Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Parker House Rolls (Page 613)

  • Date: Thursday, December 27, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Westerville, OH
  • Kitchen: Karen and Dave's House
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Karen H, Dave, Deniz, Brad, Jinx, Eddie, Michael S, Phil, and Kayla
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Matty and I made these rolls to go with dinner last Thursday. In my opinion, homemade rolls are always amazing. Given a little time I am sure I would have eaten half the batch of these all by myself. But as homemade rolls go, these weren't the best I've had. They had a nice buttery flavor, but they were very dense -- too dense I thought. I know that Parker House Rolls aren't meant to be light and airy (like the ciabatta rolls I usually make), but I found these denser than they needed to be. They were very pretty though, and still quite tasty.

There is one other issue with this recipe that I should mention. Matty and I bought some active dry yeast at the grocery store to use in this recipe. Those of you who make bread will recall that yeast is often sold in 3 little attached packets, each containing 1/4 oz of yeast. Many bread recipes, like this one, start by proofing the yeast. To proof you mix the yeast with warm water and often a bit of sugar or flour. I was shocked when I saw that this recipe called for the yeast to be proofed with a tablespoon of sugar in only 3 tablespoons of water. Normally you use just a "pinch" of sugar, of maybe a half a teaspoon, but I have never proofed yeast with a tablespoon of sugar. But, I proceeded. The purpose behind proofing is to verify that the yeast are alive before you go on. If your yeast are dead your bread won't rise properly, so it is good to know that before you throw the yeast in there. In a bowl I mixed one packet of yeast with the water and sugar, and waited. Nothing happened. Live yeast produce bubbles, and a foamy top. This yeast just sat there, in the murky, yeasty water. This is not good. So I tried packet number 2 (granted it seemed unlikely that one of the attached packets of yeast would be dead and another alive, but it was better than going to the store again). Same result. At that point I started to wonder what could be wrong. In my experience it is pretty rare to buy dead yeast. In culinary school we learned that yeast don't like extreme environments -- they don't like too much salt, or too much sugar. So with packet number 3 (my last hope!) I proofed it with the same amount of water and just a pinch of sugar. Lo and behold, 5 minutes later the yeast from packet 3 were foaming and bubbling. I added the rest of the sugar into the dough when I added the flour, and everything worked out fine. So, a recommendation: don't proof your yeast with as much sugar as this recipe says to -- they don't like it!

Here is the recipe.

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