Chocolate Parker House Rolls

So I had this idea the other day. (And I'm not really even sure where it came from!)

I decided that I wanted to make a batch of those soft, pillowy, delightfully old fashioned homemade Parker House Rolls--but I wanted to make them chocolate.

Parker House Rolls are an easy and classic dinner roll recipe that's been around for many many years. It was invented at the Parker House Hotel in Boston waaaaaaay back in the 1870s, and soon became the standard among the midcentury housewives (and you KNOW I love the retro).

The Parker House Hotel is actually the longest continuously operating luxury hotel and is the sort of place where I imagine fancy ladies with parasols used to go to have tea and eat ice cream from pretty china dishes. It also happens to be the place where one of my other favorites, Boston Cream Pie, was reportedly invented. 

I decided to add a little twist to the classic recipe by stirring in a little cocoa powder and upping the sugar a bit to make the rolls just a touch sweeter. 

A sprinkle of crunchy sugar on top, and those old fashioned dinner rolls have been remade into sassy little breakfast rolls--just PERFECT for the day after Thanksgiving (or Christmas morning!)

If you've never made bread, I think this is a great recipe to start with. It comes together quickly and is pretty foolproof. It also smells absolutely wonderful while you're making it. 

Eugene, who has been working from home because his office was temporarily shut down after the storm, wandered into the kitchen yesterday morning sniffing around like a hound dog. "Your delicious cooking aromas lured me in," he explained.

Tip: You can bake these the day before and keep loosely covered at room temperature overnight. Pop them into a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to freshen them up just before serving and they'll be good as freshly-baked!

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Chocolate Parker House Rolls
Makes about 16 rolls

For the bread:
3 tablespoons warm water (120 F)
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch process)
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-3 tablespoons olive oil

For the topping:
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar ("sugar in the raw")

Whisk together the warm water, 1 tablespoons sugar, and yeast in the bottom of your mixer and let sit 5 minutes or until foamy.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, milk, and cocoa powder and whisk until the butter is melted and the cocoa is fully incorporated. Remove from heat and let cool slightly until you can comfortable dip a finger into it and keep it for about 10 seconds.

Add the cooled butter and milk mixture to the yeast, along with the 1/3 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Mix until the dough comes together, then switch in the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft, and elastic, but not sticky. If the dough is too dry, pour in a little olive oil. If it's too wet, add a bit more flour.

Once the dough is ready, remove from the mixer, shape into a ball, and put in a greased bowl, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Once the dough rises, turn it over onto a flour-dusted counter and roll out into a square about 1" thick. Cut into 16 pieces.

Spray a 9" square baking pan with baking spray and roll each piece of dough into a ball, arranging it in the baking pan (the sides will touch; that's good!). Let rise again about 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Brush risen dough balls with remaining melted butter and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake about 25 minutes, or until puffed and golden on top. Let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before serving warm  or room temperature.

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