Learn the step-by-step process of how to make crescent rolls. These soft yeast rolls are tender and incredibly fluffy. I am breaking down all of the steps to make the process very easy to follow!
Crescent Roll Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Skills Used: Modified Straight Dough Method
- Master Recipe Used: Enriched Dough Master Recipe
Crescent rolls are made from an enriched yeast dough. This means the dough contains fat, eggs, and sugar making a yeast bread that is soft and tender.
These crescent yeast rolls can be made the day they will be served or can be prepped the day ahead and baked the next day. The rolls turn out soft, tender, and slightly sweet.
How to Make Crescent Rolls Step-by-Step
Yeast dough can feel intimidating for people, but it really can be easy once you get conformable with it. I’m going to break it down for you!
Step 1: Mix Butter, Sugar, and Salt Together
In a large mixing bowl, mix together your butter with the sugar and salt. You want your butter to be at room temperature so that it will easily mix in.
You don’t need to cream these ingredients together like when making cookies. Just make sure they are well combined.
Step 2: Add the Eggs
Stir in the room temperature eggs into your butter/sugar mixture. Your mixture will likely look somewhat curdled at this point. That is okay!
Step 3: Add the Warm Milk
You want the milk for your yeast rolls to be warm, somewhere around 110 F (43 C). Yeast loves warm temperatures and it will wake it up quickly. However, if your liquid is too hot you can kill the yeast. It is best to error on the side of using liquid that is cooler rather than too hot.
I typically warm my milk in the microwave for about 30 seconds. It should be just slightly warm to the touch and not hot.
Step 4: Mix in the Flour and Yeast
Most yeast bread recipes will list a range in the amount of flour used in the recipe. This is because flour is temperamental and depending on where you live you might need more or less for your dough. Start with the lowest amount of flour listed and then you can add more in while kneading the dough.
You can use active dry or rapid rise yeast for these crescent rolls. Both will work well and can be added right in with the flour, no hydrating needed. Note: If you are making make-ahead yeast rolls (prepping the day before), you want to be sure to use active dry yeast.
Step 5: Knead the Dough
This crescent dough can be kneaded by hand or with a stand mixer using the dough hook. You want to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic but still slightly sticky. Add more flour as needed while kneading your dough.
Step 6: Let the Dough Rise (Fermentation)
Now your dough needs to rise until about double in size. This process is called fermentation. The dry yeast, which was in a dormant state, is now awake and it needs time to feed. The yeast will feed on the starches and sugars in the dough and will create carbon dioxide gas which allows the dough to rise.
You have two choices here, you can let it rise at room temperature or you can put it in the refrigerator to slowly rise. If you let your dough rise at room temperature this will take about 45 minutes if you used rapid rise yeast, or it could take about 90 minutes if you used active dry yeast. If you let it rise in the refrigerator, you can let it stay in there for about 12-16 hours.
Step 7: Deflate the Dough
Gently press down on your risen dough in the center to deflate the gas out of it. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Step 8: Divide And Cut Your Dough
Divide the dough into two equal pieces. You can use a scale if you want to be really exact with this. Do not pull or tear the dough. Use a knife to divide it.
Roll one piece of the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. Take your softened butter and spread it all over the top of the dough.
I like to flavor my butter with garlic powder to make it extra delicious. You could also add fresh herbs or other spices if you wanted to.
Cut the dough like a pizza into 8 or 12 equal pieces. 8 pieces will make quite large crescents and 12 pieces will make more traditional sized crescent rolls.
Start at the long edge to roll the dough into crescent shapes.
Step 9: Bake the Rolls
If desired you can brush the rolls with an egg wash to get the beautiful shiny finish on the tops, but this is optional. I like to brush them with a little more garlic butter right before serving.
For the Dough
- 6 TBSP (85 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup (50 gr) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk, slightly warm (about 110 F, 43 C)
- 4-5 cups (480-600 gr) unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 package (7 gr, 2 1/4 tsp) active dry or rapid rise yeast (*note: you should use active dry yeast if you follow the instructions for prepping the day before)
For the Filling/Topping
- 1 stick (114 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- In a large mixing bowl, stir together the butter, granulated sugar, and salt until well combined.
- Add the eggs into the mixture and stir until incorporated. The mixture will look curdled at this point.
- Warm the milk slightly. I typically warm it for about 30 seconds in the microwave. It should be barely warm to the touch and not hot. Stir the milk into the mixture until incorporated.
- Add 4 cups of the flour and the package of yeast into the bowl and stir to combine. Reserve the 5th cup of flour to add in if needed while kneading the dough. If you will be following the instructions for prepping the rolls the day before baking, make sure you are using active dry yeast. If you will be baking the same day, you can use either active dry or rapid rise yeast. You do not need to hydrate the yeast before adding it into the dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it by hand for about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. You may need to work in a little more flour as you knead it if it is sticking to the counter too much. The dough will become less sticky as it is kneaded and the gluten structure forms. Alternatively, you can knead it with your dough hook in a stand mixer on medium high speed for about 8 minutes.
- Transfer the dough back to a mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- At this point, the dough needs to rise (ferment) until about double in size. You can do this at room temperature and it will take about 45 minutes if you used rapid rise yeast or about 90 minutes if you used active dry yeast. If you want to shape the rolls the next day, you can refrigerate the dough immediately after kneading it and allow it to slowly rise in the refrigerator for 12-18 hours. (If you would rather refrigerate the rolls after they are shaped to bake the next day, proof the dough at room temperature and see the notes in step 10.)
- Meanwhile, combine the butter for the filling with the salt and garlic powder (if using) or any other seasonings you want to add.
- After your dough has risen, gently press down in the middle of the dough to press all of the gas out of it. Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it evenly into 2 pieces.
- Working with one half of the dough at a time, roll it out into a circle about 1/4" thick. Spread about 1/3 of the butter mixture liberally over the dough. Cut the dough like a pizza into 8 or 12 equal pieces. 8 will make very large crescent rolls and 12 will make smaller, more standard size, crescent rolls. Roll the crescents starting from the long end up to the center. Transfer the rolls onto parchment lined baking sheets. Repeat with the other half of the dough reserving the last of the butter mixture for brushing on the baked rolls.
- Cover the rolls with plastic wrap. At this point the rolls need to rise a second time (proof) until about double in size. You can proof them at room temperature to bake them the same day, or you can proof them in the refrigerator overnight. The rolls will take about 45 minutes at room temperature if you used rapid rise yeast and will take about 75-90 minutes if you used active dry. If you want to let them rise in the refrigerator overnight, you can refrigerate them right after shaping them for 12-18 hours. They need to come out of the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). As an optional step, brush the rolls with an egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 TBSP of water) to give them a nice shine once baked. Bake the rolls on the center rack in the oven until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
- Melt the remaining butter mixture and brush the baked rolls with right before serving.