Flaky Buttery Crescent Rolls: the best of both worlds

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Awhile back, I did a quick poll on our Facebook page asking readers for their preference in crescent rolls:

Crisp/flaky… or soft/yeasty?

And guess what, dear readers? You were split right down the middle, with half going for a soft yeast roll that unravels into a buttery strip; and half preferring a crisper, baking powder-based roll, one that shatters apart into buttery shards and flakes when you bite into it.

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Wonder if we can have it both ways?”

And the answer is…

…a resounding YES.

After pondering the pluses of both yeast rolls and baking powder biscuits, I decided to do a combo: I was after the flavor of yeast bread, and the flakiness of a well-made baking powder biscuit.

Add LOTS of butter (think puff paste; think a crisp/flaky turnover), and you get the quintessential crescent roll: flaky, tender, crisp, yeasty, and buttery.

Did I succeed? Yes, I think so. But I’ll let you be the judge.

Would you rather go the easiest route, and pop open a can, like this?

Or gather six simple ingredients, and make your own Flaky Buttery Crescent Rolls?

Let’s get started. First, whisk together the following:

3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt*
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons instant yeast

*If you use salted butter, reduce the salt to 3/4 teaspoon.

Next, cut 1 1/4 cups (20 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter into pats. Or flatten with a rolling pin, like this:

Lay the butter on a piece of parchment. Cover with another piece of parchment. Whack with a rolling pin until flat and malleable. All it takes is a few good strokes, and you’re there.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is unevenly crumbly.

Add 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, full-fat or part-skim; stir until the dough comes together.

Don’t want to use ricotta cheese? Substitute 1 cup sour cream for the 1 1/2 cups ricotta. Be aware sour cream will lend your rolls a tangy, sourdough-like flavor different than that of a classic crescent roll.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, and bring it together, if necessary, with a few quick kneads. Divide the dough in half.

Working with one half at a time, pat the dough into a rough square, then roll it into an 8″ x 10″ rectangle. Starting with one of the shorter (8″) ends, fold it in thirds like a business letter. Turn it 90°, and roll it into an 8″ x 10″ rectangle again. Fold it in thirds, wrap in plastic, and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before using.

Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.

If desired, freeze the dough for up to 1 month before using. When you’re ready to bake, let the dough or rolls thaw in the refrigerator overnight, covered, before using. Then let them rest at room temperature for several hours after shaping and before baking, as the recipe directs.

When you’re ready to shape the crescent rolls, remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm and soften for about 10 minutes at room temperature; this will make it easier to work with. Working with one piece of dough at a time, cut it in half.

Again, work with one piece of dough at a time. Round its corners, and roll the dough into a 9″ circle. Cut the circle into 6 wedges. Note: If you’re working on a silicone rolling mat, as I’m doing here, cut carefully! You don’t want to mar its surface.

To shape a crescent roll, begin at the base of a wedge; roll towards the point at the top. Place the roll on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, with the tip underneath. Gently bend the roll into a crescent shape.

Repeat with the other half of the dough; then with the remaining dough. If you’ve chosen to use the entire batch of dough, you will have rolled and cut four pieces of dough, to make a total of 24 rolls.

Cover the pans, and let the rolls rest for 3 to 4 hours. They won’t rise noticeably; that’s OK. Towards the end of the rest period, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Uncover the rolls, and bake them for 20 to 25 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

Remove from the oven, and serve warm, or at room temperature.

So, here’s the comparison – canned-dough crescent roll in front, homemade in the back.

One difference? The canned roll has more “twirls.”

For homemade rolls with more layers, roll each half of dough into a 7″ x 9″ rectangle, rather than a 9″ circle. Cut the rectangle into 3 rectangles, each 3″ x 7″; then cut each rectangle in half diagonally, to make six 7″ long triangles, with a 3″ base. Starting with the short base, roll towards the tip, and proceed as directed in the recipe.

