When I was at Per Se, Jonathan Benno, the chef de cuisine, tasked me with creating a warm roll for bread service. He told me about the rolls at the restaurant Craftsteak, which he considered the ne plus ultra of Parker House rolls. I studied those rolls and started experimenting with different dough variations. These rolls are still on the menu, 10 years later. They’re that good. At home, I prefer a pull-apart shape to a Parker House roll shape, which is mostly a matter of putting the rolls closer together on the baking sheet before bak- ing them. Baking them close together like this keeps them really tender, because the sides stay soft and squishy, and really old-school.*
MAKES 15 ROLLS
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup whole milk
1⁄3 cup sourdough starter
1 large egg
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and softened
Nonstick cooking spray
FOR BAKING THE ROLLS
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
Pinch of flaky sea salt
Mix and ferment the dough.
1. Place the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a medium bowl and stir with a whisk to combine the ingredients.
2. Place the milk, starter and egg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the dry ingredients. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix the dough for about 5 minutes, until it is smooth and no longer sticky. Add the cubed butter and mix on low speed until there are no chunks of butter remaining, 5 to 10 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl if the butter is sticking.
3. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl from the stand. Remove the dough hook and wipe it clean with a wet hand. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set the bowl in a warm place to allow the dough to ferment for 2 hours, turning the dough once half-way through that time. To turn the dough, uncover the bowl and use a wet hand to fold the top edge down two-thirds and fold the bottom edge to meet the top edge, so the dough is folded like a letter. Fold the sides inward in the same way to form a sort of ball, then re-cover the bowl.
4. While the dough is fermenting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray the paper with nonstick cooking spray.
5. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet and spread it out. Put it in the refrigerator for 1 hour, until it’s chilled and no longer sticky, and up to overnight. (If you are refrigerating the dough overnight, remove the baking sheet from the refrigerator after 1 hour, cover it with plastic wrap, and return it to the refrigerator.)
Shape and proof the rolls.
1. Spray the bottom and sides of a quarter sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust a large flat work sur- face with flour and use a plastic bowl scraper to scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured surface. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and use a bench knife to divide the dough into 15 pieces.
3. Put one piece of dough in front of you on the work surface. Dust your hands lightly with flour. Gently rest your palm on the dough and roll the dough into a tight round ball. Put the ball on the pre- pared baking sheet and continue, rolling the rest of the pieces of dough into balls and adding them to the baking sheet, spacing the rounds out evenly with 3 rounds lined up across the short side and 5 lined up on the long side. Cover the balls with a damp, light-weight kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm place to proof the rolls for 2 to 3 hours, until the rolls are swollen looking and touching each other.
Bake the rolls.
1. While the rolls are proofing, arrange the oven racks so one is in the center position. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Brush the tops of the rolls with half of the melted butter. Reserve the remaining butter.
3. Put the baking sheet on the center rack of the oven to bake the rolls for 25 to 30 minutes, until they are light golden brown, rotating the rolls from front to back halfway through. Remove the rolls from the oven and brush with the remaining melted butter. Holding the pan with both hands, tap the pan on a cooling rack to slide the rolls out onto the rack in a single piece. Sprinkle a generous pinch of flaky salt on top of each roll. Serve warm.
EXCERPTED FROM ‘A GOOD BAKE THE ART AND SCIENCE OF MAKING PERFECT PASTRIES, CAKES, COOKIES, PIES AND BREADS AT HOME’ BY MELISSA WELLER WITH CAROLYNN CARRENO. COPYRIGHT 2020 BY MELISSA WELLER. EXCERPTED BY PERMISSION OF ALFRED A. KNOPF, A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. NO PART OF THIS EXCERPT MAY BE REPRODUCED OR REPRINTED WITHOUT PERMISSION IN WRITING FROM THE PUBLISHER.