Make Ahead Crescent Rolls

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My mom is a fantastic cook.  I remember coming home from church every Sunday, and her somehow pulling a delicious meal out of thin air in about 1/2 hour.  As I grew up, she taught me to love cooking, and she also taught me a lot of her secrets for making pieces of the meal, ahead of time, so that I can pull a delicious meal out of the oven with little prep on busy days, too.  Now, just like Mom, I can put delicious, buttery homemade crescent rolls on the table on the busiest of days, because I did all the prep work in advance. And now you can, too. 😉

What are we waiting for?  Let’s do this!

Make Ahead Crescent Rolls

(My Mom always made these– I think originally she modified a recipe from Taste of Home but I’m not positive)

Ingredients:

2 cups warm milk

1 cup white sugar

4 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (or 2 packages active dry yeast, softened in 1/3 cup warm water)

1 cup butter-flavored shortening

6 eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. salt

8-9 cups all purpose flour

3-4 tbsp. melted butter, for brushing, optional

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine warm milk, sugar, instant yeast, shortening, eggs, salt, and 2 cups of flour.  Mix slowly until combined.  Slowly add in more flour until you have a dough that is almost too stiff to stir.  At that point switch to the dough hook and gradually add in flour until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough that pulls away from the sides when kneading.  You may not need to use all of the flour– stop when your dough is still slightly sticky, but definitely soft.  Place dough into a large greased bowl (I use 2 large bowls and divide dough in half because it’s going to get BIG.  Trust me) and mist the top with cooking spray.  Cover and allow dough to rise until doubled in size– about 2-3 hours (usually dough doesn’t take this long to double in size– but there is a lot of dough here, so it takes longer).  When the dough has doubled, gently deflate it and divide into 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece out into a circle roughly 18″ wide and brush the dough with melted (not hot– just warm) butter.  Use a pizza cutter to divide the round into 8 pieces and roll into crescents, starting at the wide end of the triangle and rolling toward the center.  At this point you can freeze the crescents on a silpat-lined baking sheet and move to a freezer bag for later use, or you can allow some of the rolls to rise for a second time, covered and in a warm place, for about 40-50 minutes until puffy.  Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, just until golden brown.  Brush finished rolls with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven and serve immediately.

*Note: to bake the frozen rolls, place the crescents on a greased baking sheet and cover with a kitchen towel for 5-6 hours, or until thawed and puffy.  Alternatively, you can let the rolls thaw, covered, on a baking sheet in the refrigerator overnight.  Then allow them to rise at room temperature, covered, for about an hour prior to baking.  Follow same baking instructions as above.

Now, in pictures!  🙂  This may seem complicated, but it’s really not. And once you “get it” and discover the power of freshly baked bread anytime you want, just sitting there at your fingertips, you’ll feel like a boss. 😉

Making homemade bread is truly an art.  There is just nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from your kitchen.  And don’t fear the process!  When I first started making regular white bread, I really struggled.  But eventually you kind of get the hang of it.  Don’t give up! 🙂

The key to making any yeast bread is knowing your ingredients– and memorizing the way the dough “feels.”  Eventually you’ll be an expert and hardly even measure your flour anymore– you’ll just do it all by feel and the way your dough looks.  So let’s walk through the process! 🙂  To start, in the bowl of a stand mixer (have the Kitchenaid artisan here), combine the warm milk, sugar, instant yeast, shortening, eggs, salt, and 2 cups of flour. If you are unfamiliar with instant yeast, then get ready to meet your new best friend.  The plain “packet type” yeast at the grocery store is kind of a pain, because you have to use a “softening step” (where you sprinkle the yeast over warm water or milk and let it foam for about 10 minutes before adding to a recipe).  Instant yeast is kept in the freezer and can be added directly to a recipe, like you would measure out salt or baking powder.  And it keeps for years, unlike the envelopes which randomly go bad and don’t foam, meaning that all your bread plans have to wait until you go to the store for more yeast.  *colossal sigh.  Don’t be the victim of yeast envy.  Get instant yeast.  Trust me on this.  You’ll never go back to the annoying little packets.

I also like to use butter flavored shortening for this recipe.  Shortening offers divine flakiness, while butter offers flavor.  Most dinner roll recipes call for one or the other, but you have to sacrifice either flavor or flakiness.  Butter flavored shortening gives you the best of both worlds– a divinely flaky roll, with all the amazing taste of butter.  You’re welcome.  I keep a can of this stuff in my fridge all the time, and I wouldn’t be without it for pie crust or homemade buttermilk biscuits.  Some things are just too important to be considered a “want.”  This is definitely a “need.”  Yes.  It totally is.

