The best crescent rolls are tender and have flaky, pull-apart layers. Some recipes create crescent-shaped rolls with no flakiness, while others laminate the dough to make layers like a biscuit or croissant. I use a combination of techniques, which I describe below, to achieve crescent rolls with a distinct texture of tender soft bread rolls and flaky croissants.
Store-bought crescent rolls are oddly sweet and one note. This version is less sweet and butterier, making them an ideal accompaniment to any savory meal or a great breakfast with butter and jam. Their crescent-moon shape and hard-to-resist flavor are wonderful for sharing, but I won’t blame you if you find yourself hoarding the whole batch for yourself!
Let’s Talk About Yeast
Proof the active dry yeast in warm water and a little sugar before adding it to the dough. This ensures that the yeast is still alive and active—it’ll be able to do its job leavening the dough. I’ve had some bad luck with dead (inactive) yeast, so this step is reassurance so that you don’t waste your time or ingredients on dough that will never rise!
What is Laminated Dough?
Laminated dough is created by adding fat (usually butter) in dough rolled and folded multiple times to create thin, alternating layers. When baked, water in the fat turns into steam and the steam pushes apart the layers of dough, yielding a flaky end result.
With most laminated doughs, the dough is chilled between each fold to allow the gluten to relax and to allow the fat to firm—so it doesn’t squish out—yet stay pliable enough to roll out. The way you fold the dough to create the layers depends on the pastry you’re making. This recipe utilizes the trifold: one third of the dough is folded over the middle and the remaining third folded over that.
Traditionally, like when you make croissants or puff pastry, a flattened block of butter is used to laminate dough and the process is often lengthy. For this recipe, I laminate the dough using a method similar to making paratha: softened butter is spread by hand over the rolled out dough and sprinkled with flour, which helps provide definition between the layers.
Having Trouble With the Dough?
The best piece of advice I can give you: take your time. Don’t skip proofing the yeast and letting the dough rise and the butter chill. These are important steps to create fluffy, pull-apart layers. Here are two troubleshooting tips to help you along:
- Once you make the dough, it needs to rise in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 18 hours. Dough chilled for an hour will be softer, requiring a lighter touch and more flour to keep it from sticking. If it becomes difficult to handle, simply chill it for longer. A longer rest in the fridge will make it easier to work with.
- The dough is rolled out, smeared with softened butter, and folded to create layers. The dough needs to then chill long enough for the butter to firm up, but still be pliable enough to roll out again. It’s a fine dance, but don’t skip the chill! If the butter is too warm, it will squeeze out from between the layers of dough—the crescent rolls will be dense, not flaky.
How To Make Crescent Rolls Over Two Days
Homemade crescent rolls can be made from start to finish in the same day. Although worth the effort, it can take a bit of time. Don’t have all day? Luckily, the process can spread over a couple of days. Here’s how:
- Make the dough and let it rise in the fridge for up to 18 hours. I make the dough in the evening so that it’s ready the next day. Plus, the longer the dough rises, the more flavor it will develop. Proceed with the recipe and bake the crescent rolls the next day.
- Once the dough is laminated and shaped, freeze the unbaked crescent rolls for up to one month. Store them in a resealable freezer bag or tightly wrapped on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
How to Bake Frozen Crescent Rolls
Thaw the frozen crescent rolls in the refrigerator overnight placed on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan loosely covered with plastic wrap. Then, proof the thawed crescent rolls in a warm, draft-free place until about doubled in size. The dough will slowly springs back but hold an indentation when gently poked. Now they are ready to be baked!
A Dough for Making More Than Crescent Rolls
This dough is super versatile. Consider other ways to use the dough:
- As suggested by my brother, give them the chocolate croissant treatment. When you shape the dough, tuck a piece of chocolate into the center—break out the good stuff.
- Use the dough to make flaky, tender cinnamon rolls. You can find instructions for rolling and filling the dough here.
- Use the dough to make chocolate babka! Instructions for rolling, filling, and shaping the dough are here.
