Aug 25, 2010

Recipe of the Week: Miss JoAnn's Parker House Rolls

A family from the Carolinas moved to town the same year we did.  Their daughter was in my 4th grade class, and our families were involved in many of the same social activities over the years.  At some point, Miss JoAnn graciously shared her recipe for these rolls with my mother, along with a recipe for lemon squares, which have become another family favorite.

I think Parker House Rolls were the very first yeast dough recipe I attempted to make.  I do know my first effort was a disastrous non-starter, but thanks to my mother's encouragement and help, I didn't give up.

These instructions are faithful to the original recipe. Historically, these rolls are formed by rolling your dough flat and cutting into circles, then creasing each roll and folding it over on itself.  But to be honest, I only do that sometimes; the rest of the time I simply form them into balls, let them rise and bake.  Either way, they turn out delicious, soft, dinner rolls that are a mainstay at holiday meals.

These rolls later became known in our family as "Gregory's Wo-Wos" because a cute young family friend couldn't quite say his R's and L's when he was a tyke.  He was our ringbearer when we got married, and now it's his turn to get married later this year.  Best wishes to him and his bride-to-be!

JoAnn's Parker House Rolls

1 package yeast (I use approximately 1 tablespoon instant yeast)
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk, cooled
1/4 cup shortening (I substitute half unsalted butter), softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, well-beaten
3 cups sifted flour

Dissolve yeast in water; let proof, then place in large mixing bowl.  Add milk, shortening or butter, sugar and salt.  Mix together and add beaten egg.  Stir in flour, one cup at a time, until a soft dough forms.  Knead well, until smooth and elastic.  Cover and let rise until double.  On lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/2 inch thickness.  (Lift dough from surface and lay back down will ensure it doesn't shrink after being cut.)  Cut into 2.5-inch diameter rounds a dough or biscuit cutter.  Brush each with a little melted butter and make a crease down the center of each roll with the back of a knife; fold over and place on greased baking sheet.  Let rise and bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes or until brown.  Brush rolls with butter while hot.  Yield:  2-3 dozen dinner rolls.

A trick I learned from a friend is to brush the tops of soft rolls with milk or cream as they come out of the oven, then butter them if needed.  This added step ensures the tops of the rolls are soft and tender.