These crescents were made from dough I’d had frozen for nearly 2 months – so yes, you can freeze the dough longer than a month, though as you can see it’s apt to bake “spottier” rolls, not sure why…

Ah, but check out the buttery flakiness of your homemade rolls.

And look at the simplicity of their ingredients: King Arthur unbleached flour, butter, yeast, salt, baking powder, and ricotta cheese.

Compared to what’s in the canned rolls: Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil, Sugar, Baking Powder (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate), Contains 2% or Less of: Dextrose, Vital Wheat Gluten, Salt, DATEM, Potassium Chloride, Xanthan Gum, Yellow 5, Red 40 and Other Color Added.

Yes, canned crescents are fast and easy. But with a bit of planning, your homemade crescents can be pretty easy, too – and simply delicious.

Now, for the inevitable question: “Can I make these with whole wheat flour?”

Well, maybe a bit; say, 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup whole wheat substituted for the same amount of all-purpose flour. Any more than that, we fear the rolls would lose their wonderful texture. But experiment with a higher percentage of whole wheat, if you like; taste is always personal.

Bake, rate, and review (please) our recipe for Flaky Buttery Crescent Rolls.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. marcin

    I’ve always wished I could make these. I am printing the recipe out as I write, and I will make them for Christmas for sure! Looking at the combination of baking powder and yeast is making me wonder if some of the other companies that make croissants such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Au Bon Pain, and Peppridge Farm are using that combination too. It would explain my chronic confusion as to what I’m eating! I still use Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe for croissants–it takes three days to make them, but with chocolate or lobster newburg, they are wonderful too. And I’ve never been able to shape them the way you do here. So for croissant dinner rolls, I’ll use this and save the Julia Child recipe for large chocolate or apple-filled croissants and use these when I need a dinner roll.

    Remember, these aren’t croissants – they’re crescent rolls, which are less complicated. Croissants are usually made with a laminated (butter-layered) dough like this one, but with many more “turns” – they’re more involved to make. I think you might find these quite a bit simpler than Julia’s recipe! :) PJH

    Reply
  2. AnneInWA

    PJ-

    I am having company over the holidays, and guess what? You just gave me an idea! I will be making these to have out for breakfasts in the morning, some plain just like yours, others filled with chocolate or berries, or chocolate and berries! Oh these look delicious! Thanks again PJ! Keep on baking!

    Anne

    Sounds good, Anne – my next batch is a special request from my niece, who wants them stuffed with those little cocktail wieners… :) PJH

    Reply
  3. melissayaroschak

    Looks great, can’t wait to try these! One question… Recipe says 1 1/2c butter (which is 24 TBSP) but you say 20TBSP and your picture looks like 2 1/2 sticks which should be 1 1/4 c if they are 1/2c sticks.

    Melissa, I kept looking at that and thinking, “SOMETHING is wrong here…” But I kept thinking “Yup, 20 tablespoons is right” – neglecting to notice the cup measurement was off! Thanks for catching that – all fixed. Should be 1 1/4 cups. PJH

    Reply
  4. Patty G.

    Could the rest period be extended or would that hurt the dough? I would love to serve these with a dinner I am preparing this weekend but will be too busy with other cooking and cleaning tasks 3-4 hours before the dinner.

    I haven’t tried it, Patty, but I expect the rising period could be extended to 6 or 7 hours, so long as you keep them relatively cool; don’t leave them on the counter in your hot kitchen, for instance. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  5. Mary N

    This looks yummy. Will have to make pot roast for this. I am hoping this might be a new addition to the recipe. I am not a fan of ricotta cheese and although sour cream is fine with me I don’t think my dinner guest will warm up to sour crescents. Would yogurt or cottage cheese be a a viable substitute for the dough? Thanks in advance.

    Mary, you won’t taste ricotta cheese in the rolls, I promise you. All it does is lend the rolls a lovely moist interior. If you really are afraid to use it, however, try fine-curd cottage cheese that you’ve mashed or blended so it’s as fine as ricotta. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  6. mamsis

    This looks interesting, and useful! Do you think this could substitute for the dough in the can in those recipes that start with “open can, unroll dough, press perforations together to form rectangle…” ? I would much rather use this homemade dough!

