Sunday, November 22, 2009

Perfect and Easy Old Fashioned Cloverleaf and Crescent Yeast Rolls

Mama's favorite cloverleaf and crescent holiday yeast roll remains my favorite recipe too, even after all of these years. These are truly the original old fashioned yeast roll - tender, light and perfect.

Old Fashioned Yeast Rolls

This is my go to holiday dinner roll recipe, an absolutely perfect dinner roll for any holiday dinner, and, of course, any other day really. I wrote it for my stand mixer but if you don't own one, don't fret! You can still make these rolls with a little bit of extra elbow grease, so I've also included basic instructions for hand kneading in the recipe.

Airy, soft and tender on the inside and nicely browned with the tiniest bit of crunch on the outside, they truly are the perfect holiday roll. It's really a shame that we don't make homemade yeast rolls more often, but mostly they only make an appearance at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner because of the time needed for the two risings. Those 30 minute quick rolls are nice as a fill in, but they are really more like a biscuit than a roll to me because you really do need that extra long rise for the yeast to develop. They are so worth the extra time though, and especially for these two special meals, and aside from the rising time, so easy to make.

Scalding milk is an 'old school' method that is really not even necessary to do anymore, since the primary purpose of it in older recipes was to kill bacteria and also enzymes known to interfere with the chemical reaction from the milk with the recipe. With modern pasteurization that's not much of a worry these days, but you know what? I still do it. Old habits die hard, and why mess with a good thing?

You can do this entire batch in any shape you like - parker house, fan tans, whatever you like. I like to do the cloverleafs and crescents, because frankly they are the easiest, so I like to split the dough and form half of each. Once formed, the second rise can happen in 30 minutes or can take as long as an hour, depending on the environment, so plan accordingly, because you want to time these rolls to pop out of the oven when everything else is ready.

One important tip before we start. When measuring flour, be sure to spoon into your measuring cup, rather than scooping your measuring cup into a canister or bag, which causes the flour to compact, meaning that you will use more flour than needed and will create a heavier and more dense bread.

By the way, this is the same dough you'll use for homemade cinnamon rolls too! You'll find directions for those at the bottom of the recipe text.

Here's how to make these favorite rolls.

Heat the milk and set aside to cool. Proof the yeast with a pinch of sugar and the warm water for about 4 minutes. Combine 2 cups of the flour, with the cooled milk, sugar, salt, butter and egg. Using the dough hook, mix until well combined, then add the yeast and mix for 2 minutes. Continue on low speed 2, adding additional flour about 1/2 cup at a time, until dough bunches around the dough hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 4 minutes, or until dough is smooth. The dough will still be a bit sticky.

Turn dough out into a greased bowl, then turn it over so that both sides are coated. Spray the top with butter flavor non-stick spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Cover that with a clean, thick towel and set aside in a warm place to rise, until doubled, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover so that it doesn't dry out.  To make cloverleafs, cut sections of the dough into small sections. You'll be rolling each of these into a ball about one inch in size, so ideally you'd like to end up with 36 balls.

Spray a standard size 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place into the muffin cup.

Continuing rolling dough into balls, placing three balls into each cup. You should fill at least 11 of the 12 cups, depending on how large you roll the balls.

Spray the tops of the dough balls and the muffin tin with non-stick spray and very loosely cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draft free spot to rise a second time. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more.  To make crescents, pat the dough into a circle about 1/4 inch thick and using a knife or a straight edge, cut in half.

Continue cutting into halves until you have sectioned out wedges. You can do up to 16 wedges, depending on the size crescent you want; less wedges for bigger crescents. Roll from the wide end to the tip, placing on a greased baking sheet with the tip facing down.

Set aside and let rise 30 minutes to an hour, or until nice and puffy. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully and very slowly remove the plastic wrap. Gently pat the rolls with melted butter before placing them in the oven and bake for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely golden brown.

Brush again with melted butter when they come out of the oven. Remove from the pan and set on a cooling rack to prevent them from getting soggy, or place directly into bread baskets and bring straight to the table.

You would be hard pressed to be disappointed in these rolls - I promise! Yes, I really do think that they are perfect and hope you will plan to serve them with your next holiday meal.

