Grandma’s Christmas Rolls

A.k.a., Parker House Rolls

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Our family has been making these for Thanksgiving and Christmas forever.  First it was Mom, who somehow managed to deal with yeast dough along with her three kids, turkey, sweet potatoes, green beans… we are thankful for that!  Because Grandma’s Rolls have turned out to be one of the endearing family traditions my brothers and I now share.   It is, however, a recipe with some issues.  We’ve all screwed them up, most of us more than once.  But we keep making them, year after year, even with the high potential for screw-ups.  Why is that?

Well, look at them!  They’re delicious!!!!

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Sitting there all brown and golden, full of butter and eggs and milk, and just barely sweet.  The best smell in the kitchen, and even a day later they taste just as good.  You can see the “awkward” one in the front, made with the last bit of dough that’s too small to roll out and cut into a circle, but just gets mushed into a mostly roundish shape and folded and buttered like the rest.  I remember grandma both in her kitchen and in ours, cutting the dough and folding them over, making it look so easy.  Here is a picture of them from our kitchen in Ukraine.  We’ve also made them in Azerbaijan, Zambia, DC, and my little brother Paul makes them in his kitchen in New York.  We make this recipe all over the world!

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Some things we’ve learned over the years:

1.  Don’t put the pan on a stove burner to “cool” after you take them out of the oven.  Especially not a stove burner that’s on!

2.  Don’t let the dough rise too long.  It’s a pretty forgiving dough, but once we left it longer than we should have and the rolls had that weird, dry, fibrous texture.  Like… dough that had been left too long!

3.  Take them off the pan immediately and move them to a cookie rack to cool.  Once we left them on the pan and they “sweat,” which basically means they got gross on the bottom.

4.  Don’t overdo it with the butter in the middle as you fold them in half.  I love butter, so much that I usually think more is better.    But I used a little too much once, and it ended up dripping and running out, so the middles and the bottoms of the rolls never cooked.  Also gross. 

Otherwise, this recipe is easy!!  I use my Kitchenaid for the whole thing.

Parker House Rolls

1.  Microwave in a glass measuring cup until melted:

            1 cup milk

            1/4 cup (56 grams) butter

            1/3 cup water

2.  In a separate bowl mix:

            2 packages active dry yeast (I’ve used less – 3 teaspoons – and it turned out fine)

            1 cup of flour

            2 teaspoons salt

            1/4 cup sugar

3.  Pour the butter/milk mixture into the mixing bowl (it should be warm, Happy Yeast temperature), and add:

           2 eggs

4.  Then pour the flour mixture into the bowl and mix everything together for 1-2 minutes.

5.   Slowly add an additional:

            3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour

            Total flour:  4 1/12 to 5 cups.  Plus more for rolling out later if you need it.

6.  Mix the dough with the paddle to get the flour incorporated, then switch to the dough hook.  Knead the dough with the dough hook for 4-5 minutes, until it gets that shiny, springy feel. 

7.  Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then let it rise for 60-90 minutes until doubled.  If you used the full 2 packets of yeast, it will rise faster.

Now we are ready to make rolls!

Line a baking sheet with parchment.  I use a baking sheet with sides to keep the edges soft.

Punch down the dough, and separate it into two sections.  This makes it easier to work with.  Roll one section out as well as you can, until it’s about half an inch thick.  It’s very springy and fun to form this dough, so don’t worry about it too much.  Cut out the rolls in circles using a biscuit cutter, a glass, whatever, although an actual biscuit cutter makes nice, sharp edges. 

As you cut each circle, form it into a roll and place it on the baking sheet.  To form the roll, spread a little bit of softened butter along half of the circle, then simply fold each circle in half.  They are not fancy looking rolls by any means, just puffy little half circles sitting on the baking sheet.  But if you tuck them together (not tight, but touching), they will share their drippy butter centers a little bit and end up fluffy and soft.

After they are all tucked together, let them rise another 1-2 hours.  I loosely lay plastic wrap over the top to keep them from drying out, although this dough is so rich that you probably don’t need to.

When they are looking ready, bake them in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately take them off the pan (and the parchment).  Cool, then eat with more butter, today or the next day, either way they are just as good.  They freeze well too!

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And on the subject of Thanksgiving memories …

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