During this motherhood experiment (Oh wait, it’s not a trial run.), I’ve had to resign some of my pantry to convenience products—and I don’t mean just dried pasta. I’ve always enjoyed canned tomatoes (even the loca-terroirist Italians appreciate a good processed pomodoro), but I didn’t even cook with canned coconut milk before I had children. I still rarely purchase bread (except for tortillas), and I make my own yogurt, but we might starve around here if it weren’t for canned beans! I’m grateful that organic and natural convenience foods are readily available, as the occasional pre-made cookie , tortellini, and of course mayo, mustard and ketchup, help keep our family going. Oh yeah, peanut butter, tofu and sausages, sauerkraut and other pickles, preserves—I just can’t cook it all myself yet!
But no natural crescent rolls. You know what I’m talking about. I haven’t eaten Pillsbury’s canned Americanized croissants in many years but I sure won’t say I didn’t love them. And they’re so handy for quick treats and appetizers. If any of you natural foods conglomerates are listening, I’m tellin’ you there’s a market for this item!
Until the convenience food of a carb and butter lover’s dream becomes a reality, I’ll make do with my Easy Crescent Roll recipe. With just a little bit more effort than a batch of your regular homemade rolls, you can turn out a respectably flaky, buttery baked good that’ll please the whole party.
EASY CRESCENT ROLLS makes 16 rolls
- 85 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons) milk. I use either Swede Farm Dairy or Wateroak Farm goat’s milk.
- 2 Tablespoons butter. I prefer Organic Valley. Click for a coupon.
- 1 local egg
- 3 Tablespoons water
- 1 Tablespoon yogurt. Click for instructions. I make my own with local goat milk. You can buy local goat yogurt, too!
- 1 ½ teaspoons local honey. I love Good Flow‘s local wildflower honey. I buy it at Central Market in the bulk department.
- 175 grams (about 1 ½ cups plus 1 Tablespoon) organic white whole wheat flour. I use King Arthur. Whole Foods sells the 5 pound bag for $6.99.
- 172 grams (about 1 ½ cups minus 1 ½ teaspoons) organic all-purpose flour. WF’s 365 brand 5 pound bag is usually the best deal.
- ¾ teaspoon salt. I like Real Salt. I buy this in bulk at WF.
- 1 teaspoon instant (“rapid rise” or “bread machine”) yeast. NOT active dry.
- 1 stick or block of butter (at least 4 ounces), frozen. I really like the results I get from using a higher fat butter for this step, such as Organic Valley European Style or Straus Family Creamery’s organic European style, but regular OV will work.
- 2 Tablespoons softened butter. OV’s Pasture butter lends excellent flavor here, but again, regular high quality butter will work. Or try Texas’ own Lucky Layla—maybe the tastiest butter I’ve ever tried!
Scald the milk in a small saucepan (bring it just below the boiling point. You’ll see small bubbles around the edge of the pan). Add the 2 Tablespoons butter, stir in the honey (Thanks, Suzanna!), and set aside. In a medium small bowl stir together the egg, water and yogurt. Combine both flours in the work bowl of your food processor. Put the yeast on one side of the flour and the salt on the other. Run the processor to mix the dry ingredients. Pour the milk into the egg mixture, and with the machine running, add it to the flour through the feed tube. Process the dough for 45 seconds. Turn the dough out into a large buttered bowl and gather it all together, forming it into a smooth ball with your hands. Seal the bowl shut with a lid, plastic wrap or even aluminum foil if the vessel is clear (so you can see through it) and let the dough rise for about 2 hours. It won’t quite double, but it will have risen noticeably and will feel somewhat puffy when poked with your finger. Place a box grater in the freezer after you get the dough covered, so it will be very cold after the first rise.
Turn the dough out onto a nonstick mat (such as a silpat or kneading mat—my preference) or a lightly floured counter. Press down the dough all over with your fingers to flatten it. Roll the dough out into an approximate rectangle about 15″ X 14″. Occasionally pick up the dough from one end with both hands and let it hang, shaking it gently like a beach towel, to let the gluten relax into shape. Retrieve your frozen butter block and box grater from the freezer and quickly grate about 1 ½ ounces (three Tablespoons) frozen butter all over the surface of the dough. Use a chilled metal icing spatula to lift up any butter flakes that have fallen onto the mat and place them back onto the dough. Take one long end of the dough and roll it up, jelly roll style, to enclose the butter. Now coil that roll into a tight spiral, sealing the seams together and pressing the end of the roll to attach it.
Now roll the dough out again, repeating the steps above (roll out, grate butter, roll up, coil up). If your kitchen is warm or you feel like it’s taking too long to get the dough into shape, go ahead and put the frozen butter and grater back in the freezer while you work. As you roll, the seams of the dough will pretty much rejoin, but pinch them together when you think it’s necessary.
After you’ve wound the rolled up dough into a coil again, roll it out into a 14″ circle. This time try to make it as even and circular as you can. Pinch any separatist seams into shape. Now spread an even layer of the softened butter all over the circle of dough. Using a pizza cutter (works best) or a sharp paring knife, cut the round into 16 wedges. Roll up each wedge—not too tightly—starting with the wide end, and tuck the narrow tip underneath the roll. Place each formed roll onto a parchment lined baking sheet (approx. 11 ½” X 17 ½”). Loosely cover the rolls with plastic wrap or clean plastic bags and let rise for about one hour. The rolls will spring back a little when lightly pressed with your fingertip.
About 20 minutes before the rolls are ready, preheat your oven to 375º. When the rolls have risen, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake them for about 17 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. Let the rolls cool for 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet. Love those layers!
As I worked on this recipe, through numerous variations, my husband kept bugging me to make cinnamon rolls with the dough. After I finally got the rolls right (I had started with a quite different recipe—galette pérougienne), I made a quick and simple cinnamon sugar variation.
BONUS CINNAMON CRESCENTS variation makes 16 rolls
- 3 Tablespoons organic sugar. Central Market and Whole Foods carry this is bulk for $1.49 a pound.
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I like the full flavor of Vietnamese cassia. CM sells it in bulk and if you do Costco, they package it as well.
Complete the above steps through spreading the dough with the softened butter, but use only one Tablespoon of softened butter. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the buttered dough. Use your fingertips to gently distribute the sugar mix over the surface. Cut the dough and form the rolls as above. Let rise and bake the same.