Recipe: Old Fashioned Cloverleaf and Crescent Yeast Rolls

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep/Inactive time: 2-1/2 hours |Cook time: 20 min | Yield: 12-18 rolls

  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (or one package) of active dry yeast
  • Pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of warm water at 110 degrees
  • 3/4 cup of milk, scalded then cooled
  • 3-1/2 to 3-3/4 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted, for brushing

In a small bowl, add the yeast, a pinch of sugar and the water.  Let sit for about 4 minutes.  In a mixer bowl add 2 cups of the flour, the cooled milk, sugar, salt, butter and egg. Attach the dough hook and mix on low (speed 2) until well combined; add the yeast and mix for 2 minutes. Continue mixing on low, adding additional flour, 1/2 cup at a time (do not exceed 3-3/4 cups), scraping sides down to push toward the hook at the beginning. Once the dough begins to gather around the dough hook and clean the sides of the bowl, stop adding flour. Continue on low speed 4 minutes. Turn out into a greased bowl, turn the dough to coat both sides, spray the top of the dough with butter flavored non-stick spray, cover with plastic wrap, and place a clean towel on top. Place in a warm, draft free area to rise, about 1-1/2 hour to 2 hours, or until doubled.

Punch the dough down, and divide it in half. Form half into cloverleafs by cutting into 36 pieces. Don't be troubled by that! Basically you're going to pull off pieces that will roll into a one inch balls and place three of them in standard sized, greased muffin cups. You should get a total of 12 rolls, but don't fret if you only manage 11 - it's fine! Spray the top of the rolls and the pan with butter flavored non-stick spray and loosely lay a piece of plastic wrap across the top. Set aside in a warm, draft free spot to rise 30 minutes to one hour or until nicely puffed.

Take the other half of the dough and pat it into a flat circle about 1/4 inch thick. Take a straight edge or a knife and cut into wedges. You can make these whatever size wedges you like, but you can get up to 16 wedges. Brush the wedges with room temperature soft butter and roll them up from the wide end toward the point. Place on a greased baking sheet with the point on the bottom. Spray the top of the rolls and the pan with butter flavored non-stick spray and loosely lay a piece of plastic wrap across the top. Set aside in a warm, draft free spot to rise 30 minutes to one hour or until nicely puffed.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until nicely golden brown, turning and exchanging pans halfway through. Brush with melted butter, remove from pan and transfer to a rack so that they won't get soggy, or put them immediately into napkin lined baskets and straight to the table.

Best fresh, but in a pinch, these rolls warm up nicely in the microwave if you need to make them slightly ahead of time.

Cook's Notes: When measuring flour, be sure to spoon into your measuring cup, rather than scooping your measuring cup into a canister or bag, which causes the flour to compact and creates a dense bread from too much flour. For pan rolls, place all 36 balls into a buttered cake pan and bake together. On other methods, how many rolls you get will be dependent on how you roll them - generally from 12 to 18 per batch. I like to do half cloverleaf and half crescents. Ovens vary in how they bake, so be sure to check them after about 12 minutes to see how they are browning. These are wonderful served with Whipped Honey Butter.

To Hand Knead: If you don't have a stand mixer you can still make these rolls. It will just take a little extra elbow grease is all! Stir all of the ingredients together by hand using a sturdy wooden spoon. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead, using the heel of your hand to push on the dough, folding it and turning it a quarter turn, until the dough is smooth and elastic as pictured in the tutorial. How long will depend on your speed and strength. Place in a greased bowl, cover, let rise and continue as above.

To Make Ahead: Prepare and bake only until light golden around the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool completely. Wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. To finish cooking, bring to room temperature, and bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. Brush with butter and serve.

To Freeze: Shape rolls and let them rise in the cake pans. Spray one side of the inside of a plastic bag with nonstick spray and insert the pan inside, close loosely and freeze. Thaw out in the refrigerator the night before baking. Bring to room temperature, then bake as usual and brush with melted butter when they come out of the oven.

For Cinnamon Rolls: Butter a cake pan; set aside. Prepare same dough as above, except roll into a rectangle, approximately 15 x 9 inches in size. Spread 1/4 cup room temperature softened butter over dough. Mix 1/2 cup of granulated sugar with 1 heaping tablespoon ground cinnamon and sprinkle all over dough. Roll dough up from the wide side and cut into 12 even slices. Place slightly apart into buttered pan and let rise until doubled.

