Updated Friday, February 19th, 2010
Total Time: 40
Yield: about 2 dozen rolls
We all have our favorite bread recipes, and this is mine. Like just about everyone (including Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and most of the Kennedy clan) who ever put these sweet and buttery rolls to their lips, I fell for the Parker House hotel's signature recipe when I was but a little girl, coming into Boston for a special lunch with my mom or dad. Thanksgiving and other family celebrations wouldn't be the same without them. And, like anadama bread, they go great with honey butter.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer with hook attachment), combine 2-1/4 cups flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (or margarine). With your mixer on low speed, gradually pour 2 cups hot tap water (120-130 degrees) into the dry ingredients. Add egg. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat in 3/4 cup flour, or enough to make a thick batter. Continue beating 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the bowl. Then with a spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 2-1/2 cups) to make a soft dough.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about 1/2 cup) while kneading. Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Turn dough over so that the top is greased. Cover with a towel; let rise in a warm place until volume doubles, about 1-1/2 hours.
"Punch" dough down: Push down in the center, then push the edges into the center. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly to make a smooth ball. Cover with a bowl for 15 minutes, and let dough rest.
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. In a 17-1/4x11-1/2-inch roasting pan, over low heat, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter and spread in an even layer on the bottom of the pan. On a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin, roll dough out 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2-3/4-inch round biscuit cutter dipped in flour, cut dough into circles (don't twist). Holding each dough circle by the edge, dip both sides into melted butter; fold in half.
Arrange folded dough circles in rows, each nearly touching the next, in the roasting pan. Cover the pan with a towel; let dough rise in a warm place until volume doubles, about 40 minutes. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until browned.
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