Astor House is thought to be New York's first great luxury hotel, which explains the secret ingredient in these rolls, first published in the New York Times in 1878: Each portion of dough gets a lump of butter tucked inside before baking. Recipe adapted slightly from The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Norton & Company, 2010) —Food52
packet active dry yeast
all-purpose flour, or more as needed
unsalted butter, softened
whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
plus 1 teaspoon cold unsalted butter
Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and let stand until foamy. Put 5 cups flour in a large bowl (you can use a mixer with a dough hook if you want) and make a well in the center. Add the yeast mixture, salt, sugar, softened butter, and milk and stir, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides. Then stir and beat the mixture until a ball of dough has formed. Pour the dough and any remaining flour onto a work surface and gradually knead in the remaining one cup of flour.
Put the dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let rise until light and fluffy and almost doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Punch down the dough and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes—you should need very little, if any, extra flour for this step. Return to the bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and divide into 22 pieces. Shape each piece into a tight round (Nancy Silverton instructs: cup your hand lightly around the dough, round it against the friction of a work surface to form a smooth bun, beginning slowly and increasing speed as ball becomes tighter and smoother). Keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap while you work.
Beginning with the first round, flatten each roll, seam side up, to 1/2-inch-thick. Place 1 teaspoon butter in the center, lift one edge of the dough, and pull it up and over the butter, forming a turnover-shaped roll, and pinch the edges firmly closed to seal in the butter.
Arrange rolls 3 inches apart on nonstick baking sheets (or baking sheets covered with parchment). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 425° F.
Bake until the rolls are puffed, golden, and cooked through, about 16 minutes. Cool on baking racks.