Calumet Parker House Rolls

Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipe

Who can resist a buttery dinner roll still warm from the oven? Parker House Rolls, those soft little pillows of freshly baked bread, are most easily recognized by their shape. Rounded and folded over onto themselves, they’ll puff up in the oven and become crispy golden brown on the outside, deliciously soft on the inside. In our home, there are never any complaints at dinner time when fresh rolls or bread of any kind accompany dinner. Dinner rolls seem to make an everyday meal a bit more special. The bread is passed back and forth, sometimes tossed through the air or even stolen from a sister’s plate. Soft butter and jam will always find their way to the table and the dinner conversation seems to linger a bit longer. When I was growing up, my mother would always swaddle the bread in a small piece of linen and then carefully place it in a serving bowl. I suppose I do this now for the same reasons she did, to keep the bread warm, and simply because this is how I saw my mother do it, and how she saw her mother do it… it’s tradition.

Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipe

I love thumbing through vintage cookbooks and taking a step back in time to rediscover traditions, family recipes, and cooking products that are rich in American history. I was instantly smitten with this Reliable Recipes cookbook by the Calumet Baking Powder Company. It was written in 1918 and I absolutely love that Calumet Baking Powder still exists today! Not only that, but just recently (while hunting for vintage treasures at a local flea market), I found a very old Calumet baking pan that I couldn’t resist adding to my collection.

Calumet Baking Powder was established in 1889 by William Monroe Wright of Chicago, Illinois. The cookbook’s pages are filled with recipes for everything from bread and biscuits to waffles, muffins, and gingerbread.  But what is most noticeable about the book is the information on baking powder itself. There are numerous pages dedicated to the science and health of using Calumet’s Baking Powder over their competitors because of Calumet’s dedication to a purer baking powder that is free from contaminants.

Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipe

“Baking powder is not a food, but it is a preparer of food. A great many people, through misleading advertisements, have been led to believe that they eat Baking Powder, but this is not the case. Cream of tartar baking powders, or the powders ‘made from grapes,’ which are so widely advertised as pure, are pure in the can, but through the reaction that takes place, they give off their gas, and leave in the food a residue of Rochelle Salts.  One should think of this fact when selecting a baking powder. “

~Reliable Recipes cookbook by Calumet Baking Powder Company  

I chose the recipe for Parker House Rolls that are made from the Calumet “standard biscuit recipe.” The original recipe for Parker House Rolls can be traced back to the 1800’s and to the Parker House Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, where you can still find them being served today. Variations of the story attribute their unique shape to an angry chef who tossed the rolls into the oven, resulting in their dented appearance! The Calumet recipe mimics the shape of the original roll but differs from it, in that the Calumet recipe uses baking powder as the rising agent in comparison the original Parker House rolls, which are made from a yeast-based dough. The Calumet Parker House roll recipe baked nicely and the folded biscuits took their traditional Parker House Shape.  The recipe called for less butter than a typical biscuit, but surprisingly, the flavor wasn’t sacrificed. The heaping amount of baking powder allowed for a soft and tender crumb and a crispy outer crust. If you are looking for a traditional Parker House Roll, I would suggest trying the original recipe that is available from the Parker House Hotel. If you’re looking for an easy and tasty dinner roll from a 1918 vintage cookbook, this version is for you!

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Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipe

Parker House Rolls

  • 4 cups flour
  • 4 level tsp Calumet Baking Powder
  • 1 level tsp salt
  • 1 - 2 tbsp butter or lard (use butter to make kosher/dairy or shortening to make kosher/vegan)
  • About 2 cups milk or water, more or less, enough to mix a very soft dough
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: 18-24 rolls
Kosher Key: Dairy, Pareve or Non-Kosher
  • Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into a large mixing bowl.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeRub shortening into the flour with fingers, a spatula, or the rounding edge of a large spoon. With a little practice, the spatula or spoon can be made to do better work than the fingers.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeAdd milk or water, as cold as possible, mixing to form a very soft dough.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeMix with a spoon or flexible knife, in preference to using a warm hand, to keep the dough as cold as possible.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeTurn dough on a well floured board and roll out lightly to 1/3 inch thickness. Cut with a round or oval cutter.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeCrease in center with the handle of a table knife, first dipped in flour.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipeBrush half of the round with melted butter and fold over.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipePut in a baking pan spaced 1/2 inch apart and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Serve warm with butter or jam.
  • Kosher and Vegetarian Note: to make these biscuits kosher and/or vegetarian, use butter, not lard.
  • Calumet Parker House Rolls on #vintage #recipe

About Louise Mellor

Chef Louise Mellor shares vintage recipes and food photography on She has worked for over 15 years as a private chef, caterer, culinary instructor, recipe developer, food stylist and media spokesperson. Louise has a degree in culinary arts and was formally trained in classical French cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu. Read more...

Comments (26)Post a Comment

  1. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    of course the directions say to make the crease with the handle of a table knife but you did photograph that step showing the blade resting in the crease.
    Bet no one who sees that will actually USE the handle :) xoxo JH
    Doesn’t mean that they won’t be great, anyway. My mom, also served hot rolls or bread nestled in a towel lined bowl.

    1. Carolyn, I bought this book at a vintage cookbook store and shared it with Louise. You might have luck searching the title on eBay or Etsy. Enjoy the rolls!

  2. Excellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 starsExcellent - 5 stars
    I make these biscuits a lot and they are so good. A little hard on the outside and soft on the inside. Delicious! I make the full recipe for 3 people and there are plenty of biscuits left over so we eat them over the next couple of days. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

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