Once you have your basic mix with the 2 cups of flour, slowly add in the rest of the flour, little by little, until your batter becomes thick enough that it’s almost too thick for the mixer.  At that point, switch over to the dough hook and add flour, slowly, allowing the machine to slowly work it in. Of course, you can knead dough by hand, too, and if I don’t have kids hanging on my legs, then I use the ‘ole hands.  But sometimes having an “extra hand” with my mixer is just great. It leaves my hands free for important things.  Like solving world peace.  And making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 😉

You may not need to use all of your flour.  Just keep slowly pulling and pushing the dough (or letting the machine do it).  Some of my best thinking happens while I’m kneading bread.  There is something therapeutic about using your hands in that slow, repetitive way.  As I said, don’t try to force in the full amount of flour.  There is a range of flour given because your necessary amount depends on many things– how humid the weather is that day, what type of milk you use (skim has more water in it than whole milk, for example), and even how you pack your flour scoops.   So just go slowly and work the dough.  When your dough is a thick, slightly sticky dough that kind of “kisses” your hands, but will still pull off of your fingers without gooping onto your hands, it’s ready.  How’s that for a description?  “Gooping”?  Eh . . . you know what I mean.

Put your soft, slightly sticky dough into a well greased bowl.  And just a little tip from me– this dough gets REALLY large when it rises, because there is so much of it.  So I usually split the lump into 2 halves and place them each into large, greased bowls to rise.  Cover the bowls with kitchen towels and allow to sit quietly in a warm place for 2-3 hours. I know, I know.  Usually bread doesn’t take so long to double in size, but this bread is heavy and takes a little longer.  So just ignore it for 3 hours. See how easy that was?  I told you that you could do this.

After the 2-3 hours, when the dough is roughly doubled in size and has become nice and puffy, it’s time to make our pretty little crescents! 🙂  Divide the dough into 4 equal “lumps.”  (I am so scientific today. First “goopiness” and now “lumps.”  haha).  If you’ve already divided the dough into 2 bowls before you started, then that makes it especially easy– just divide each lump into halves, again. Presto!  Four perfect lumps.  😀

Roll each of the 4 dough balls out on a lightly floured surface until you get a circle roughly 18 inches wide.  Don’t worry if your circle isn’t perfect– just a rough circle is fine.  When you get each circle rolled, brush it with melted butter (make sure the butter is just warm– not hot).  Use a pizza cutter to cut each circle into 8 pieces (just cutting in half again and again works well to get the pieces even).

Roll up the pieces, starting at the wide end and rolling toward the middle.  The butter you brushed onto the top will help the rolls to stick together.  When you are finished let the roll “rest” them on the seam (smallest end of triangle), so that it doesn’t unroll during baking.

Now here is the awesome part.  This recipe makes a LOT of crescent rolls.  So usually when I make this recipe, I leave about 4 rolls out, on a greased baking sheet and covered with a kitchen towel. In about 40 minutes, those rolls will be ready to bake.  BUT . . . those other ones?  WHAT ABOUT THOSE????  TELLL MEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m so very glad you asked.  As you “form” the other crescent rolls, place them beside each other, with the end of the triangle underneath, on a silpat lined baking sheet.  Cover the finished rolls lightly with plastic wrap and put the whole ‘shebang in the freezer.  When the rolls are frozen, you can just peel them off the silpat (silpats are more slippery than a politician. Nothing sticks to them) and put them into a gallon sized freezer bag (or 2).  There they will remain frozen for up to 3 months, ready to bring freshly baked loveliness to your day whenever you need it.

Make Ahead Crescent Rolls

The rolls you didn’t freeze– the 4 (or, 6.  haha) that you wanted to eat right away should rise, covered, for 40 minutes or so until they are puffy and almost doubled in size.  Bake the rolls at 375 for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown and GAWWWGEOUS.  When the rolls come out of the oven, brush them with melted butter.  The rolls will kind of “drink in” the butter, adding yet another layer of deliciousness to rolls that are already “roll-your-eyes-back-in-your-head” delicious.

Make Ahead Crescent Rolls

As far as the frozen rolls go, these are your little heroic treasures in the freezer.  On a busy day, get these rolls out of the freezer and put them on a silpat lined baking sheet.  Cover them with a towel for 4-5 hours, until they are puffy and almost doubled in size.  This works great for Sunday– get the rolls out in the morning when you get up, and they are ready to pop into the oven when you get home from church (I found out that this was my Mom’s go-to trick ;).  If you need the bread for after work, then put the frozen rolls, covered, on your baking sheet in the fridge overnight.  Then let them have a 40-50 minute rise when you get home, and then pop into the oven.  Both fresh and “frozen and raised” rolls should be baked for the same time and at the same temperature– 375 for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Make Ahead Crescent Rolls

And it probably goes without saying, but both types of rolls should be brushed with gorgeous melted butter when they are finished baking.  Take these beauties proudly to the table, when the hardest thing you had to do was let them sit there and rise.  You are so smart.  You should look behind you– I’m pretty sure there might be a Supermom cape back there.  Because you are, you know– supermom.

You did it. And I’m just so proud of you.


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