Claire Saffritz’ new cookbook may be called “Dessert Person” but the first thing Andrew baked were these melt-in-your-mouth dinner rolls.
The classic Parker House rolls inspired this recipe. In all honesty, they’re even better—more pillow-like and tender than the originals. Then there’s a subtle onion flavor from the addition of chives and the tang of sour cream that are an excellent addition to the batter. The batter itself owes a lot to a white roux made from flour and milk and cooked to a stiff paste. Japanese in origin this “tangzhong” is used to make Japanese Milk Bread. The starches in the “tangzhong” help the dough to retain moisture keeping the rolls soft and light. The recipe’s author’s contributions to Chewing The Fat are among our most-read posts. Claire opines about this invention: “If food could give you a hug, these rolls definitely would.
A Funny thing happened on the way to Andrew making these rolls.
Despite all the baking Andrew does, he made an extraordinary discovery. On the way to our laundry room where he planned to proof the dough, we discovered the Proof Button on the oven he’s been baking in for 15 years. This device is a huge help in helping dough rise. Dough proofs best at 100 degrees. That is the exact temperature that the Proof feature heats the oven to. Most ovens do not operate any lower than 170 degrees. This means instead of proofing the dough, they actually cook it.
A little bit of Parker House Roll history.
The Parker House, now the Omni Parker House, is the oldest continuously operating hotel in the United States. It was opened by Harvey Parker in 1855. Parker was a restauranteur who wanted to expand his business to overnight trade. Originally a 5-story building, it was expanded to its current 14-story height in 1927 without ever closing its doors. The hotel accommodated a who’s who of 19th and 20th-century luminaries. The English novelist Charles Dickens performed his first reading of “A Christmas Carol” to the illustrious Saturday Club who met at the hotel once a month. The hotel was noted not just for its namesake rolls. Boston Cream Pie was invented here. Lemon Meringue pie made its first appearance here. But their namesake recipe, the Parker House Roll cannot be dated. It was on the menu by the mid-1870s. The recipe is attributed to an in-house German baker named Ward. By 1896 a recipe for the rolls appeared in Fanny Farmer’s “The Boston Cooking School Cookbook” and their fame was sealed.
Here’s today’s recipe and after it some other posts you may enjoy.
Claire Saffritz' Pull-Apart Sour Cream and Chive Rolls
The subtle chive onion flavor and the tang of sour cream give these pillow-soft rolls an extra dimension in flavor.
- ½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. whole milk
- 5⅓ cups (667 g) bread flour, divided, plus more
- 1½ tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- 4 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 2¼ tsp. Morton kosher salt
- 3 large eggs
- 8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided, room temperature
- ½ cup finely chopped chives
- Flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Step 1 Whisk ½ cup milk, ⅓ cup flour (42 g), and ½ cup water in a small saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until very stiff paste forms (it should resemble mashed potatoes), about 2 minutes. Remove from heat
- Step 2 Scrape tangzhong into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.
- Step 3 Gently warm remaining 2 Tbsp. milk in the same saucepan over low heat until lukewarm. Remove from heat, add yeast, and whisk until dissolved. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Step 4 Add sour cream, sugar, kosher salt, 2 eggs, 4 Tbsp. butter, and remaining 5 cups bread flour (625 g) to tangzhong. Scrape in yeast mixture and mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Increase speed to medium and mix, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally and adding more flour by the tablespoonful if sticky, until dough is smooth and supple, 8–10 minutes.
- Step 5 Scrape dough onto a work surface and form into a smooth ball
- Step 6 Dust lightly with flour. Place inside a clean large bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a silicone lid. Let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.
- Step 7 Meanwhile, coat a 13×9″ pan, preferably metal, with 2 Tbsp. butter (it will be a generous layer, which is what you want). Uncover the dough and punch down lightly to expel some of the gas.
- Step 8 Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and stretch into a square.
- Step 9 Roll out, dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking, to a 12″ square and sprinkle chives evenly over dough.
- Step 10 Starting at one end, loosely roll up dough. Flatten with the heel of your hands into a long rectangle. Roll out the dough again, dusting with more flour as needed, into a 16×6″ rectangle.
- Step 11 Using a wheel cutter or bench scraper, cut dough into twenty-four 2″-squarish pieces (an 8×3 grid).
- Step 12 Working with 1 piece of dough, gather all the corners and pinch together to form a teardrop shape. Place seam side down on work surface. Cup your hand over dough and drag across the surface, moving your hand in a rapid circular motion, to form dough into a tight ball. Do not add flour, as you want friction between the dough and the surface. Place the ball in the prepared pan and repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, spacing to make a 6×4 grid. Cover pan with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until rolls are nearly doubled in size, 45–60 minutes.
- Step 13 Meanwhile, place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°.
- Step 14 Using a fork, whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl until no streaks remain. Uncover the pan and gently brush tops of rolls with egg, then sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Bake rolls until tops are deep golden brown, 25–30 minutes.
- Step 15 Remove pan from oven and immediately brush tops with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Slide a knife or an offset spatula around the sides of the pan to loosen rolls, then slide a metal spatula underneath to loosen the bottom. Slide the entire grid of rolls out and onto a wire rack. Serve warm or let cool.
- Step 16 Do ahead: Rolls can be formed and arranged in pan 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Let rise at room temperature before baking (this can take up to 3 hours). Rolls can be baked 3 days ahead. Let cool. Store airtight at room temperature.