There’s a bakery on Lonsdale Avenue in North Vancouver (that’s the one in British Columbia in Canada) that my family used to frequent: Monarch Bakery sold all manner of European-Canadian goodies – cakes, pastries, savouries. I remember flaky, buttery sausage rolls, tender crusted meat pies, vanilla slices, butter tarts, walnut and cherry slices, big chocolate cakes covered in chocolate sprinkles. I only discovered that eccles cakes were filled with lots of currants when I got to the UK – Monarch’s delicious variant was the raspberry eccle, a thin chewy circular puff pastry sandwiching raspberry jam and a scattering of currants. In addition to a selection of these, my mother would buy a bagful of either soft Parker House Rolls or flaky butterbuns for the week.

Parker House Rolls

The overwhelming memory of the bakery was the amount of butter they used. Everything was dripping in it and, of course, this made everything ridiculously good. If you’re around in North Vancouver, I believe they’re still there; if not, perhaps these Parker House Rolls will take you there.

Parker House Roll

I had no inkling of the history of these soft buttery buns; as a kid, I thought that my bakery had perhaps invented them and stuck a fancy name on them. It was only recently that I learned of its Boston origins, created at the Parker House Hotel. They’ve got a unique shape with a ‘lip’ or fold created either by pressing a dowel or chopstick into the bun or by cutting out rounds and folding them over; I used the latter method, also favoured by Monarch Bakery. These soft, buttery buns were perfect for mopping up the baked beans in my last post and in case there’s not enough butter in them for you, they’re awfully nice with an extra bit on them too.

Inside a Roll

Parker House Rolls
adapted from the hotel’s original recipe.
makes 12-15.

about 450g plain flour (you might need more or less depending on how damp your dough is)
50g sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp dry yeast
115g unsalted butter (divided into 2 parts)
1 egg

In a small bowl, place 1 tbsp of sugar (from the 50g), the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water from the tap. Stir to dissolve and set aside until the mixture is frothy (about 10-15 minutes).

In a large bowl, cut 1 cup of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and one part of the butter together. Pour in the yeast mixture and add an additional 1/2 cup of hot tap water and stir very well to combine. Add the egg and stir again very well to combine (you can also use a mixer – at this point, the dough is still very wet). Stir in about another cup and a bit of flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough onto a well floured board and start kneading and working in the rest of the flour if needed (I needed it). Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is very elastic. Oil the original large bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place in the bowl, turning so that the dough is coated in oil all over. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled (about 1.5 hours).

When the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out again onto the board (lightly floured) and knead to punch out the air and make a smooth ball. Cover with the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Melt the second part of the butter and set aside. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Roll the dough to 1cm thickness and cut circles out (about 5-6cm in diameter). Brush both sides of each circle with the melted butter (or just dip them), fold it in half and place on the lined baking sheet. Brush all the buns with the remaining melted butter. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again for about 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200 Celsius.

Bake for about 15 minutes until browned on top.

I had picked up a packet of the most delicious beef sausages from the Hardiesmill stand at the Real Food Festival last weekend (I’ve been buying from their stand each year – I also love their pastrami) and wanted to have them as the highlight of our dinner. Frying them and serving them as a main course as is was just too simple – I wanted them in buns…with caramelised onions, yeah! And how about some balsamic vinegar mixed in with the onions too?

Beef Sausages in Buns with Balsamic Caramelised Onions

They came out a treat and we wolfed them down in front of the telly. I could almost pretend that I had my own barbecue. Right. Anyway, the beef sausages themselves were fantastically flavourful and were lovely paired with  the sweet and sour onions. It looks like one can order them, as well as all their beef and cured beef products, from the Hardiesmill online shop.

Homemade Hot Dog Buns

The buns I made using this recipe; I halved it and made slightly smaller buns than the usual hot dog sized ones and ended up with enough buns for two dinners and a lunch. I accidentally overbaked them due to their diminutive size but they still came out with a soft crumb and a pleasantly crustier than expected outside.

Inside a Bun

Balsamic Caramelised Onions

Peel, halve and slice 4 large onions. Heat about 2 tbsps olive oil in a large pan/pot and dump in all the sliced onions. Turn the heat to medium-low and stir once in a while. To hasten their softening, slap a lid on for some of the time; however, you will want to slowly cook uncovered for most of the time. Don’t forget to stir once in a while! If the mixture starts sticking, add some water and scrape it up. If the mixture starts browning quickly, turn the heat lower. Patience, patience. Stir some more. Has the mass shrunk a lot? Good, you’re almost there. Season with salt and about a teaspoon of sugar. Stir and stir. When they’re brown and soft and caramelised (about 40-45 minutes), take them off the heat and stir through about 3 tsps of a good balsamic vinegar.

Now use those onions! Slice a hot dog bun lengthwise but not all the way through. Smear both cut sides with some Dijon mustard. Add a couple of tablespoons of caramelised onions and nestle the cooked beef sausage on top of them. Serve.