Parker House rolls

Every great tasting menu has a bread course, which is an opportunity for a kitchen to showcase their breadmaking prowess. The complexity, precision, and technique involved in artisan breadmaking represent a rabbit hole of near-unlimited depth (siilar to ice cream in that regard). I have never taken the trouble to start and maintain a sourdough starter and will likely never be able to complete with the quality of loaves that are readily available here in San Francisco, so instead I choose to serve Parker House rolls. They have a wonderful soft pillowy texture with a very thin just-barely-crispy crust on top, and the pull-apart aspect is fun. They beg to be brushed with fat (olive oil in this recipe, but any rendered animal fat will work), and the freshly-baked glistening loaf is always a big hit with guests. This recipe yields 8 rolls from a 8.5"x4.5" loaf tin and cannot be scaled down. I usually make one loaf when serving 4 guests.

Bread baking in home ovens can be rather difficult. Commercial combi-ovens are capable of injecting moisture into the cooking environment which improves "oven spring", the final expansion of the dough during baking. I attempt to replicate this by using a pan of boiling water placed on the bottom oven rack during baking. I also brush on an egg wash before baking to encourage a golden shiny crust, and brush on more fat after baking. Your bake time may vary slightly depending on your oven and cooking conditions; instead aim for an internal loaf temperature of 190F.

I have experimented with the "tangzhong" technique, which involves cooking part of the flour and water into a roux that is mixed into the dough, with the goal of yielding an even more tender crumb. I found the loaf was improved but pretty marginally, and so I serve this simpler recipe that is less work and basically equivalent. I do add milk powder to the dough to yield a tender and sweeter loaf that browns more readily, but it can be omitted if you do not have access to it. If you wish to make the tangzhong version, combine 24g (8%) of the bread flour and 120g water and cook while whisking over medium heat until thickened. Let cool and then prepare the rest of the dough as directed using 276g bread four and about 105g water.

I strongly recommend serving these with salted butter (try try homemade) and additional Maldon salt for guests to sprinkle.

2018 11 17+19.31.01

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Ingredients

Yields 8 rolls.

300g bread flour (100%)

4.5g active dry yeast (1.5%)

185g water (~62%)

20g nonfat milk powder (~7%)

6g kosher salt (2%)

5g olive oil (~1.6%)

15g honey (5%)

10g cheddar, grated on microplane (optional) (~3%)

1 egg (~17% @ 50g)

For the egg wash:

1 egg + ~1 Tbsp cold water, mixed

To serve:

Fat for brushing, such as olive oil, rendered duck fat, etc (optional)

Salted butter

Maldon salt

Equipment:

Stand mixer

Directions

  • Begin 24h in advance. Combine the bread flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed until combined.
  • Add in the milk powder, salt, olive oil, honey, cheddar, and egg. Mix on low speed for 3m.
  • Increase speed to medium and mix for 5m. The dough should be smooth/elastic and spring back when poked.
  • Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.
  • The next day, turn the dough onto a lightly floured Silpat or work surface and punch down. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let rest 10-15m.
  • Lightly grease an 8.5"x4.5" loaf tin. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions of ~70g, roll into balls, and place into the tin in rows of 2.
  • Cover the tin and let proof 45m. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Prepare the egg wash and lightly brush it over the loaf. Use a paper towel to absorb any excess pooling in any nooks and crannies, especially where in contact with the loaf tin.
  • Pour boiling water into an oven safe vessel and place it on the bottom rack of the oven to create steam during baking. Place the loaf pan on the upper rack and bake to an internal temp of 190F, ~21m.
  • Remove the loaf from the tin and brush with the fat, if using. Let cool for 8-10m before serving. Serve with salted butter and additional Maldon salt.

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