Bake in preheated 375 degree F oven, for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until cooked through in the center. For glaze, mix 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar with 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and up to 3 tablespoons half and half or milk. Start with 1 tablespoon adding additional milk, as needed, to create a thick but smooth and spreadable consistency. Let rolls cool, but while still slightly warm, spread icing over rolls in pan. May also make 15 smaller rolls in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.


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©Deep South Dish
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Posted by on November 22, 2009

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  1. Mary those look so good. I have a weakness for yeast bread and roll. So good. I will try these for our christmas dinner, since we are out of town at MIL for Thanksgiving. But I will cook just for us on Xmas. Cant wait.

  2. I cannot wait to try these! A weakness for sure!

  3. Those look good! I will definitely try them sometime, but for us, it's Moomie's buns on Thanksgiving. I think they might revolt if I tried anything else.

  4. Oh thank you for posting this recipe!!

    I've been looking for "The Perfect Roll" recipe for the past couple of weeks now, and I think I just found it here!

    Yearssssss ago, I made Thanksgiving rolls from a recipe I'd found in a Taste-of-Home magazine, but I can't seem to find that one...

    Thank you for sharing this, I especially appreciated the hints you gave on how to make it in advance, since these will be traveling with me - I'll get them done and finish cooking them when I get to our Dinner Spot~

    Love your site, you always give us wonderful recipes!

  5. Popped in from SITS! Those look AMAZING! Yum! I'm going to go dig through your archives.

  6. I made these the other night with a roast chicken dinner and they were fantastic. My family preferred the crescent shapes because they said they were more moist so I will probably prepare them that way in the future. The recipe was very easy to follow and prepare, even for a novice bread baker. Thanks for posting this.

  7. I don't have the (highly coveted [by me lol]) stand mixer with all the attachments - not yet anyway - it's a luxury that will have to wait. But is there a way to make this recipe without it - you know - the way Methuselah's mama woulda done it? lol And still achieve these amazing results?! I don't have a bread maker either.

  8. LOL Erin, crack me up! Of course. Just mix by hand or with a hand mixer for the first part and then you'll just have to put in the extra elbow grease and hand knead until the dough is smooth, probably about 5 minutes.

  9. Hello--I print off so many of your recipes--THANK YOU!! I have to buy "Slap Ya Mama" seasoning since it is in a lot of your recipes. Anyway, how do I print all the pre-recipe information that you provide regarding the recipe (without advertisements on side margins)? Would appreciate your assistance. Thank you again...

  10. Thank you so much Patty! Of course, you can sub in any available brand of Cajun or Creole seasoning for the Slap Ya Mama, but it's blend that I love & use everywhere. I admit I've converted a few people over to it too! Anyway, the best way to capture text from any website is with a a highlight, copy and paste into a word processing program (like Microsoft Word). Just remember anytime that you do that, it is all copyright protected work, so it must be for your own personal use and not for re-disribution or re-printing elsewhere, including print or other internet sites, forums or bulletin boards! Glad you are enjoying the site!

  11. Thanks Mary! It looks awesome. I've been comparing recipes. Do you think these are the softest and lightest homemade yeast rolls you have tried? How do they compare in softness to the pan rolls you sent out? I want the lightest ones? Does increasing the amount of yeast affect this or is it the rise time?

    Also can I double the recipe with no problem using my large Kitchen Aid mixer?


  12. Also, Mary have you tried bread flour with this recipe? I was wondering if the higher gluten content makes them better?


  13. Hi Leigh! This would be the best choice - shaping - for the more tender rolls. The pan rolls are soft and tender but more surface area so shaping will give you what you are looking for. I also had the yield wrong when I added the recipe box coding, so I did correct that. The dough was divided in half, so I got 12 cloverleaf rolls, and about 16 crescents from this single recipe. Depending on how you shape these you should get somewhere between 24 and 28 rolls. If you're going to double, do two separate batches though. I wouldn't increase the yeast either - this is enough & when you add more it can add a yeasty taste to dough. Hope you enjoy them & let me know what you think!

  14. Sorry I missed the second question! I have only ever used regular all purpose with this recipe but sure, you could use bread flour!

  15. Every time I read your recipes I am totally homesick, salivating, and I'm pretty sure I gain weight! This is exactly how I make mine! yummmmm!

