A Parker House roll is a bread roll made by flattening the center of a ball of dough with a rolling pin so that it becomes an oval shape, and then folding the oval in half. They are made with milk and are generally quite buttery, soft, and slightly sweet with a crispy shell.
They were invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston, during the 1870s. The story of their creation has several variations, but they all involve an angry pastry cook throwing unfinished rolls into the oven, which results in their dented appearance. The recipe for Parker House rolls first started appearing in cookbooks in the 1880s. Fannie Farmer gives a recipe for them in her 1896 The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.
Type Bread roll
Place of origin United States
Created by Parker House Hotel
Main ingredients Flour, milk, butter or margarine, eggs, sugar
- 3 cups (360g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons (39g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons (8g) salt
- 1/4 cup (50g) potato flour or 3/4 cup (50g) dried potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes)
- 3 tablespoons (43g) butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup (227g) milk
- 1 large egg
- 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons (50g to 57g) butter, melted; for brushing on rolls
Parker House roll Instructions
- Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess. In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients (except the 3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons (50 to 57g) melted butter at the end), mixing to form a shaggy dough. Note: to speed the rising process, whisk together the milk and egg, and heat gently just enough to remove the refrigerator chill; then add to the remaining ingredients.
- Knead the dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (7 to 8 minutes) until it’s smooth.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or 8-cup measure (so you can track its rising progress). Allow it to rise for 90 minutes; it’ll become quite puffy, though it probably won’t double in bulk. Note that the dough takes quite awhile to get going; after 1 hour, it may seem like it’s barely expanded at all. But during the last half hour, it rises more quickly.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it in half. Working with one half at a time, roll or pat the dough into an 8″ x 12″ rectangle.
- Brush the dough all over with a light coating of the melted butter. You’ll have butter left over; you’ll need it for the other half of the dough, as well as for brushing on top of the baked rolls.
- Cut the dough in half lengthwise, to make two 4″ x 12″ rectangles. Working with one rectangle at a time, fold it lengthwise to about 1/2″ of the other edge, so the bottom edge sticks out about 1/2″ beyond the top edge. You’ll now have a rectangle that’s about 2 1/4″ x 12″. Repeat with the other piece of dough.
- Cut each of the rectangles crosswise into four 3″ pieces, making a total of 8 folded rolls, each about 2 1/4″ x 3″. Flip the rolls over (so that their smooth non-folded side is facing up), and place them in a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, making 16 rolls in all. You’ll arrange 4 rows of 4 in the pan, with the longer side of the rolls going down the longer side of the pan. Gently flatten the rolls to pretty much cover the bottom of the pan.
- Cover the pan, and let the rolls rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until they’re puffy but definitely not doubled. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re golden brown and feel set.
- Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. Pull them apart to serve.
Tips from our Bakers
Due to the natural tendency of yeast dough to both stretch and shrink as you work with it, don’t stress when you don’t end up with rolls that are all the same size. Just arrange them however they best fit to cover most of the bottom of the pan — a shorter one next to a longer one, etc. By the time they’ve risen, baked, and been slathered with butter, no one will care about perfection, size-wise. And anyway, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
The “original” Parker House roll recipe calls for the dough to be cut in circles, dipped in butter, and folded over. However, having tried this rather messy process in the past, and ending up with rolls that popped open in the oven, rather than hold their shape (and their buttery pocket), we opted for a slightly different method. The result? Softly rounded rectangular rolls, looking very much like the rolls served these days at the Omni Parker House hotel — still a Boston landmark after all these years.
Why is the Parker House Roll famous?
The soft, buttery Parker House Rolls, dubbed “America’s first soft dinner roll,” was a top secret recipe until 1933 when U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt requested they be served at a White House Dinner.
Where do Parker House rolls come from?
Where Did Parker House Rolls Come From? Parker House rolls originated at the Parker House hotel (now the Omni Parker House) in Boston in the 1800s. We spoke with the Omni Parker House house historian Susan Wilson who gave us the full history of these iconic rolls.
What does house roll mean?
Parker House roll in American English
noun. a soft dinner roll made by folding a flat disk of dough in half.