Thanksgiving rolls two ways: Easy and fluffy or buttery and rich

By Melissa Clark, The New York Times

With their fluffy crumb and butter-glossed tops, Parker House rolls didn’t need Instagram to become a viral sensation. Ever since their debut in the 1870s, at the Parker House Hotel in Boston, they’ve been the “it” rolls of the breadbasket, as splashy a contribution to the pantheon of baked goods as the Cronut was more than 100 years later.

I recently adapted the classic rolls in two ways. One version was entirely from scratch, and another, easier one used prepared pizza dough. Both recipes are superb, and each resulting batch is delightful in its own way.

The challenge for the shortcut version was getting lean pizza dough to act as if it were enriched with milk and eggs. By its nature, pizza dough wants to balloon in the oven, developing large bubbles in the crust that singe, blacken and crisp in high heat. Parker House rolls should have a finer, more cakelike crumb without the air pockets you’d expect in a pizza crust. The rolls should also be buttery, which pizza dough is inherently not.

To compensate, I incorporated the maximum amount of butter I could into the dough, adding it in three stages. I brushed some in the center of the dough while forming it into buns, slathered some on top before baking and did that again after baking. Then, to keep a crisp crust from forming after baking, I covered the pan with foil to let the rolls steam as they cooled, softening them.

They turned out remarkably tender and perfectly buttery — in half the time as the classic recipe and without having to fuss with yeast.

For the classic rolls, I tested several recipes, landing on one that mixed instant potato flakes into the dough. Adding potato — flakes, flour or mashed potatoes — to bread dough is a time-honored way to make it moist-centered and pliable.

I tweaked this basic recipe by seasoning the butter with black pepper and crunchy Demerara sugar. The seasoned butter gave a sweet-spicy complexity to the rolls, and the sugar caramelized and became candylike wherever it met the metal of the pan. (You can also use the same seasoned butter with the shortcut rolls.)

Rich but not heavy, with a nuanced flavor, this showstopper recipe produced the best Parker House rolls I’d ever had, especially when served warm from the oven.

Either of these recipes would be an excellent addition to your Thanksgiving table. If you have any left over, save them to make the best and most adorable turkey sandwiches the next day.

Recipe: Easy Parker House Rolls

By Melissa Clark

Using prepared pizza dough makes these Parker House rolls a snap to put together, and brushing them with plenty of melted butter gives them the moist interior and richness you expect. The trick to a tender texture is to cover the pan of just-baked rolls with foil, allowing them to steam and soften as they cool. This prevents the rolls from developing a crunchy crust. Be sure to leave plenty of time for rising; different brands of pizza dough will vary. To ensure the lightest rolls, wait until they are very puffy and risen before popping them in the oven. Serve these on the same day they’re baked, preferably still warm from the oven. Leftovers can be split and toasted for breakfast the next morning.

Yield: 18 rolls

Total time: 35 minutes, plus 2 hours’ rising time


8 tablespoons/113 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Demerara sugar, more for sprinkling (optional)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more for sprinkling (optional)
All-purpose flour, for rolling dough
2 pounds store-bought pizza dough, thawed if frozen
Flaky salt


1. In a small bowl, combine butter, Demerara sugar (if using), fine sea salt and black pepper (if using), mixing with a spatula until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush a little of the butter mixture on the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Set aside.

2. On a clean, lightly floured surface, roll or pat half (or 1 pound) of the dough into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. With a pastry brush, brush about 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture over the entire surface of the dough. Fold dough in half to make an 8-by-6-inch rectangle.

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3. Using a bench knife, regular knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough into thirds lengthwise and then thirds crosswise to make 9 pieces. Place them in the buttered pan. Repeat with the remaining half of dough, using about another 2 tablespoons of the butter (you will have 18 rolls). Once all rolls have been shaped and placed in the pan, brush tops generously with about half of the remaining butter, reserving the rest for after baking.

4. Set aside in a warm place to allow the rolls to proof and rise until very puffy, about 1 to 2 hours. The dough will feel spongy to the touch. When the rolls are nearly proofed, heat oven to 450 degrees.

5. When the rolls are proofed, sprinkle tops with flaky salt, more Demerara sugar (if using) and lots of cracked black pepper (if using). Bake until firm to the touch and golden brown on top, about 17 to 25 minutes. (If the rolls seem pale and you want more color on the tops, run the pan under the broiler for 30 seconds to 2 minutes.)

6. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes, then brush the rolls with the remaining butter mixture. Cover the pan with aluminum foil (or lay a sheet-pan on top of the pan, or tuck the pan into a plastic bag) to allow the rolls to steam and soften, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe: Parker House Rolls With Black Pepper and Demerara Sugar

<img class=”size-article_inline lazyautosizes lazyload” src=”″ sizes=”498px” srcset=” 620w, 780w, 810w, 1280w, 1860w” alt=”Parker House rolls with black pepper and Demerara sugar. Melissa Clark has a couple of smart new recipes

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