    Yes, I think this would be an excellent substitute – go for it! PJH

    Reply
  7. PamJWM

    Just today I was thinking to myself, “I want to make crescent rolls for winter solstice morning, but I really hate buying the canned ones when I LOVE baking so much, yet fresh croissants seems like too much work with everything else going on.” This is perfect! One thing I’ve been thinking about trying is using my pasta machine to roll the dough out repeatedly to make it flakier.
    Can’t wait to try this! And probably try adding chocolate to it at least once.

    Mmmmm, chocolate… Pam, I like the way you think! :) PJH

    Reply
  8. Iris

    Hi,
    this reminds me of a recipe my MIL makes quite frequently. She does quite tiny crescents (bite or two-bite sized) and stuffed them with cubes of ham. Here in Germany we use “Quark” instead of ricotta – isn’t that called curd cheese in your part of the world? But I also tried a version with cream cheese and that works very well (and without the sour taste of sour cream). HTH, Iris

    Reply
  9. "Teresa F."

    This sounds soooooo good. I’m going to make some soon and freeze some for future crescent cravings. FYI, the full recipe still lists ’1 1/2 cups (20 tablespoons)’ of butter. I just edited my copy after reading the comment. Thanks for making homemade crescents possible!

    Teresa, maybe try refreshing your page? I made the correction yesterday, and as of yesterday it looks fine on my end… so not sure how you’re seeing that. I thin these would freeze very nicely, too – and they’d be great to have on hand for, as you say, “future crescent cravings.” :) PJH

    Reply
  10. aaronatthedoublef

    What does laminating the butter do as opposed to cutting it up and cutting it into the flour like in pie crusts or biscuits.

    Will chilling the butter before combining it with the flour do anything? What about chilling the the rolls before popping them in the oven?

    I know these are different from pie crusts and biscuits because those don’t have yeast.

    Thanks

    Aaron, laminated dough generally has a lot more butter than pie crust or biscuits; and it makes long flakes as opposed to short flakes, so you get those big intact crunchy flakes of dough coming off when you take a bite – rather than just a general crumbly texture. Chilling the butter is a given when making laminated dough, even a semi-laminated dough like this one. if you don’t work with cold butter, it’ll just squish and ooze, and never holds its shape enough to help form flakes. You could try chilling the rolls, but I don’t think it would make that much difference – so long as you’re letting them rest/rise at cool room temperature, not in a warmish oven… PJH

    Reply
  11. MaxK76

    I just wanted to comment and say that I mush prefer the old layout of the blog, with the photos in-line with the text, better. The block of pictures is confusing and hard to see for those with less than perfect vision, and overall makes the post seem harsh or curt, somehow. I like to print the blog entry along with the recipe, and it is so nice to be able to glance down and check to make sure everything looks right, and that is impossible to do with a block of pictures.
    I am just now learning to bake after the passing of my partner and it’s nice to have the step-by-step reassurance – I’ve never had a bad result from following your recipes :)
    Thank you for listening!
    Thank you so much for the feedback. We’ve been trying to collage some of the smaller step photos for those bakers who are using mobile devices or have a hard time downloading long blogs. It’s good to know that it might work in some cases, but may not work in others. Please don’t ever hesitate to let us know your comments on how the blog is working out for you, we truly do appreciate it. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  12. ebenezer94

    “Now, for the inevitable question: “Can I make these with whole wheat flour?””

    LOL. Thanks for remembering us whole wheaters!

    It’s just a hard question to answer, usually. ANYTHING can be baked with whole wheat – but I have no way of knowing what a customer’s expectations are, as far as how closely it resembles the original. If you regularly bake with ww, then you kinda know what difference it’ll make. But if you’re a new baker, you may not have any idea at all… Tricky. But worth the effort to try! PJH

    Reply
  13. gaitedgirl

    Well, PJ, you’ve gone and done it now. I was hoping to get away with not making something yeast-y this weekend. There went that idea! I’ll be making these, post-haste! Quick question though, when you cut your dough in half, can you freeze one half of it and defrost overnight once it’s ready to go or can I freeze the shaped rolls? Or both?!

