Can you believe we're just over a week from one of my absolute favorite holidays ever ever ever? Thanksgiving is just a few days away, and I'm not exactly sure where the time has gone. It seems like I barely just graduated from college and moved back home, even though that happened nearly SIX months ago! No idea how that happened so quickly, but it did, and here we are again, on the verge of Thanksgiving and winter and Christmas and New Years. This time-moving-at-warp-speed thing always seems to get the best of me, no matter how much mental preparation I attempt to exercise or how many really organized lists I try to create for myself of things that need to get done for this time of year. I have thought of exactly ZERO holiday gifts, zero gift packaging ideas, my Christmas decorating scheme is still nonexistent, my holiday baking schedule is, at best, a loose jumble of ideas, and I'm not sure when I will actually ever be able to get anything done on time. Because, you see, I spent an abnormal amount of time this past weekend baking pies. I must have completely lost track of time over the past three days, because before I knew it, time had managed to get the best of me, and it was three in the afternoon and the point in time where it was just a tad bit too dark to take nice photos of my beautiful pies, so photos and baking had to resume the following day. At least it's a good thing that pies work best when the dough has been properly chilled, so I had that going in my favor (but more on that particular topic soon!).
Aside from my weekend pie extravaganza, I also managed to prepare an equally important component of Thanksgiving, or any meal really: the rolls. What kind of Thanksgiving dinner is missing a batch of really delicious and rich, buttery dinner rolls? No Thanksgiving dinner that I would want to be a part of, that's for sure. Fluffy Parker House style rolls are the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving feast. They're great for soaking up bits of gravy, slathering with a bit of salted butter, or for sneaking as soon as they come out of the oven. Have you ever had a buttery roll straight from the oven? It's like a warm pillow of soft delicious buttery goodness, and if you haven't had the chance to experience this, then you, my friends, are seriously missing out. I decided to photograph these particular rolls as soon as I took them out of the oven, in an attempt to be finished with the photography sooner so that I could eat my roll while it was still warm.
However, things didn't happen that way. I had to stop about a third of the way in to the Parker House roll photoshoot, and just sit and eat a roll for myself. By now you know that I almost always will include a photograph of the post's baked good, whatever it may be, after taking a bite (or two) out of it, and it's usually a step that I leave to the very end of the shoot, just to make sure that I have a photo of every angle of the whole food while it's still intact, but this time, I just couldn't help myself. I set my camera down on my coffee table in the living room, which is where all of my photography takes place, sat on my sofa, and picked up a roll. I smeared a little butter on it, and took a bite, and I knew that this brief interruption was completely worth it. The rolls were perfectly soft and delicate, and full of rich flavor. These NEED to be on your Thanksgiving table, and fortunately, they're actually not that hard to make!
Like any yeast bread, they do take a bit of prep and planning ahead, but this isn't really an issue, given how simple the active process is. I was actually surprised to see how simple the recipe for these rolls was, but I'm not one to complain about simplicity, so I went about making them. The part that took the most amount of time was portioning out the dough for each roll, which is honestly not difficult, just a bit tedious and annoying if you have OCD-like tendencies the way I do. Having a kitchen scale for this process is both helpful and frustrating. It's great because I know exactly what each roll should weigh; it's awful because then I feel an overwhelming compulsion to ensure that each roll weighs exactly that amount, and not one gram more, or one gram less. After a little while though, the rolls get portioned out, and then it's time for the best part about these rolls. THE BUTTER. This deserves all caps because it's the butter that really makes these rolls truly special.
Parker House Rolls are typically made by rolling out the portions of dough and then brushing them with melted butter, and folding them over. It can be a messy process, and the recipe I used for these rolls avoids creating that mess by folding a small square of butter into each roll. So while the mess factor is taken care of in this way, I wasn't really that keen on keeping the traditional look of the Parker House roll. I wanted to make cute little round rolls, so I decided to disregard tradition, and shape them differently. I placed a small cube of butter in the flattened out roll, and folded it onto itself to conceal the butter cube and then shape the dough into a ball. By shaping the balls this way, I had little round rolls with hidden cubes of butter that melted into the rolls as they baked, creating perfectly soft, moist, rolls. Brushing them with a bit of melted butter gave them a beautifully golden brown exterior, and added even more flavor. These rolls were the rolls of my dreams, and I suspect most of you will feel this way after trying them out. Make sure to include these (at least a double batch) on your Thanksgiving menu this year, and enjoy at least one while it's warm from the oven. Enjoy!
Parker House Rolls
recipe from Alton Brown
8 oz warm milk (100 degrees F)
2 1/4 ounces granulated sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
15 ounces all purpose flour
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 ounce unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 16 small bits
Spray a 10x10 inch baking pan with nonstick spray, and set aside.
Add the milk, sugar, yeast, flour, egg yolks, and salt to the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and combine on low speed for 1 minute. Change the mixer attachment to the dough hook, and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
Add 2 ounces of the room temperature butter, reserving the remaining ounce for later. Mix the dough on low speed, then switch to medium speed, mixing until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, approximately 8 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, and shape the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Once the dough has doubled in bulk, using a knife, divide the dough into 16 even pieces (a kitchen scale comes in handy here!), and roll them into balls.
Gently pat each ball of dough into a small flat round. Place one bit of chilled butter into the center of each round of dough, and then fold the edges of the dough back into the center, covering the butter, and roll back into a ball. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Arrange the balls of dough in the prepared pan, in four rows of four. Using the long end of a wooden spoon, or a wooden dowel, mark an indentation going down the tops of all the rolls. Melt the remaining ounce of butter, and brush it over the tops of the rolls. Place the rolls in a warm spot, and allow them rise for another 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and bake the rolls for about 10-12 minutes, until they turn a nice golden brown color. Allow the rolls to cool slightly before handling, but be sure to eat some while they're still warm from the oven!
Makes 16 rolls