Canned crescent rolls were a special treat when I was a kid, but having eaten them again recently, I'm not nearly as impressed. They're fun to roll and taste pretty decent straight from the oven, but if they cool off even just the slightest, they quickly become dry and pretty flavorless. No wonder we were always stuffing them with peanut butter and chocolate as kids!
On the flip side, homemade crescent rolls are a commitment. They're not difficult to make, per se, but, thanks to two rounds of rises, it's at least two to three hours before you're breaking into a warm roll. My goal was to create a crescent roll that fell somewhere in between the two: entirely homemade, but almost as easy as popping open a can. And that's exactly where this recipe comes in.
These Easy Crescent Rolls Skip the Rise Entirely
I knew it would be hard to shave off any time if I started with a traditional yeast dough. So, having just experimented with the viral two-ingredient dough (self-rising flour and Greek yogurt), I figured it was worth trying it out in crescent-roll form. It worked like a charm, creating golden-brown rolls with a crisp outer shell and a tender, slightly tangy, buttery center.
If you start with all-purpose flour instead of self-rising, the dough is just four ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, and yogurt. When mixed together and kneaded for just a minute, it forms a smooth ball that's easy to roll and shape.
The Smart Technique That Makes These Rolls So Buttery and Flaky
The not-so-secret ingredient to any good crescent roll is — (you guessed it!) — butter. But instead of just mixing some into the dough or brushing it on top, I borrowed a technique from croissants and strategically folded it into the dough.
After rolling the dough into a rectangle, you'll smear on some softened butter, fold the dough lengthwise then crosswise, freeze it, then repeat. This folding process causes the dough to bake into buttery, flaky layers as it bakes, so that each and every bite is full of texture and flavor. The intermittent freezing keeps the butter cold, meaning it will melt slowly in the oven, creating air pockets where the butter can flow into. Of course, brushing on a little extra melted butter after the rolls come out of the oven doesn't hurt, either.
How to Shape Perfect Crescent Rolls
Once the dough is filled with butter, you'll want to roll it out again and then cut it into eight equal-sized squares. Each square is then halved diagonally, giving you 16 triangles to roll. Then, you'll proceed just as you would with canned crescent roll dough: roll from the wider end to the pointed tip, then transfer to the baking sheet.
The detailed instructions for these rolls are below, and although it may look like a lot of words, I assure you that these couldn't be simpler.
How To Make Easy Buttery Crescent Rolls
Makes 16 crescent rolls
Prep time: 40 minutes ; cooking time: 20 minutes to 25 minutes
What You Need
all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
full-fat plain Greek yogurt
unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
Flaky sea salt (optional)
Large mixing bowl
Whisk the dry ingredients together. Place the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Stir in the yogurt. Add the yogurt and stir until large clumps form.
Knead the dough. Squeeze and knead the dough with your hands until it becomes one cohesive mass. Continue kneading in the bowl until smooth, 10 to 15 times (or about 45 seconds). The dough will feel slightly tacky.
Roll into a rectangle. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into a 12x8-inch rectangle, positioning the rectangle so that a long side is at the bottom.
Spread with butter. Use a rubber spatula (or your fingertips) to spread 1 tablespoon of the butter all over the dough in a thin, even layer.
Fold, then freeze 10 minutes. Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise (from top to bottom), then crosswise (from left to right). Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes.
Repeat twice more. Remove the dough from freezer. Roll into a 12x8-inch rectangle, spread with 1 tablespoon of the butter, repeat the folding, wrap the dough, and return to the freezer for 10 minutes. Repeat the whole process once more, flouring the surface and the dough as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 10 minutes.
Roll into a larger rectangle. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven in thirds and heat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer and roll into an 18x10-inch-wide rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Again, position the rectangle so that a long side is at the bottom.
Cut into triangles. Cut in half lengthwise into two long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into quarters, so you have a total of 8 equal-sized squares. Diagonally cut each square in half, from corner to corner, to create a total of 16 triangles.
Roll into crescents. Gently stretch each triangle of dough to make it slightly larger, then roll each one up, starting with the wider end and ending with the pointed tip tucked under the roll. Transfer the rolls to the prepared baking sheets.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Bake, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through, until the bottoms are golden-brown and the tops are just beginning to brown, 20 to 25 minutes total.
Brush with butter. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and brush onto the warm rolls. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if using, and serve warm.
Storage: These crescent rolls are best served warm but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Reheat in a low oven.