    @MaxK76 – Sorry for your loss. Losing a partner can be a difficult thing to deal with. I’m glad that KAF is there to guide you along the way with your baking. They won’t steer you wrong! :)

    Absolutely, freeze half. I’ve got 2 frozen pieces of dough right now, thinking I should throw them in the fridge so I can bake tomorrow… thanks for the reminder! PJH

    Reply
  14. rcross

    For the other whole-wheaters out there… I’ve been making WW crescent rolls for years, though with a diff recipe than this. I started from Beth Hensperger’s recipe in her bread machine cookbook (I’ve used it so often the book falls open to that page and I no longer need my post-it bookmark). Her recipe is basically 50/50 whole wheat to bread flour. Over the years, I have found that I can do 50% KA Whole Wheat and 50% KA White Whole Wheat and get amazing results, though not terribly flaky as it’s a yeasty recipe. I never buy refrigerated dough and just use that recipe.

    Can’t wait to tinker with this one.

    Reply
  15. thurnerbj

    I don’t know what winter solstace is, but whatever it is, it can’t compare with Christmas. I will be making these for Christmas dinner. Thanks and have a merry one.

    Reply
  16. kkaschke

    Would it be possible to get to the point of shaping the dough and letting them rise overnight? So they can be baked the next morning.

    Sure, that should work just fine. Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  17. cherieI

    ok, now you did it!!! The facebook post with those cinnamin rolls; how do we alter this recipe to turn these crescents into cinnamin rolls?

    Those are from our production bakery. To mimic these at home use croissant dough to replace the sweet dough. Frank @ KAF.

    I’d use our easy crescent roll recipe with the filling and glaze from these cinnamon rolls. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  18. Rstrst

    This dough, cut into rounds, and placed in muffin cups, is the perfect buttery holder for the sausage cream cheese puffs my kids love. I don’t bother to give it several hours, just about 30 min.

    Reply
  19. kkaschke

    I think I’m rolling these up too tight. Both times I’ve made them they rise more out than up so they come out kinda flat. They’re very tasty though and much better than the canned variety.

    Try experimenting with different rolling techniques next time, see what happens. Also, when things flatten as they bake, it’s usually a case of too much liquid or fat compared to the amount of protein in the flour – are you using King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour? Our AP is higher protein than other flours… Call our bakers’ hotline if you’d like to talk this through, OK? 802-649-3717. PJH

    Reply
  20. Ruhina

    Ok – these sound terrific.. BUT – I’m in a far off place which doesnt offer much choice in cheeses.. So, I dont have sour cream, or ricotta cheese and havent seen cream cheese either. I do have yoghurt and thick cream though. Would either of these go with this recipe? Thanks!

    Ruhina, try the thick cream, using enough to make a dough that’s the consistency pictured; that would be your best bet. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  21. brendayates

    I’ve been eyeing this recipe for quite a while now and decided to go ahead and make it as I am the person bringing the homemade rolls to our family’s post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner. I am known for my homemade breads but have always wanted to find a recipe that was so buttery you didn’t really need to butter them up at the table. This looks like it will fill that bill. The dough was easy to work with. I cut my butter up into dice before adding it to the dry ingredients and used my Kitchenaid to mix the dough (used the paddle, not the hook though). I think I will shape them the night before and then bake them in the morning so that they can cool before transport (I would bake them at my sis’s house, but oven space is always at a premium with a big turkey dinner). Can’t wait to taste them. This makes me want to try my hand at puff pastry and true croissants; I think I could take them on! Love your recipes and especially love your step by step blogs. It really helps explain a lot and in baking I think that a picture really IS worth a thousand words. Thanks again for all of your wonderful recipes.

