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What is a Parker House Roll?

Many cookbooks include recipes for Parker House rolls.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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The Parker House roll is a delicious, fluffy yeast-raised bun developed by the Parker House Hotel and Restaurant in the 19th Century. Now known as the Omni Parker House, and still located in Boston, Massachusetts, the restaurant is considered one of the most luxurious dining establishments in the US, and it has invented more than one well-known recipe. The Parker House also invented the Boston Cream Pie, which has delighted dessert lovers for decades.

A standard Parker House roll is made from a disk of yeast dough, which is then folded in half to create a slight separation. The rolls can be oval or semi-round in shape. When they’re round, they look slightly like a 3-D Pac Man, from the famous video game, since they have a small opening in their mid-section that somewhat resembles a mouth. Oval shaped rolls are also popular, and though not standard you may find sesame or poppy seeds on the rolls today. Once the rolls are shaped, they are allowed to rise again before baking, so the end result is a puffy, soft roll that is easy to open and butter because of its center fold.

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Typical ingredients in the Parker House roll are rich. White flour is preferred, though you can substitute some whole grains or wheat for a heartier and healthier alternative. The rolls also have a butter base, and when they are shaped, both sides of the circle may be basted with melted butter to help the sides adhere. The typical directions for shaping the rolls include rolling the dough out to about a .5-inch (1.27 cm) thickness, cutting it into rounds (size of the rounds varies), and then performing the foldover with each round.

A cheat to this recipe is to form the rolls by hand instead of cutting them out. These may result in less uniform sized Parker House rolls, but they are still rich and delicious to their many fans. Some people simply form an oval shaped roll by hand and add a dent to it to create the Parker House roll look.

A Parker House roll has a melt in the mouth quality, due to its high butter content, and recipes for them can be found in numerous cookbooks, and on various Internet sites. As a food source, they’re fattening, made with white flour, and aren’t particularly nutritionally beneficial. Nevertheless, they’re enjoyable as an occasional treat, or you can convert the recipe to make more healthful rolls that have the shape but not the calorie content of more traditional recipes.

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Discuss this Article

LisaLou
Post 4

One thing I remember from going to church camp as a kid was the homemade bread rolls we had. The cook we had every year was known for her homemade rolls, and we had these at every meal.

Even was a kid I remember how good these tasted. They weren't Parker House rolls, but they were good yeast rolls that were made from scratch every day.

I love to put butter and honey on my yeast rolls. They are also a special treat when I have fresh, homemade strawberry jam to put on them. That tastes just as good as eating a sweet dessert.

John57
Post 3

A few years ago when bread machines were really popular I bought one for my kitchen. I love the smell of fresh baked bread, and used my bread machine quite a bit because it was so easy.

Even with using the bread machine though, they don't taste as good as bread baked in an oven. I have a dinner roll recipe that is a family favorite that has been handed down that can't be beat.

When I want a true authentic yeast roll, I always rely on this recipe. I also have a good Parker House roll recipe that is just as good. Sometimes they turn out better than others, but I know I did it right when they just melt in your mouth.

honeybees
Post 2

A good homemade yeast roll is one of my weaknesses. I can usually pass on bread at a meal, but if I know they are yeast rolls made from scratch, I never pass one up.

It seems like many people don't take the time to make yeast rolls like they used to. Some of the frozen varieties are not too bad in a pinch, but they still don't taste as good as the real thing.

My mom taught me how to make homemade rolls and this is something that has served me well. You can take the same dough and make great cinnamon rolls with them too. My family requests these even more often than the dinner rolls.

julies
Post 1

Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie are two of my comfort foods. I didn't realize they were invented by the same company.

Our holiday meals would not be complete without fresh, warm Parker House rolls from the oven. One year I tried substituting some frozen dinner rolls, and it just wasn't the same.

Even though it takes time and effort to make these rolls, it is well worth it. Since I only make them a couple times a year, I don't feel too bad about eating more than one at a meal. They never last long, so I have to take advantage of them while they are there.

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