  16. These will bring you back home won't they? Happy Thanksgiving!

  17. Can this dough be prepared in a Bread Machine, up to the completion of the 'Dough' cycle?

  18. As long as your machine capacity can handle it I don't see why not Susan!

  19. WooHoo! My Zo handles a 2 lb. loaf. I'll have to give it a whirl!

  20. My mother used to make these every year at thanksgiving and christmas too and I bet its been years since I have had them since she passed 9 years ago and ive always been too afraid to try them myself! I think that this year I shall toss fear aside and bring back mom's tradition! I want my kids to have the memory of them too!! Thanks for posting!

  21. Can't wait to hear about it Susan! You know I totally forget that a bread machine can do that. Mine is wrapped up and stored in the garage but how easy is that? You'll have to give me a report. Enjoy those rolls!

    Heather, first I'm so sorry for your loss. My mama passed in 1997, far too young, and I still miss her every single day. I do hope you'll give these a try - the hardest part of them is waiting really for the dough to rise. As far as shaping I really like the cloverleaf and they are easy too. You can do this I promise!! Let me know if you give them a try.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  22. Great roll recipe. These were an absolute hit at Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.

    1. You're so welcome - thanks for letting me know y'all enjoyed them!!

  23. Mary, making a practice run on these rolls this morning. So far, so good.

  24. These are the BEST tasting yeast rolls! It's exactly the flavor I've been looking for. My family LOVED these rolls. My question: My rolls came out dense & kind of tough or heavy. Are they supposed to be light, tender & fluffy?

    The first rise was 2 hours. I followed the recipe exactly. I used 3 1/2 cups of KA AP flour.

    Can you suggest anything? Thanks Mary!

  25. These are the BEST tasting yeast rolls ever! It's exactly the flavor I've been looking for. My family LOVED them.

    Mine came out thick & dense. They weren't light, tender & fluffy.

    Is the texture supposed to be more dense? I really loved them & will definitely be my go to recipe but wondered if you could suggest anything to make them more light & fluffy?

    Thanks Mary!

  26. These are the BEST tasting yeast rolls! It's exactly the flavor I've been looking for. My family LOVED these rolls. My question: My rolls came out dense & kind of tough or heavy. Are they supposed to be light, tender & fluffy?

    The first rise was 2 hours. I followed the recipe exactly. I used 3 1/2 cups of KA AP flour.

    Can you suggest anything? Thanks Mary!

    1. No, not dense - they should definitely be light and airy. If you use the scoop method of measuring that might be the problem as it causes the flour to compact as you scoop and you actually end up using too much flour, creating a dense end result. Next time do this - loosen the flour in the bag or canister by giving it a stir, then spoon it into the measuring cup to overflowing and then level before adding to the mixer bowl. Also you may not need all of the flour so remember once the dough begins to gather around the dough hook and clean the sides of the bowl, stop adding flour. The dough should be smooth and not dry. So many things can affect the amount of flour you'll need from one time to the other too - like moisture & humidity in the air! See if those things make a difference with the next batch and let me know!

    2. Thanks Mary. I'm going to try the changes you suggest. I should have stopped at 3 cups of flour(the dough did pull away from the hook) but it didn't look like a lot of dough in the bowl so I threw an extra 1/2 cup in.

      Also I will try the spoon into meausuring cup method as well.

      This was such a delicious tasting roll, I'm going to keep trying. I made a dozen cloverleaf rolls at 4pm. They were gone by 6pm!

      Thank you again & I will keep you posted on my next batch!

  27. Hi Mary, Just a quick update. Spooning the flour into the measuring cup did the trick! I've made 2 batches since my first attempt and they both came out wonderful! I made another batch last night and woke up to only two rolls left!! Thank you for your help.

    1. You're so welcome & thanks for letting me know!! These rolls really are the best. I'm more of a cook and not the best baker, but that spooning trick is something I figured out years ago after having problems with density in my breads.

  28. These are the best rolls ever! Do you think I could bake them, cool them, then wrap them tightly in aluminum foil, then place into plastic bags and stick in the freezer for a few days? Then thaw on Thanksgiving morning? Everyone always requests these for Thanksgiving(even though I make them all year) but this year I don't have the time to get everything done the day b4 or day of. Thank you for your help!


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