Here's a family dinner roll recipe that is a big favorite at our house for the holiday season. The recipe comes from my cousin's grandmother, Stella Cole, and it calls for the use of Kellogg's All-Bran cereal, which adds a delicious nutty flavor to the bread. This is a yeast bread with two rise periods, and the rolls are hand shaped into a Parker House Roll style in this version.
When I was a kid, my Mom taught me to roll out the dough and cut it into rounds like muffins. Then she folded the rounds into half-circles to get the distinctive creased shape of these rolls. The scraps were re-rolled and cut, making this a labor-intensive method.
This year I glanced in the Holiday 2005 issue of Cook's Illustrated Magazine and there was an article by Matthew Card all about the formation of perfect Parker House Rolls. (Note: The whole magazine was really good, well worth purchasing). I recognized the shape and realized that it was probably the "proper" way to make these rolls. The technique involves cutting the dough into small balls with a bench scraper, then rolling each one by hand into a sphere. As you work through the dough, the first spheres have a chance to rest and relax a bit. Then you flatten the sphere with your hand, and using a dowel or wooden spoon handle, roll the dough into an oval, making it slightly flatter in the middle of the oval. Brush the ends with butter, fold, and place on the baking sheet for the second rise. Although it is easier not to have to re-roll scraps and cut like biscuit dough, this method is just as labor intensive but preferable, I think. A final brush with butter before baking makes these rolls so delicious, they will vanish before the turkey comes out of the oven unless a strict Kitchen Patience Protocol is enacted. This is a big recipe but if I am going to do the work, I want to make enough rolls to last more than ten minutes...which is a challenge.
Is it worth all the work? My family votes an enthusiastic Yes, but next year I won't bake two pies on the same day! Or better yet, I'll make sure I press my two sons into service.
ALL-BRAN DINNER ROLLS (Parker House Style)
Makes about 45 rolls
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.
1 cup Kellogg's All-Bran Cereal
1 cup shortening
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 packets yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
7 cups white all purpose flour
Mix the bran with the boiling water, sugar, salt and shortening. Let stand until the shortening is melted and almost cold. (So you don't scald the yeast when added).
Add eggs, and the yeast dissolved in lukewarm water.
Add flour, a cup at a time, mixing it into a loaf of dough. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Cover and let dough rise until very light. (double in size is good).
Punch down and shape dough into rolls by your preferred method. Place shaped rolls on to prepared (greased) baking sheet, close but not touching one another. Brush with melted butter if desired.
Let rolls rise again until very light--up to 2 hours (in warm kitchen time can be much less). Rolls will touch one another after rising, easily pulled apart when done.
Bake for 20 minutes (one pan at a time) at 400 degrees.