I was challenged over this past weekend to see if it was possible for a non-baker (me!) to make these Parker House Rolls featured in the November issue of Bon Appetit.  Admittedly, both the challenger and the challengee were drinking tequila on a girl’s night out at the time the dare was made.  Thus, acceptance was swift and full of confidence. Doubt did not set in until Sunday morning as I perused the recipe. . .  .but more about that in a bit.   I will cut to the chase. I wholeheartedly believe that a non-baker can make these rolls reasonably well.  Even though I made a misstep or two and they didn’t come out nearly as pretty as the ones featured in the magazine, they are very good even when made by a baking idiot.  Just do a practice round before you serve them to guests.

So this thing called doubt.  You must understand that a baker I am not.  I don’t even own a rolling pin (I used a wine bottle).  I think this may have been the second time in my life that I bought shortening.  Floured surfaces are foreign to me.  I don’t enjoy a dusting of white all over me.  Nor am I good at precisely and painstakingly measuring out each ingredient of a recipe.  That is not me.  I enjoy playing around with recipes, switching up ingredients, adding new little inventions, tasting as I go as I sip my wine.  I have nothing against bakers.  To the contrary, I have the utmost respect for them.  But now you understand why I am always asking guests to bring dessert.

Now back to these rolls.  This recipe is not a difficult one, although I had to read it many times and would have preferred that Bon Appetit have used numbered instructions for baking novices (read idiots) like me – a bake by numbers, so to speak.  You will see I have done this for you (and me!) below.  There are 23 steps!

The key to the deliciousness of these rolls is really butter.   These are the anti-diet roll.  Just get over it.  Note the number of times “brush with melted butter” appears in the recipe.  I used my favorite Kerry Gold Irish butter and dusted it with sea salt as suggested.  And indeed, this is the icing on the Parker House rolls.  Don’t skimp on the butter brushing or the sea salt.

Now about my success rate.  I put it at a 7 out of 10.  I could put blame on the lack of numbers in this recipe or the fact that I had a nagging little toddler at my feet.  But it probably has more to do with my sheer inability to focus and read directions that I only made 1/3 as many rolls as was called for in this recipe.  So repeat after me:   You are making 36 small rolls, not 12 monster size butter brushed delicacies.  Duh!  Just look at the picture from the Bon Appetit!

While the end result was not as pretty, they still tasted good.  I learned from my mistake.  Round one was all about understanding.  Round two will be about appearances.  I’m asking for a rolling pin and other baking utensils for Christmas, I’m clearing the house of children to make these again using my bake by numbers instructions, and I’m inviting over more than my husband and five year old to eat them.  TBC probably in 2013….

Parker House Rolls
Recipe type: side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-16
A novice baker tries out the Parker House Rolls from the November issue of Bon Appetit.
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • ¼ cup warm water (110 - 115 degrees)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 egg (at room temperature)
  • 3½ cups all purpose flour
  1. Whisk 1 envelope active dry yeast and ¼ cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat whole milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just warm.
  3. Combine vegetable shortening, sugar and kosher salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add warm milk; whisk to blend, breaking up shortening into small clumps (it may not melt completely).
  5. Whisk in yeast mixture and 1 room-temperature large egg.
  6. Add all-purpose flour; stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Knead dough with lightly floured hands on a lightly floured surface until smooth, 4-5 minutes.
  7. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap.
  8. Let stand at room temperature until doubled, about 1½ hours.
  9. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt ¼ cup unsalted butter in a small sauce-pan (or just pop in microwave).
  10. Lightly brush a 13x9-inch baking dish with some melted butter.
  11. Punch down dough; divide into 4 equal pieces.
  12. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 12x6-inch rectangle.
  13. Cut rectangle lengthwise into three 2-inch-wide strips.
  14. Cut each 2-inch crosswise into three 4x2-inch rectangles.
  15. Brush half of each (about 2x2-inch) with melted butter.
  16. Fold unbuttered side over, allowing ¼-inch overhang.
  17. Place flat in 1 corner of dish, folded edge against short side of dish.
  18. Add remaining rolls, shingling to form 1 long row.
  19. Repeat with remaining dough for 4 rows.
  20. Brush with melted butter, loosely cover with plastic, and chill for 30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
  21. Bake rolls until golden and puffed, 25-35 minutes.
  22. Brush with butter.
  23. Sprinkle flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) over. Serve warm.

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