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.
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.