from where they were served in the Boston Parker House Hotel in 1870. Legend says that a disgruntled hotel baker threw the unfinished rolls into the oven after an altercation with a hotel guest.
You can store your rolls in a ziploc bag for up to two days. If you choose to freeze them, they will last up to three months.
The best way to re-heat dinner rolls is to place them in a slow cooker. It will warm them up without drying them out. You can also use it to keep dinner rolls warm until you are ready to eat. No more cold rolls.
More great bread options to enjoy with a meal
Parker House Rolls
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup butter melted and cooled, divided
- 2 cups whole milk room temp
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 7 ½ cups flour
- flaky sea salt
- Add yeast and warm water plus 1 teaspoon of sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it stand until it gets foamy, about 10 minutes.
- With the dough hook attached, add sugar, ¾ cup melted butter (save the rest for later), milk, eggs and salt and mix to combine.
- While on low speed add the flour and mix until the dough forms a loose ball around the hook, about 3 minutes.
- Grease a large bowl with a little of the butter and place the dough in the bowl. Cover and let rise until double, about 11/2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 375º and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a 9-by-16 inch rectangle. Cut the dough lengthwise into 3 long strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 12 small strips.
- Working with 1 piece at a time, fold it unevenly so the top half slightly overlaps the bottom half. Tuck it under and place the rolls seam side down on a baking sheet. (It should look like a snail) Repeat with the remaining dough, forming 2 rows of 9 rolls on each baking sheet. Each roll should just touch its neighbors. but leave about 4 inches between the rows.
- Bake the rolls for about 18 minutes, until browned; rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking. Immediately brush the rolls with the remaining melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer the rolls to a rack and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can refrigerate the dough overnight after it has been formed into rolls. Let it warm up on the counter while the oven pre-heats.
- Fully formed unbaked rolls can be frozen for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen.
- Try boiling water in the microwave and then placing the dough in the warm steamy microwave to rise.
- If the dough is too sticky to deal with, add a little more flour.