More Rolls for Buttering Up
Homemade Crescent Rolls
1/4 cup (46g) warm water, about 110°F
1/4-ounce package (7g) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 teaspoon sugar, divided
2 3/4 cups (372g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 1/4 teaspoons (7g) kosher salt
2 sticks (226g) unsalted butter, cold, divided
1/2 cup (107g) whole milk, at room temperature, plus more for brushing
1 large egg, at room temperature, well beaten
Neutral oil, for greasing the bowl
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)
Proof the yeast:
In a small bowl, add the warm water and yeast, and stir to dissolve the yeast. Sprinkle in 1/4 teaspoon sugar and let sit until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. If your yeast is alive, the mixture will bubble up.
Combine the dry ingredients:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.
Add cold butter:
Cut 10 tablespoons (141g) butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add it to the flour mixture. Set the remaining 6 tablespoons (85g) aside at room temperature to soften.
Use your hands to toss the butter in the flour mixture. Working quickly so that the butter doesn’t melt, use your fingers to pinch and squish the flour-coated butter in the flour until it’s roughly pea-size. Make a well in the center.
Add the wet ingredients:
Add the milk, egg, and the proofed yeast into the well. Use a rubber spatula to stir it until a shaggy dough forms. Use your hand to bring the dough together into one mass.
The dough will be soft and sticky, with bits of butter visible throughout. Resist the urge to add more flour or continue kneading.
Let the dough rise in the refrigerator:
Lightly oil a large bowl—you can use the same bowl used to mix the dough. Transfer the dough into it and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 18 hours.
Meanwhile, line a sheet pan that’s small enough to fit in your freezer with parchment paper. Set it aside.
Laminate the dough:
Lightly sprinkle flour on a clean work surface and turn the chilled dough onto it. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Use a rolling pin to roll it into a 15x10-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, with the long side closest to you.
Use your fingers or offset spatula to spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on the rolled dough into a very thin, even layer. Sprinkle a few pinches of flour over the butter.
Pick up and fold the left third of the dough over the middle third and the right third over that. You’ll have a narrow rectangle with the long side perpendicular to you. This is called a trifold. Transfer the dough onto the prepared sheet pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the butter firms up.
Repeat this process three more times for a total of four trifolds—start by rolling it into a rectangle and end with chilling it in the freezer. After the last trifold, chill the dough for about 15 minutes in the freezer. The dough should be firm, but pliable enough to roll out.
Prepare the pans for baking:
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and set them aside.
Divide the dough:
Place the chilled dough on your work surface with the long side closest to you. Use a sharp knife to cut it in half crosswise—you’ll have 2 pieces about 5x5-inches each. Keep a piece in the fridge, while you shape the other.
Cut the dough:
Lightly sprinkle flour on your work surface. Roll the dough into a 12x6-inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick, with the long side closest to you. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut it crosswise into 6 2x6-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half on the diagonal to create 2 triangles. You will end with 12 triangles.
Shape the dough:
Place 1 triangle on your work surface with the point away from you. Cut a shallow 1/4-inch slit in the center of the base of the triangle. Gently tug each side of the base apart—while optional, this helps elongate and shape the crescent roll.
Roll the base of the triangle away from you and towards the point, ending with the point tucked under. Curve the ends to curve the roll slightly into the shape of a crescent. Transfer it onto a prepared sheet pan, which will hold 12 rolls. Shape the remaining rolls and spread them out evenly on the sheet pan.
Cover them loosely with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature. In the meantime, cut and shape the remaining dough chilling in the fridge.
Let the rolls rise at room temperature for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until almost doubled in size. Gently poke one. If it slowly springs back, but holds an ident, it’s ready to be baked.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Set the oven racks to the top and bottom thirds.
Brush the rolls:
Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the tops of each roll with whole milk.
Bake the rolls:
Bake the rolls until puffed and golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet pans from front to back and from top to bottom, halfway through.
Butter the rolls and serve:
Place the sheet pans on wire racks. While the rolls are still hot, brush them with melted butter, if you’d like. Serve them warm—they’ll be flaky and oh so tender.
Store leftovers in a resealable bag or airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the rolls on a sheet pan and reheat them in a 325°F oven until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||21%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||49%|
|Total Carbohydrate 13g||5%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||2%|
|Total Sugars 1g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|