If you haven’t learned how to make crescent rolls yet because you’re afraid of using yeast or think you don’t have the time, you’re in for a treat. These small, delicate beauties melt in your mouth with a buttery taste and soft texture that can’t be beat. With five easy steps and a make-ahead freezer option, you can have amazing homemade crescent rolls on your table on a regular basis. (But don’t worry, we still have plenty of delicious ideas for refrigerated crescent dough!)
How to Make Crescent Rolls from Scratch
Our Test Kitchen’s favorite crescent roll recipe is this one right here. To make it, you’ll need:
- 3-3/4 – 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 packets (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup butter, cubed
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Step 1: Mix the ingredients
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First, whisk together your dry ingredients—a cup and a half of flour, yeast and salt—together in a large mixing bowl. Then in a small saucepan, heat the milk, cubed butter and honey to about 120ºF (you don’t want it much hotter or you’ll kill the yeast). Add the milk mix to the dry ingredients and beat at medium speed—either with a hand mixer or stand mixer—for two minutes.
Next, add in the egg yolks and beat on high for another two minutes. Stir in enough of the remaining dough to form a soft, sticky dough.
Step 2: Knead the dough
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Now for the fun part: kneading! Turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and flour your hands as well. Knead the dough by pushing the dough forward with the heel of your hand and then folding it over itself. Turn a quarter turn and repeat. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic—about six to eight minutes.
Editor’s tip: As you knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, the dough will pick up a little more flour and should eventually feel smooth and satiny. If the dough is not sticking to your hands or the kneading surface, don’t add any more flour.
Step 3: Proof
Once you’re satisfied with your kneading, place the dough in a lightly greased bowl (a spritz of cooking spray works just fine). Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rise in a warm room (ideally 75-85ºF) until it doubles in size—about 45 minutes.
If your house is a bit cool or drafty, don’t worry. We’ve got tips on how to proof bread even in a chilly house.
Step 4: Punch down and refrigerate (or skip to step 5)
After the bread has doubled in size, punch down the dough. If you’re new to bread making, that just means that you push down the dough a bit with your knuckles to deflate it.
If you’re not ready to bake, you can pop the dough in a zip-top bag and refrigerate overnight. If you want to bake right away, skip right to step five.
Step 5: Shape the crescents and proof again
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Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Roll each portion into a 14-inch circle. Cut each circle into 16 wedges. Lightly brush the wedges with melted butter. Roll up from the wide ends, pinching the pointed ends to seal. Place the rolls two inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, point side down.
Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let the rolls rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Editor’s tip: If you want to prep these crescent rolls far in advance, you can freeze them after shaping them (but before the second proof). To freeze, pop the shaped crescents on a cookie sheet in the freezer and chill until firm. Then transfer to a zip-top bag or airtight container and freeze for up to four weeks. When you’re ready to bake, defrost and let rise. This should take two to three hours.
Step 6: Bake and serve
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Preheat the oven to 375°. Bake the rolls until golden brown, about ten minutes. Remove the rolls from pans to wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm.
Get Creative with Your Crescent Rolls
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These crescent rolls taste perfect as is, but if you’d like extra flavor, try adding your favorite herbs, fruit or nuts to the dough (or slather on homemade flavored butter instead). These are some of our favorite combinations.
- Chive crescent rolls: Divide two-thirds cup of minced, fresh chives between two discs of dough.
- Orange-pecan crescent rolls: Toss a cup of finely chopped pecans with a third cup sugar and four teaspoons grated orange peel. Divide the mixture between two circles of dough.
- Cranberry-thyme crescent rolls: Toss a cup of finely chopped dried cranberries with two-thirds cup of finely chopped walnuts and two teaspoons of minced fresh thyme leaves. Divide the mixture between two circles.
Editor’s tip: To make the flavor variations, brush the dough with butter and the filling of your choice before cutting it into wedges. Then cut, roll and bake as directed.