Oh, an ode to bread! All over the world, humanity lives, dines & rejoices with bread in their diets, and there’s not denying how enticing that whiff of freshly baked bread is to our hungry souls. The simplest staple food of humanity, it has been recorded throughout history to be popular all around the world and is known to be one of the world’s oldest artificial foods. There are so many types of breads, so of course they get their own category in food classification…baked, steamed, flatbreads, buckwheat bread, yeast bread, cornbread, sweet bread, rye bread, sourdough, and the list could go on & on!
A popular form of baking bread is in delictable rolls: small, often round loaves of bread, usually served as a meal accompaniment, plain or with butter. Rolls are popular here in Germany, Brötchen seem to be the quintessential part of a good breakfast or dinner. There are a great variety of bread rolls here in Germany, ranging from white rolls made with wheat flour, to dark rolls containing mostly rye flour; with many variants including spices, such as coriander & cumin, nuts, seeds such as sesame, poppy seed or sunflower seeds.
But no matter how many different Brötchen I can find freshly baked at the local Bäckerei, nothing will ever sound better to me than a fresh & fluffy Parker House roll. What exactly is a Parker House roll? Deliciously put, simple white bread goodness. Historically put, they are one of New England’s many trademark culinary offerings. A crispy, buttery exterior makes way for a soft, tender slightly sweet crumb that steams when broken apart. Oh, yum! They were invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston during the 1870s, and as with many of the recipes I’ve looked into, the story of their creation has several variations, but they all involve an angry pastry cook throwing unfinished rolls into the oven after an altercation with a hotel guest, which resulted in their dented appearance, a distinct folded pocketbook shape that made them light & puffy on the inside, while staying crisp & buttery on the outside.
That said, I will forever be grateful to have bread on the table. Fresh artisan bread is fantastic, and it seems to be the norm here in Europe, no matter where you get your bread. But I’ve gotta say it, nothing beats fresh, buttery, white American-style bread in my book, even if I try to look past its factory-processed, preservative-packed reality.
For the Rolls
- 1 cup (240ml) of milk
- 2 tablespoons of butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
- 1 large egg
- 3-2/3 cups (470g) of all-purpose flour
- Melted butter
Heat the milk until warm and add the butter, sugar, & salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved. In a separate large bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. When the milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm, stir it into the yeast. Beat in the egg.
Stir in part of the flour, then knead in the rest, using only enough to form a dough that can be handled easily. Place in an oiled bowl and brush the top with melted butter. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
Roll the dough out into a 30-inch long log and cut into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten into a 2-inch round. Dip the handle of a knife or wooden spoon in flour and use it to make a deep crease across the middle of each roll. Fold the rolls over on the crease and press the edges together lightly. This sounds way too complicated, I know. I confess I had to find a YouTube video to help me out! Here it is…granted it’s a whole other recipe, I just need you to notice how to fold them. My recipe calls for rounds and therefore the rolls turn out cuter!
Place about 1 inch apart in rows on a greased baking sheet. Let rise in a warm place until light, about 35 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, no more! Remove to a rack to cool and enjoy with absolutely everything you want!