    Reply
  22. Natalie

    These rolls are awesome and super easy! Next time I will try flattening the butter. Have any of you used this dough to make stuffed treats like this http://www.hellohue.com/2011/01/pop-em-like-theyre-hot.html or this http://www.laurenslatest.com/easy-blackberry-cheese-danish/? I’m concerned that the dough would get soggy during the four hour rising time. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks :)

    That last weblink is a lot like our Braided Lemon Bread recipe: Surprisingly, no! The dough does not get overly soggy as it rises before baking, although our final rise is far shorter than theirs: a mere 45-50 minutes! If you think about it, if you properly bake a pie, it doesn’t turn out soggy even with all the fruit filling. The same goes for danish doughs with fillings in them, as long as the fillings aren’t super runny–cream cheese or fruit jams and lemon curd are all fine! Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  23. Lee

    Hey!! I’m in Cape Town. ZAR and I’ve been looking for pillsbury crescent roll tubes everywhere, can’t find them! :-( I do have a question how much butter in grams does 20 tablespoons equate to?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Lee, I think you’ll find these even tastier than Pillsbury! 20 tablespoons butter = 10 ounces = 284g. Good luck – PJH

  24. deb in sc

    I love the idea of being able to freeze the dough, but would love to be able to freeze AFTER they are formed into the crescent shape. Is there any reason this wouldn’t work? I usually flash freeze on a cookie sheet, then pop into doubled freezer bags.

    Reply
  25. Jan in Maine

    Just made a batch and formed into rolls, popped all but 4 into freezer. Four are now in the 3-4 hour ‘rise’ period. Was shy with cottage cheese (didn’t know hubby had gotten into it!), so added a couple of tablespoons of creme frache. We’ll see. If it works, Thanksgiving rolls are taken care of. If not, no last minute scramble. Will let you know! :>)

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sounds like a yummy substitution, Jan; I’m betting they’ll be perfect. We’ll look forward to hearing your final report – PJH

  26. Hillary

    Sounds delicious! Any suggestions for a GF version? 3 cups of your GF flour and 3 tsps xanthan? Think that would work? Thank you

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Hillary, I wouldn’t dare guess at whether this recipe will work in a gluten-free version. How about calling our hotline, and asking to speak with one of the bakers who specializes in GF baking? 855-371-2253. Good luck – PJH

  27. Gambles

    When I try these with self rising flour, do I need to adjust the baking powder or salt? It is rare to find a recipe that fits the requirement for self rising – “uses salt and baking powder” – and also has yeast. (and this has the added bonus of being incredible!!) I’m quite excited to try to see if self rising makes a difference from the AP, but I thought I better confirm amounts in case there is anything I need to adjust???

    Two other questions: Since these do have some layers of butter, (similar to blitz puff?) would there be any benefit to a) chilling the dough after the 3-4 hour rise or b) using a 400 degree oven as is necessary for puff pastry to get the steam? I do understand that this is crescent dough and not croissant dough, but I was wondering if either of those things had been tried in the test kitchen? Part of that was asked above by aaronatthedoublef, but it was before results can now be posted.

    Thanks for any info.(especially any adjustments) I’m especially psyched about the self rising since blogs by PJ are VERY convincing!! :)

    Suzanne

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Just use the self rising flour in place of the all purpose flour and remove the baking powder and salt. You should be on your way to crescent rolls. I would not recommend chilling after the 3-4 hours rise as you suggest. Yes, this dough has layers just as blitz, but blitz is not a yeast dough. In addition to the layers, the yeast helps to the leaven the crescent rolls. Plus, the addition of yeast changes the texture (more soft). Yes, you may try baking at 400 degrees, but watch it carefully. They may brown too quickly. In addition, they may puff up beautifully! Elisabeth@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t made GF crescent rolls – but will add it to the list of recipes to develop for our GF bakers. You might experiment with 1/4 teaspoon xanthan per cup of GF flour. Bear in mind this will be experimental and may take a few bakes to get the best crescent rolls possible. Irene@KAF

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