Houstonian Holiday Recipes

Recipe: Holley’s Habit-Forming Parker House Benne Seed Rolls

Recreate the closed restaurant's buttery, yeasty bread rolls at home.

By Sarah Rufca Nielsen October 30, 2017 Published in the November 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Ray Kuglar

Since Holley's closed in late September, the city has been dangerously low on chef/owner Mark Holley's addictive rolls. Back when he opened the place, he settled on a classic—the Parker House roll, invented in the 1870s at the Boston hotel of the same name, and similar to the butter rolls his mother and grandmother made every Sunday when he was growing up.

Though some recipes call for water, Holley substitutes milk for extra-creamy dough. “The unique thing about ours is we use benne seeds, not sesame seeds. Benne seeds are wild sesame seeds from Senegal that were brought over during slavery to the Carolinas,” explains Holley. “My roots carry me back to Senegal, so that’s kind of my personal twist.”

The good news is that even though the restaurant has shuttered, bakers can still recreate these buttery, yeasty bread rolls at home.

Recipe: Parker House Rolls

Serves 24


  • 5 ¹⁄ c. bread flour
  • 3 ½ T instant dry yeast
  • 1 ½ c. milk
  • 5 T butter
  • ¹⁄ c. sugar
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 T salt
  • Benne seeds, as needed (available from ansonmills.com, or substitute with sesame seeds)
  • Melted butter, as needed


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Soften butter and set aside. Crack 2 eggs into a bowl and whisk. Heat milk until lukewarm and add yeast to activate.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine bread flour, sugar and salt. On low-medium speed, add softened butter, eggs and yeast-milk mixture until combined. Do not over-work dough.
  4. Place dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic. This is your first proof.  Let it sit in a warm area to rise until dough has tripled in size, approximately 40–45 minutes.
  5. Punch dough and fold into a ball. Lightly dust work surface with flour and begin to roll dough out to about ¼ inch thick. Using a 4-inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out rounds.
  6. Lightly dip dough rounds into a small bowl with the melted butter, then gently fold one side over the other to create a C-shape and place in a 9-inch round pan. About 10 dough rounds should fit in the pan.
  7. Let rest for 15–20 minutes. Dough should double in size. Gently brush each individual dough round with an egg wash (the remaining egg plus 1 T water, beaten) and sprinkle with benne seeds.
  8. Bake for 15–20 minutes, rotating as needed.
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