Bread, beautiful bread

August 14, 2006


Who doesn’t love homemade bread? That smell. That taste. That hot steam rising out from the place where your teeth just ripped into it. That blob of butter slowly dripping off of the roll as it melts. Picture it. It’s kind of like porn, no? Bread porn.

I’m privileged to say that my husband actually makes homemade bread. And the recipe he’s included here for his version of Parker House Rolls (pictured above) is my favorite of his doughy undertakings. Since he started making them, Tessie and I clamored for these rolls at least once a week. We didn’t quite get to banging our fork-clenched fists on the table — but it was close. (Now that Tessie is gone, I have to carry on by myself.)

Even if you’re a homemade bread virigin (First a porn reference now this? What is it about bread?) I think you can tangle with this recipe.

As I may have hinted before, prior to meeting my wife, I was not an adventurous eater. And I was more dangerous in the kitchen than useful. But over the 12 years we’ve known each other, things have shifted. Now cooking and eating are a a borderline obsession. (I say “borderline” only because I don’t feel the need to pay someone $200 an hour to work out the reasons why that is.)

The Food Network was one of my earliest and most interesting resources. It’s still my default channel. When I’m not picking up pieces of pop culture from Lost or House, or watching our beloved Blue Devils play, odds are decent that my boob tube will be tuned to the Food Network.

While I don’t learn nearly as much as I used to from the various talking heads, there are times when I see something I can embrace and steal for my own repertoire. This recipe for Parker House rolls is directly from a Bobby Flay program; he, in turn, adopted it from the Parker House Hotel, a Boston hotel and landmark. So this recipe is now two generations from its source.

I’ve made a few alterations, but a good portion of it is still there. In the recipe below, I’ve noted which aspects are from Flay, and which are my own. The big differences are the way I prepare the rolls and the finish I put on them. So if you want to see Flay’s Way, rather than the Husband’s How, it’s there for you.

Finally, a warning: This recipe’s yield is large. If I made the entire recipe for one sitting, I could easily make enough rolls for a group of 10 and likely have leftovers. So, I double-purpose it. On the first day, I usually bake enough dough for the Parker House rolls I need. I then place the extra dough in the refrigerator overnight.

On the second day, I’ll take the dough out of the fridge to warm up an hour or two before dinner. Then I use it to make (fake) naan. Naan is an Indian flat bread that is an essential experience at any Indian restaurant. To make it, I put a pizza stone in the oven and crank the temperature up to broil. I make the naan itself by rolling the dough flat, brushing on some butter, sprinkling a liberal amount of minced garlic, and lightly dusting it with salt. Handling it like a pizza, I put it on the stone for about 10 minutes. Don’t confuse this with the real naan. It has a bit more chewy texture, but served with my curry or another Indian-inspired dish, it makes a happy stand-in for naan. I’ll post more about this and my curry soon.


Parker House Rolls(copied from Flay’s recipe)

Printable recipe page

6 cups all-purpose flour (about)

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 packages active dry yeast

1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks), softened

1 large egg

Husband’s Extra Ingredients:

4 tbsp. melted butter


In a large bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast; add 1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick). With mixer at low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot tap water (120 degrees F to 130 degrees F.) into dry ingredients. Add egg; increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Beat in 3/4 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2 1/2 cups) to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into a ball and place in greased large bowl, turning over so that top of dough is greased. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place (80 to 85 degrees F.) until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough is doubled when 2 fingers pressed into dough leave a dent.)

213158605_e4f9b90d9f_m.jpgHusband’s Note: I cut a good deal of labor out of this recipe. As big and strong as I am, the Lord gave us great convenience tools and I use them. I use my stand mixer (a wedding gift that my wife didn’t want when we registered, but I battled hard and she agreed. Just don’t ask about the pepper mill… ). I start with the paddle attachment until I begin to add the second run of flour. Before I start adding more flour, I switch to the dough hook, turn the mixer on low and begin to slowly integrate the flour about a half cup at a time, letting it really take in the flour before the next half cup. Once it has a soft but still sticky texture, I stop adding flour. Next, I turn the mixer onto medium and let it kneed for about 5 to 6 minutes. I turn it then into a larger oiled boil and let sit for a couple hours.

My additional changes:

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Once the dough has rested for that hour and a half, I punch it down. Punching down is exactly what it sounds like. The dough has gotten fatter, and looks all nice and round. You push your fist into the middle and it gives way, closer to its original size. I then knead it for about 1 minute.

213159208_e1b30362af_m2.jpg2. After that, I pinch off fist-size pieces of the dough. Next, I use my grade-school-level art-class skills and begin to roll a rough ball in my hands. I place this on the cookie sheet to sit. I let them sit there for about 20 minutes to half an hour to rise again. This is called “bench proofing.” This allows the dough to regain some volume while keeping its shape, and it improves the texture of the roll.

Note: I use Silpats, those fancy silicone mats made for baking. They keep cookies and other baked goods — like this bread — from sticking to sheet pans. They’re fantastic. If you who don’t have them, grease the sheet first to help prevent sticking.

3. Use the melted butter from the Husband’s Extra Ingredients and brush it on the top of each roll, then lightly salt the rolls.

4. Place on the center rack of your oven for 16-20 minutes. You may want to rotate your pan midway through to ensure rolls are evenly cooking. You are looking for a light browning on the surface as a sign of doneness.

5. Let cool for 10 minutes and serve.

As for leftovers, these rolls will keep well in a zip-top bag and make for a nice breakfast with jam in the AM. Enjoy!


One comment

  1. Looks delicious! I love, love, love bread.

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