One of the reasons I love the recipes of food52 is because your recipe stories are often as long as, and as interesting as, the recipe itself, the same way they are in my favorite cookbooks by Julia and Dorie. (Did I just put us in the same category as Julia and Dorie?!) I love it when a well-thought-out recipe tweak comes together. I also love happy accidents in the kitchen, those times when I make a mistake, panic, hold my breath and then grin from ear to ear when an “accident” becomes a “tweak.” This recipe began its life in the red plaid Better Homes and Gardens cookbook 50 or more years ago and quickly became one of our beloved Thanksgiving traditions. During particularly frazzling preparations one year (kids!), I threw the milk into the mixing bowl and realized that I had forgotten to scald it. Oh, no! The butter turned to shards! For whatever reason, I didn’t think I could spare an extra minute to heat the liquids in a saucepan in those pre-microwave days, so I didn't: Butter lumps in this dough, I reasoned, would work as a cheat to rolling/beating cold butter into croissant dough. Not. But it’s a mistake I keep making because the recipe works whether or not the milk is scalded, and besides, l have one less utensil to wash if I don't scald the milk. The evaporated milk must be very cold. I grew up in countries where fresh, cold cow’s milk was not readily available. I continue to use canned milk here because I like its taste in this recipe. Twelve ounces of whole milk (1 ½ cups) can be substituted for it. The original recipe called for more than 3 cups of flour, 1/3 cup of shortening, one egg and one cup (eight ounces) of milk. Because I substituted 12 ounces of evaporated milk, a full stick of butter and an extra egg yolk, I upped the flour to compensate for the extra liquid and now I don’t have to find a way to store (or waste) the unused evaporated milk, an egg yolk and a half-stick of unsalted butter. The dough should contain many lumps of unmelted butter but should not contain lumps of unmoistened flour. While stirring or kneading it, scan it for clumps of unmixed flour. I stopped using all-purpose flour in this recipe when people started noticing the difference in texture between rolls made with King Arthur (softer, fluffier) and other brands (good,but sturdier). Crescent rolls are the tradition here on Thanksgiving, but at other times I make pull-apart rolls by rolling the dough into 2" balls and placing them a finger-width apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. - betteirene —betteirene
Test Kitchen Notes
Betteirene has, through happy accident and just plain baking smarts, designed a lovely, no-knead crescent roll that puffs beautifully in the oven, emerging golden with a terrific, mildly yeasty flavor. The bottoms of the rolls brown quickly, so double up on the baking sheets if yours aren't the heavy-gauge kind. – Kristen —The Editors
- Makes 16-32, depending on size
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
2¼ teaspoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm (105-110 degrees) tap water
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 whole egg plus one egg yolk
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur brand)
1 1/2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt or 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 egg white
- Chill evaporated milk in refrigerator for at least one hour.
- In a small bowl, combine yeast and water. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. Add sugar. Pour in the cold milk and whisk until the butter forms clumps and shards that float on the milk. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk.
- Using a sturdy wooden spoon, stir in two cups of the flour and the yeast mixture until well combined. Add 2 cups additional flour and the salt; stir very well. The dough should be soft and sticky, but if it seems too wet, stir in up to ½ cup more flour. Knead by hand (or stir the dough with the wooden spoon) gently and quickly in the bowl until you are sure that it contains no lumps of dry flour. Do not mistake the lumps of butter or grains of salt for undissolved flour, and do not knead for so long that the heat of your hands melts the butter.
- Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate several hours or overnight. The dough should double in size before shaping it. If it rises before you’re ready to bake, gently deflate it, cover and refrigerate again. To get Rich Quick Rolls, allow the dough to rise at warm room temperature about two hours or until doubled in size.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment. Divide the dough into two equal portions to make 16 large rolls, or into four portions to make 32 dainty rolls. On a lightly floured surface, pat a dough portion into 6”-8” circles. Cut the circle into eight wedges using a pizza wheel. Roll each wedge from the wide end to the tip and form a crescent; place 2”-3” apart on prepared baking sheet. (Room temperature dough will be harder to handle than refrigerated dough; if the dough has not been refrigerated, use extra flour to prevent sticking during rolling and shaping.) Cover loosely with plastic wrap or damp linen towels and allow to rise until doubled in size.
- When ready to bake, position racks in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush rolls with the egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. Bake, rotating pans halfway through baking time, for 15-20 minutes for large rolls, 10 to 12 minutes for smaller rolls, or until rolls are dark golden and fragrant.
- (If you need only a few rolls, divide the dough and flatten it into discs before the final shaping. Wrap tightly in plastic and freeze. When needed, remove a disc from the freezer, allow to thaw completely, then shape and bake as directed.)